*The following op-ed originally appeared in Medium on October 28, 2020.
Over the past few weeks, you may have seen some debate in the policy arena and with public health departments over the status of this year’s Halloween season — will Americans be allowed to celebrate or is Halloween canceled?
Except, it’s not really much of a debate about “if” Halloween is going to happen as much as it is a conversation about “how” people will celebrate the season safely. 80% of Americans believe that people will find safe and creative ways to celebrate the Halloween season, a number that has jumped by 17% since July 2020. And according to a recent survey we conducted with The Harris Poll, 74% of millennial moms and young parents agree with this sentiment, saying that Halloween 2020 is more important than ever. Governors, mayors and other elected officials across the country are joining this growing wave of approval and support for a safe and creative Halloween 2020 — including public health experts, community leaders, newspaper editorial boards and columnists who say that we can prioritize safety and still enjoy the fall with Halloween celebrations that last all October long. Even Jamie Lee Curtis, Martha Stewart and Whoopi Goldberg are on board with Halloween 2020.
So, if we’re going by the court of public opinion, those in favor of celebrating Halloween win by a landslide.
And the experts generally agree that celebrating Halloween can be done in a safe way. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s safety guidance reinforces that Halloween is happening and provides inspiration for creative and safe approaches to celebrating the holiday throughout the month of October. There’s no question that Halloween will look different this year, and innovative approaches endorsed by the CDC like outdoor, one-way trick-or-treating can bring a little fun to the fall.
At NCA, we’ve been working around the clock to help families find safe and creative solutions for their Halloween celebrations. We designed Halloween Central by working with the public health community and nutrition professionals to help spark parents’ inspiration for a creative, fun, and importantly, safe Halloween. Recently, the Cleveland Clinic issued guidance for how to best support and empower Americans to be safe this Halloween and at the same time still have a bit of fun during the month of October, citing many of the concepts outlined on Halloween Central.
We are doing our part to empower parents as they work to figure out where the line between Halloween fun and safety lies for their families and their communities. Socially-distanced trick-or-treating with masks is one option to celebrate the Halloween season. In our research with The Harris Poll, we found that 80% of the general public and 90% of millennial moms and young parents say they can’t imagine Halloween without chocolate and candy, and that trick-or-treating is irreplaceable. In fact, two-thirds tell us that they plan to trick-or-treat in some way.
That being said, we know that this Halloween season will not be a one size fits all occasion. Some may opt out of trick-or-treating altogether, instead deciding to enjoy some delicious treats and a scary movie in the comfort of their homes. Many may consider expanding their Halloween celebrations to the entire season, taking part in Halloween festivities throughout the entire month of October rather than centralizing celebrations to Halloween night.
Halloween candy sales figures back up the overwhelmingly positive public opinion viewpoint that Halloween is happening, and show that the vast majority of the country is embracing the Halloween season as a way to break up this monotonous and uncertain year. According to IRI data ending October 4, 2020 versus 2019, Halloween chocolate and candy sales are up by more than 8% — growth that is driven by Halloween chocolate, which is up by more than 12%.
And while this $4.6 billion confectionery sales period is often described as the candy industry’s Super Bowl, consumers still embrace the treating aspects associated with the fun and unique products we make. People in the U.S. enjoy chocolate and candy 2–3 times per week, averaging about 40 calories and just one teaspoon of added sugar per day — and that includes during moments like Halloween.
We can all agree that this Halloween won’t be business as usual, but rather than hastily rushing to ban Halloween celebrations altogether, we can carry on our important Halloween traditions, empower families to find celebrations that work for them and provide a bit of spooky fun by finding innovative and safe ways to embrace the Halloween season.