Many people are spending more time at home than usual these days, but that doesn’t mean that Halloween is cancelled—think of it as being reimagined for a socially-distant now. From grown-up recipes that seriously upgrade your favorite candy bar to glam decor you’ll want to leave up all year long, there are plenty of ways to channel the spirits from the comfort of your own home. No matter the circumstances, Halloween can be whatever you decide it’ll be and if there’s a year to experiment with alternative holiday celebrations, 2020 is it.
After lawmakers across the country began issuing stay-at-home orders in mid-March, there was a huge spike in virtual hangouts like Zoom weddings to longer (and deeper) FaceTime calls, all in an effort to harness the power of technology to make up for IRL catch-up sessions and celebrations. Halloween is no different! While you will likely not be trick-or-treaters at your front door or entering a costume contest at your favorite neighborhood spot this year, you can still stock up on your favorite candy (or even make your own, if you’re feeling ambitious) and gather your friends virtually for a night of fun.
If you’re looking for ideas on how to keep with the Halloween spirit, here are some budget-friendly ways to celebrate Oct. 31 all month long:
Host a murder mystery party—costumes optional (but encouraged!)
Hear me out: Murder mystery, but make it virtual.
The format is simple enough, and the story can be as straightforward or as complicated as your heart desires. (Here’s a beginner’s guide if this piques your interest.) To start, come up with a creative backstory to the who, what, why, where, and how. Who is the deceased (or are they?). What brings the group to the Zoom? What could possibly be the motive? Where is this all taking place, in the fiction? And lastly, as any Agatha Christie fan would know, what is the weapon and where was it stashed? From there, you can assign backstories to each one of your guests, giving them the perfect opportunity to dress accordingly.
As for the format, Zoom’s functions make it especially useful for a digital game of whodunnit. If you’d like to prepare a slide presentation with clues and reveals, you’ll need an additional computer from which to present your storyline. Guests can also split off into a breakout room if they want to strategize privately about who the murderer could possibly be (or perhaps rehearse their alibis?). Customize those templated Zoom invites with “You have been cordially invited to a virtual murder mystery…” and you’re bound to have yourself a party.
Decorate your space (IRL and virtually)
It’s a scientifically-proven fact that your environment is everything, so it makes all the more sense to really spook it up this Halloween. Why not go all out with some rhinestone skulls? Or repurpose your Christmas trees a little bit early? And if you’re really feeling up for the challenge, turn your space into a haunted house and deck out each room with a spooky theme (though I’d recommend notifying your roommates first).
Of course, traditional decorations are still on the table: Pick up a pumpkin from your nearest grocery store and carve it while your woodsy, fall candles are lit around you. You can even try your hand at some fun designs like a studded pumpkin or a pumpkin planter if you have a green thumb. You can also try your hand with these DIY Bat Garlands or this perfectly creepy disassembled doll cup.
Keep the treat in “Trick or Treat!”
Listen: There is no bad time to bake themed treats, ever. If you really want to spice things up this Halloween, swap the classic chocolate chip cookies for some DIY candy scales or my personal favorite, witch finger cookies.
The secret tip to taking any sort of baked good to the next level is by stocking up on icing and sprinkles, and following your artistic inclinations to create a one-of-a-kind edible masterpiece. If you’re not a big baker, try mixing and matching sweet and salty snacks for a Monster Munch or using cookie cutters for some Popcorn Mummy Hands. Or perhaps a Halloween charcuterie board? You can also break out the themed serveware if you’re so inclined.
Plan a themed, virtual movie night
One of the better things to come out of 2020 is the launch of Netflix Party, the streaming giant’s virtual hangout extension. If you have Google Chrome, you can download the app and invite your friends to watch a movie or show together in real time. No more lagging streams! There’s even a chat box function so no one has to interrupt the movie with their commentary (which, guilty).
Other group streaming services available, such as Kast, allow you to stream from any number of platforms, and Zoom and Google Hangout both offer screen-sharing features that can alleviate the pain of being 15 seconds behind the group watch. If anyone wants to join, I will personally be rewatching “The Addams Family” for the 173rd time.
Arrange a virtual reading or a game night
Whether you’re a true believer or are a more casual observer of spiritual practices, there’s no more perfect time to dive into the mystic than Halloween. If you’ve ever been curious to what it’s like to get your tarot cards read, services like Gig Master are great starting points for finding tarot card readers in your area.
Less inclined to disturb the spirits? Break out classic card games with your friends. There are a number of websites where you can play Go Fish, UNO, poker, and the likes (just because it’s Halloween doesn’t mean you’re restricted to Halloween themed activities).
But if you want to keep true to the spirit, how about a virtual costume runway with your pals? Channel your best America’s Top Next Model walk and make categories to award the best DIY and funniest costumes, as well as details like best makeup and most timely. Bonus points for those who create getups from pieces they already own–and if you want to dress up as the same thing you were last year, I entirely understand.