San Francisco is a town that’s always gone big for Halloween, especially for a seemingly child-deficient city. On October 31, our streets are suddenly flooded with costumed little ones, all seeking sugar from local merchants and residents as they roam, door-to-door, for hours on end. But this year, SF officials say that they’re hoping that citizens will resist the urge to pass out candy to trick-or-treaters, and say that gathering of over 12 non-household members (or any sort of indoor party) are prohibited.
It’s not the first time San Francisco officials have attempted to rein in the city’s efforts to observe Halloween. For years, the Castro district was home to a raucous, not-especially-child-friendly celebration, but city hall shut the whole party down in 2007 after nine people were shot during the 2006 event. Despite that trouble, the smaller-scale side of Halloween has continued unabated, with folks — especially in denser areas — going through bag upon bag of candy every year and house parties to be found in every neighborhood.
The city of Los Angeles announced a ban on trick-or-treating last month, then walked that ban back a day later, saying that the Halloween regulations have been “slightly revised” to just recommend that “trick-or-treating not happen this year,” ABC 7 quotes LA Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer as saying.
When asked by Eater SF in mid-September, the city’s COVID command center stopped short of announcing an actual ban on door-to-door candy collection, but said via email that (emphasis ours) “trick or treating is strongly discouraged because the sharing of food, candy, and items is risky,” and that “it can also be difficult to maintain a distance of 6 feet and have consistent use of face covering when many households gather on the street.”
“Gatherings with people who don’t live with you is discouraged,” the COVID command center said via email, “including parties, parades, festivals, and haunted houses. Although outdoor events are much safer than indoor ones, large gatherings of people still increases the risk of infection.”
In a press release sent in early October, however, the city takes things a step further, saying that Halloween gatherings of over 12 people who do not share a household, “either indoors or outdoors,” are “prohibited by local or state public health orders.” Also prohibited are “indoor Halloween gatherings, celebrations, events or parties with non-household members” and any sort of “haunted houses, carnivals, festivals, and live entertainment attractions.”
Instead, the COVID command center tells Eater SF, one can observe the holiday by “decorating your door, windows, and yard and wearing a scary mask on top of your protective face covering,” (which seems to suggest that the need to wear protective face coverings is not, in and of itself, scary...but that’s a whole other discussion). “You can also show off your costumes, carve pumpkins, or have a mask decorating contest and share your ideas on a video call with friends or from afar.”
Via press release, the city also encourages dining on “Halloween themed meals at outdoor restaurants to support local businesses” or engaging in “outdoor pumpkin carving,” with face masks firmly on. More suggestions on how to celebrate the holiday within state and local guidelines can be found here.
This report was initially published on September 12, 2020, and was significantly updated on October 6 when San Francisco released its official Halloween guidance