Post #831: Madam Mayor, please step up to save Trick-or-Treating in Vienna this year.

Posted on October 1, 2020

Source: The Patch.

We have a Town government that makes a big deal out of our “small town” nature.  I’m not quite so sure they follow through on that in every instance. But they do enough to give that statement some credibility.

This year, in this pandemic, Town government needs to do something that can only be done by a government, in a small town:  Step up and save trick-or-treating this year, in the Town of Vienna.

So I guess this is a plea to our “One Vienna” Mayor Colbert.  We need a Town of Vienna guideline for what we should be doing.  (Why the italics on should?  That’s the whole point of this posting.)

This year, we need a new tradition that works in the changed world we are in.   We need one recommended, agreed-upon, safe approach that that lets kids go Trick-or-Treating, and that doesn’t end up causing yet more division and strife among the citizenry.  We need one official guide on how to Trick-or-Treat in the Town of Vienna this year.

Why?  Let me cut to the chase:  Are you a bad parent if you take your kids Trick-or-Treating?  Or are you a bad parent if you forbid your kids to go Trick-or-Treating?  How are your kids going to feel if you make them stay home, but other kids on the block went trick-or-treating and brought home gobs of candy?  And what are the respective parents, of those two sets of children, going to say to each other afterwards?

We need some simple, common-sense leadership here, so that we’re all on the same page.  We need an endorsed protocol, for the COVID-19 world.  Without that, as I discuss below, we’re already beginning to squabble over Trick-or-Treating.  And that’s just about the last thing we need.

Detail follows.


First, let’s just get this out of the way:  Can we just count on everybody to stay home, and not go Trick-or-Treating this year?  No, absolutely not.  That’s not my opinion, that’s based on recent polling, in Virginia, as shown above.  And that matches other polls done around the country.

Even though these are all low-accuracy internet polls, they’re enough to tell you what you need to know.  It’s a split of opinion just begging to start some fights.  Just about 50-50, in favor versus against, plus or minus some unknowns.  Oh, yeah, and it’s about an issue that directly affects the safety of children.  While those children are interacting with everybody in the neighborhood.   And that kids definitely want to do, almost no matter what.

I can’t imagine how that could cause any bad feelings /s.

States, cities, counties and towns all over American are trying to figure out how best to deal with this.  We really need our own Town to get this on the radar screen.

You probably already know that the Town did not give up on a Halloween parade, but instead will drive a series of parade floats through town, so that you can wave at them from in front of your house.  The whole thing is set up to maintain 6′ social distance between non-family-members, which is consistent with CDC still says (since CDC is apparently not allowed to say “aerosol transmission of COVID-19” in public.)  So, the Town has already figured out a “safe parade”.

The notice about the Vienna Halloween parade is currently on the front page of the Town website, but there’s no telling if it will stay there.  Oddly, unlike every other year, they’re actually going to hold the parade on Halloween.  So this parade will be driving down the streets just as any parents and children who wish to try traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating will be out.  I don’t think that was intended to discourage trick-or-treating.  I think they chose that date to give kids a reason to don their Halloween costumes.

That’s a nice start.  But the heart and soul of Halloween is trick-or-treating.  Candy.  We’re talking candy, and lots of it.  Free.  In wild  variety.  From your neighbors.   Unless I somehow mis-remember my youth.  What I recall about Halloween was careening from house to house, at night, with my brothers and friends, and picking up some goodies.  And all you had to do was knock on the door and say the magic words.

Fairfax Government just came out with a set of slightly odd, un-useful, and frankly divisive guidelines for, more or less, what NOT to do this year.  These were posted, oddly enough, on the the Fairfax County Emergency Preparedness website.  But if you ignore the headline, and read what the actual Fairfax Public Health director says, it boils down to not spending a lot of time interacting with people outside of your family.   Which is quite sensible.

How do I know they are divisive?  By reading the comments on Nextdoor.  Pretty much all the Fairfax guidelines managed to do was to pit neighbor against neighbor on this issue.  Which, to me, is completely unsurprising.  Not because we’re prone to divisiveness.  But because Fairfax didn’t do one darned thing to tell you what you should do.   It showed a complete and total lack of leadership. It did nothing to try to get the citizens behind one sensible and universal approach to this year’s Trick-or-Treating.  It just left us to do what we seem to be best at, which is to squabble among ourselves.

All they really did is point out that doing anything other than staying at home has risks, and the more interaction with people, the more the risk. Duh.

The Fairfax guidelines are simply a rewrite of the Federal (CDC) guidelines, which you may find at this link.  But in the process of doing their writeup, they managed to make a compete hash of the main message of the CDC guidelines, which you can read in this writeup:

Note the exact wording:  Typical.  CDC didn’t say no trick-or-treating.  CDC said, don’t do it by having individual homeowners hand candy directly to individual children.

