Communities in the U.S. are entering the holiday season. While it is usually marked by spirited traditions and social gatherings, there’s a familiar dark cloud hanging overhead this year. The U.S. has seen over seven million positive coronavirus cases so far, and numbers will continue to get worse before they get better. Still, the pandemic doesn’t have to stop your HOA from getting in the holiday spirit. Here are a few ideas and tips to stay safe.

Boo!

Halloween is a favorite neighborhood holiday due to trick-or-treat night. Who doesn’t want to dress up as someone else, walk around in the dark, and beg strangers for candy? Trick-or-treat is a time-honored tradition, dating back to the 9th century in Celtic Britain and Ireland. It really picked up during the early 20th century in the U.S., now a beloved holiday only surpassed by Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Safety precautions as a result of the pandemic have hit every part of our lives, and celebrating the holidays will be no exception. Some communities and HOAs have decided to cancel their Halloween activities altogether, because “social distancing would be near impossible if hundreds of children took to the streets at the same time.” From hayrides to costume parties, pumpkin carving contests to parades, Halloween just isn’t quite as spooky this year.

To Trick-or-Treat . . . Or Not?

HOAs have unique power in their communities, and some HOAs may want to regulate community trick-or-treating this year. So, can your HOAs board cancel the annual trick-or-treat night in your neighborhood? According to Russell Fry, an attorney based in a South Carolina county that is made up of nearly 90% HOAs, the answer is maybe. There is some grey area on whether or not HOA boards can prevent trick-or-treating entirely, but they can certainly restrict access to commonly-owned property. Attorney Fry cautions HOA boards that are considering the action, however, because “I think it's very difficult for any HOA with any credibility to think they can bar kids from being kids and letting kids have a fun night getting candy.” In addition, the likelihood of boards closing down roadways used for trick-or-treating is low since they are most often owned by the local government and not the HOA itself.

Staying in Costume While Staying Safe

Although health concerns are top of mind for many, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has provided some guidelines on trick-or-treating during the pandemic.

Avoid Direct Contact  
While trick-or-treating traditionally includes a face-to-face meet and greet, this may be the year to do something more creative. Try a candy station instead. Put out individually bagged treats or small portions outdoors so those going door-to-door can get their candy without any personal contact. And don’t forget to prepare those goodies cautiously. Wash your hands and wear a mask before handling any treats, particularly as you divvy them into individual bags.

Take Precautions While You Walk
The biggest concern when spreading the coronavirus is sharing air space for an extended period of time with others outside of your home unit (the people you live with), so wearing a proper face mask is critical. Though your Jason mask might cover parts of your face, it’s no substitute for the cloth covering. Be careful not to put your cloth mask under a restrictive costume mask, however, as it may make it more difficult to breathe.

Keep Your Hands Clean
Be sure to carry hand sanitizer of 60% alcohol or more and use it liberally with your children and yourself, particularly between stops. This practice reduces the spread of the virus through contact. And when you get home, be sure to wash your hands well (20 seconds or longer) before you enjoy any of your tasty treats.

Alternate Activities

If you can’t trick-or-treat this year, there are plenty of other opportunities for fun. Here are a few activities that you can do safely with your neighbors and friends.

Pumpkin Carving and Decorating
Everyone loves pumpkin carving and decorating, and the best part is that it can be done safely distanced. Just be sure to set up your stations at least 6 feet from each other, preferably outside to get in the spirit safely. (Hint: Use battery operated lights for consistent lighting and to avoid a fire hazard.)

Decorate
Get together with friends to spruce up your house! Check out this article on maxHOA for more information on decorating during the season.

Have a Costume Party—Online!
Just because you can’t get together in the same room doesn’t mean you can’t show off your costume. Host a virtual party with Zoom or Skype, and enjoy your favorite snacks and drinks while you check out everyone’s Halloween costumes.

Scary Movie Night
Drive-in movies are making a comeback during the pandemic, and you can host an outdoor movie night too. Here’s a step-by-step guide to make your backyard the best theater in town.

The greatest perk of living in an HOA is building shared experiences with your community. The pandemic may change how things are done, but it will never erase the sense of joy and connection of living in your community.