• 57°

It’s beginning to look a lot like… Halloween

Whether you love Fall or hate it, it’s undeniable that the season is finally upon us.

Temperatures have cooled off just enough that you don’t feel like someone draped a hot, wet blanket over you as soon as you step outside. Farmers are out in their fields finally harvesting the fruits of their labors from the past few months. Everything is suddenly orange or red or tan-colored, no matter where you look. Front porches are adorned with mums and pumpkins; yards display a new seasonal flag.

If you take a deep enough breath, you may even catch a whiff of pumpkin spice latte in the air. (It’s the flavor and scent which inundates everything from now until Christmas.)

But as much as I enjoy Fall for all of these things, I like this time of year for another reason too: Halloween is drawing closer.

Since I was a kid, I’ve loved that the holiday at the end of October gives me an excuse to indulge in all sorts of eerie folklore and scary monsters. I’ve always thought otherworldly tales of ghosts and vampires and werewolves and witches fascinating, though I don’t know exactly why.

Perhaps it’s partially nostalgia. I remember in elementary school once a year, our Spanish teacher would take a break from teaching her regular subject and read us a one or two tales from “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.” The book, written by Alvin Schwartz, contains multiple horror stories for children. I loved Spanish class a lot, but I really enjoyed when the teacher pulled out her copy of the book for us.

Perhaps it’s also because scary stories about scary monsters are a good thrill. Vampires aren’t real, for example, but the mythical creatures can make for an exciting story. They’re a safe way to explore fears without having to actually experience them in real life. I’m not the kind of thrill-seeker who would go bungee-jumping, but I am the kind of thrill-seeker who enjoys reading a good horror story. I don’t even have to leave my couch for it!

Personally, my favorite kind of story for this season is a good ghost story. I even listen to a podcast all year long that shares stories from listeners about their own unexplainable encounters with ghosts. There are plenty of stories about hearing mysterious footsteps when they’re home alone, watching items move on their own, or catching a glimpse of a shadow person peeking at them around a dark corner.

I’d probably scream if I experienced any of that myself. I prefer just hearing other people’s stories! (I recently had an incident where an old circus souvenir in my house started playing music at 2:30 in the morning despite having 25-year-old batteries that have never been changed. I immediately assumed it was a ghost, but that’s probably just my overactive imagination. Thankfully, it hasn’t happened again… so far.)

Of course, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays for other reasons too. The costume aspect can be fun if you have the time to pull something together. When I was a kid, getting to dress up for Halloween was an opportunity to pretend to be something else for a while and get away momentarily from my ordinary life. That’s true even as an adult too: celebrating with a costume party is a way to do something different from your regular routine.

But, of course, the ongoing pandemic means that Halloween should be a bit different this year. A costume party isn’t a good idea when we’re dealing with an easily spreadable virus. Taking kids from house to house for trick-or-treating isn’t really a good idea either if there will be close contact. (Imagine how awful contract tracing would be if someone gets sick after visiting every house in the neighborhood!).

But there are still ways to social distance and celebrate too. If people can get creative with their costumes every year, we can also get creative in ways to safely enjoy Halloween.

The NC Dept. of Health and Human Services released guidelines last week on low-risk and high-risk activities for the holiday. Traditional trick-or-treating and “trunk-or-treat” events present a higher risk than something simple like hosting a Halloween-themed scavenger hunt for your children or spending the evening watching scary movies. Some “moderate risk” alternatives include leaving goodie bags outside for trick-or-treaters or using a “candy chute” to pass out candy and remain socially distanced from visitors. Outdoor costume parties are also in this category as long as people stay socially distanced and wear masks. (Costume masks aren’t a substitute for regular cloth masks, by the way.)

As for me, I usually celebrate the holiday with a Halloween-themed dinner. One year, I carved jack-o-lantern faces into stuffed peppers. Recently, I saw some graveyard-themed cheese and ham platters on social media that I think I might try out this year.

However you chose to celebrate the spooky season, remember to stay safe and have fun! It can’t be any scarier than what we’ve had to deal with so far this year anyway.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.