Again, duh.  You don’t want to be handing out candy directly to crowds of children, during a pandemic.  And again, no leadership:  No sense of what a simple, preferred method might be, that could be adopted in most of the country.

My sense is that unless somebody shows some leadership, steps up and endorses some recommended rules for this year’s Halloween, what we’re going to have is Halloween chaos.  And a lot of hard feelings.  It’s going to be every family and every house for itself.  Should you trick-or-treat?   Should you ring the doorbell?  If somebody rings your doorbell, should you answer?  Should you put treats at the end of the driveway?  What if it rains?  The resulting lack of any commonly-agreed-upon process is the complete opposite of what a shared cultural tradition is all about. 


This ain’t rocket science, but we need some authority to provide some reasonable rules for this year’s Trick-or-Treating.

This is a holiday, that is, a shared cultural experience within the community.  Normally, everybody knows the rules:  Party A rings the doorbell and yells “Trick-or-Treat” when the door opens.  Party B admires the costumes, and provides candy or alternatives.  Everybody says “Happy Halloween”, and Party A scoots along to the next house.

We all know the rules for how it used to be done.  Those rules don’t work in a pandemic.  We don’t need “no rules”, we need a new set of temporary rules for how this should be done, safely, this year.

Here’s my suggestion.  You don’t want to have face-to-face contact with your entire neighborhood.  And this year, each family should trick-or-treat by itself (although one does wonder about those school system pods). And yet, the homeowners do want to know that kids are having a good time.  And participate to the degree feasible, given the no-contact rules.

Obviously, homeowners are going to put candy out, in individual bags, for the kids to grab easily.  I’ve put candy out on Halloween before, unattended, and you’d be surprised how polite most kids are about it.  So I wouldn’t worry (much) about some junior thug wiping you out in one swoop.

At a minimum, anywhere there’s candy out, the kids need to yell “Trick or Treat” loudly enough that the homeowners can hear them.

And then, as windows or well-sealed glass storm doors allow, the homeowners can wave acknowledgment.  Or acknowledge the trick-or-treaters by other, more creative means.  (My tentative goal is to convert a cheap remote-control robot hand into a severed arm, and have that wave at the kids.  But I’m a retired geek with little to occupy my time.)

In brief, I think the rules should be:

  • Please trick-or-treat as a family only.
  • Put the candy out by the front door, in individual bags.
    • Wash your hands before you pack the bags.
  • If there’s candy there, the kids shout “Trick or Treat” and take a bag.
  • If there’s no candy there, then don’t ring the doorbell, just move along.
  • And the homeowners can wave, or blink the lights, or whatever, to acknowledge the presence of the Trick-or-Treaters.

I’m undecided on (medical) masks.  If you can guarantee no contact outside of immediate family, masks are unnecessary.  Even absent that, the Governor’s mask order only applies indoors.  Honestly, if I were taking my kids around, and could guarantee they wouldn’t interact with others, I wouldn’t require a mask.

These rules are a drag for older kids, who really get a kick out of going around with their peers, not their parents.  Maybe they don’t get their traditional Halloween romp this year.  Or maybe that’s the group that needs a mask requirement.  Outdoors, and masked?  Based on my reading of the epidemiology, that’s fairly safe.  But not as absolutely safe as only going around with family members.

But, truly, it’s not the older kids I have in mind.  Really, what I’m thinking is that you only get one shot at being a five-year-old on Halloween.  In your lifetime.  Never going to have that chance again.  One shot where you’re not quite sure what the drill is, but you’ll go with the flow, and the results are magical.  It’s a pity to deny a whole generation of that, just because we can’t agree on a simple set of rules.  And so, kudos to whoever can effectively promulgate those agreed-upon rules.  And save Trick-or-Treating this year.

I don’t care how it’s done.  If it has to be one of those long-winded proclamations (Whereas … Whereas .. Whereas ..) to be legal, so be it.  If it has to be weasel-worded, as long as it’s clear, so be it.  If a private entity of good medical repute, such as Vienna Family Practice, has to be encouraged to endorse it, to be advertised by Town government, go for it.  If the various PTAs can endorse it, I’m game.  I care that it gets done.  I don’t care how.

As a society, we here in American, we seem to be failing on so may fronts.  Are we going to screw up Halloween too?  Surely not, I hope.  But I guess we’ll see.

If anybody can show me any material COVID-19 risk in the rules above, I’ll take them back.  Email  But if we can all agree on some simple set of rules, everybody can have a nice, safe time.  And nobody has to argue about it.  All it takes is a little leadership, from some source, so that we’re all on the same page.