Photo by Kit Willesee
Kit Willesee is an Australian-born writer, actor and mother living on the Eastside of Los Angeles.
My phone pings alerting me to a text from a fellow mom shrieking: TRICK-OR-TREATING HAS BEEN CANCELLED?!!
She didn’t know how to break it to her candy-loving, 3-year-old twins who’ve had their dinosaur costumes fluffed and ready to go since June. I instantly felt for my own 3-year-old, but then breathed a sigh of relief as the pressure and responsibility lifted, a ghost exorcised.
Before you think I’m the scrooge of Halloween, please read on.
We live in Angelino Heights. One of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Located within Echo Park proper just west of Chinatown. The neighborhood is packed with heritage-listed Victorian and turn-of-the-century homes often used as sets for period pieces and horror productions, including the Thriller House on Carroll Avenue.
When you google Angelino Heights you will see an image of the Queen Anne we live in on the Wikipedia page. You will also find lists naming this as one of—if not the most—popular trick-or treating destinations in Los Angeles.
Every year costumed folks flock from all over Southern California on October 31st to soak in our spooky dwellings and DIY Haunted Houses. The sidewalks are packed with kids, teenagers and irony-loving hipsters shuffling shoulder-to-shoulder, buckets bulging with candy. Our house turns into a theme-park attraction with a consistent line of people from 5pm until late into the night.
For the past seven years we have purchased one thousand pieces of candy and always run out around 8 pm. Because of this we have to be very strict about plopping one piece into each pail so we have enough for each tiny Elmo and Elsa.
If I do the math that’s at least one thousand kids with at least one parent or chaperone, which makes two thousand people. But most are with two parents or more family members, so that brings us to well over three thousand people at our door on Halloween. Over three thousand points of contact, in one evening, during Covid-19.
Now that’s scary.
So now you can understand my relief when I got the news and my disappointment when one day later, on September 9th, Los Angeles County health officials walked back the ban, issuing only a recommendation to stay home on the 31st.
That familiar pressure settled back into my chest. This isn’t an irrational razors-in-the apples, or poisoned candy hoax, this is a real world risk.
Suddenly the onus was on the residents to figure out how to:
A) Keep people away from our doors.
B) Find a way to give out candy without coming into contact with over three thousand people.
C) Convince our kids that hazmat suits are the coolest costumes.
I rushed to Nextdoor to gage how our neighbors felt. Every person who responded—including The Carroll Avenue Green Witch—lamented the loss but agreed that giving out candy this year would be too dangerous.
Some would not be decorating as a deterrent, not that a few plastic skeletons are necessary to make our houses any spookier. Most agreed that a sign explaining the absence of candy was the best option as so many of us love to decorate, and we have no problem with people driving by and enjoying the festive houses.
There was one suggestion for a vat of candy with a “Please take one” sign on the porch. But that would surely be stolen before you could say “Look! There goes $100 worth of candy!” And that’s the other side that people don’t consider: The financial burden for people in our neighborhood.
Will you be giving out candy this Halloween?
Like a property tax, every year it’s mandatory to spend around $100 on candy, or risk being labeled a Halloween pariah. Even if we buy the cheapest brands it’s hard to find any for less than 10 cents a piece. The more elaborate the Victorian, the more they have to spend. Normally this is a tradition we look forward to but this year is different.
Without any work since March, my family simply cannot afford to participate even if it was safe.
Most families with children I have spoken to are planning on letting them dress up and only walking to their neighbors' houses that are already in their pod, but that’s only possible if our street isn’t packed with other people.
So I am writing this as a plea to all Halloween-loving, So-Cal residents from the people of Angelino Heights:
Please find a way to celebrate Halloween safely and close to home. Next year we will (hopefully) have the biggest and best Halloween anyone has ever seen. But this year, if you wouldn’t take your children to Disneyland during COVID, please don’t take them to Angelino Heights on Halloween.
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