Halloween Spirit In Brooklyn: Fear And Sadness Won’t Stop Safe Celebrations

Whether it's a chill night in or a celebration with close friends, the festivities will continue.

Halloween house in Prospect Park South. Liena Zagare/Bklyner

Halloween is spookier than ever this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents throughout Brooklyn are having to come up with new and creative ways to keep the spirit alive. Whether it’s a chill night in or a celebration with close friends, the festivities will continue.

There have been recent spikes in cases in parts of Brooklyn and Queens, and over five hundred new cases a day are being reported throughout the city. Between Oct. 14-27, there were a total of 8,421 new cases of COVID-19 across the city. 

With cases rising throughout New York the CDC has put new guidelines in place for people to try and celebrate Halloween, while being safe. Creative measures and simple pleasures are making their way onto the events list for holiday this year. 

Tiana Young, 24, lives in Williamsburg and each year she would throw a Halloween rooftop party – it became a tradition. It was a party that everyone was invited to, where friends invited friends, cousins and so on. This year, COVID-19 threw a wrench in her plans, but Young is still excited for the night’s festivities. 

“This year is a bit of a bummer, of course,” she said. “Between COVID-19 regulations, friends being at risk or just fearful of the virus, we wanted to make sure we’re being as thoughtful and responsible as possible.”

Instead of the big rooftop party, Young is keeping the gathering at a maximum of 12 people and asking for everyone to get tested the Thursday before Halloween to ensure everyone is gathering safely. 

Young’s gathering will be indoors this year, with “spooky cocktails and some board games” and of course, everyone in their costumes. 

“I’m still extremely excited and hopeful for a really fun, memorable night,” she said. “After all, it’s going to be one for the books as ‘that one Halloween during Covid.’” 

Trick-or-treating will also be different this year. People are fearful of the physical contact that comes with trick-or-treating and are finding other ways to get that trick-or-treat feeling while remaining mindful of those around them. 

Bobbie Bell, 20, is celebrating her cousin’s fifth birthday this Halloween in Canarsie. Each year her family celebrates it together because her cousin’s birthday is on Oct. 28, only a couple days before the big pumpkin day. Each year it is a tradition to trick-or-treat at the big Halloween birthday party – Bell said this year, pre-tied candy bags will be passed out instead.

“I fear that many people worldwide will continue to have large gatherings this year in spite of the pandemic, but I hope that everyone does their part to keep everyone safe,” she said. “Oddly, though, this is the most excited that I was about dressing up for Halloween in a long time.”

Bell will be dressing up as Mary Sanderson, one of the Sanderson Sisters from “Hocus Pocus,” while her sisters dress up as the other two. They made custom masks for the party that say “we smell children,” a classic line from the film.

The feelings of fear and sadness echoed throughout people’s responses when asked how they feel about Halloween and yet, many are still hopeful that this year’s celebration will be one for the books. Spooky drinks and intimate gatherings seem to be this year’s go to option.

Morgan Taylor, 37, lives in BedStuy and has decorated what she calls her “queer house” with Halloween colored lights framing her staircase. In a video from Taylor, the Halloween spirit was beyond alive and well when a random black cat made its way up her themed steps. 

Usually, Taylor dresses up with her coworkers at the bar she works at in the East Village, but this year the bar is shut down, with no word on when it will reopen. 

“Community is what makes this city my heartbeat,” she said. “We rarely get to commune anymore, but we are adapting ok and persevering.”

On her list for Halloween events this year, Taylor and no more than 15 other people will be celebrating in her pal’s courtyard. With the guests being in their late 30s to early 50s, many are being tested beforehand. 

“Sometimes celebrating feels exhausting because it’s worrisome,” Taylor said. “It’s difficult to know what is appropriate, but sometimes you have to find what feels safe and weigh it against social isolation and depression. But to put it in my friends words, ‘listen up ya little lesbo, we’re dressing up so I can make fun of ya.’” 

While small gatherings are a popular way to celebrate this year, some are sticking with a simple family night with movies, a bag of candy and PJ’s instead of costumes. 

Naosha Gregg, 21, lives in Sheepshead Bay and she loved seeing students she tutored at CUNY Kingsborough Community College dress up for Halloween last year, many reminding her of childhood superhero movies. 

“I miss the fact that I won’t be able to enjoy that this year,” she said. With so many months of isolation, seeing people dress up and have a good time and only worrying about getting all the bags of candy corn 75% off the next day was how I enjoyed Halloween. Now I have to worry about a deadly virus and spreading it to other people. Talk about spooky.”

Gregg may be spooked, but she’s still celebrating by enjoying some family time, streaming Halloween marathons at home and hoping to do a “really cute Halloween glamour look.” 

Brooklyners are keeping the spirit alive in ways that ensure safety, while also having a spooky good time. In a year that has been full of cancellations and isolation, it’s safe to say people throughout Brooklyn have found plenty of ways to celebrate a beloved holiday.

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Keira Wingate

Keira was an intern for Bklyner and continues to freelance here. She has her BA in Journalism and currently goes to The Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. When she's not working or writing you can find her cuddling her cat or eating potatoes.

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