Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

The Year Without A Halloween

The PopCulteer
August 7, 2020

I touched on this concept a few weeks ago, but now that the date draws near, it’s becoming very clear that Halloween in 2020 is going to be a mere shadow of its normal self.

The various components that make up Halloween are not all likely to happen as usual this year.

Trick or Treat is a non-starter. Nobody in their right mind could think that sending children door-to-door during a pandemic is a good idea. Not only do you put the kids at risk, who would want strange kids coming to their door asking for candy when they might be spreading the coronavirus?

Likewise, organized school or church parties are not going to be feasible with limits on how big a gathering can be.

Adult parties are also less likely to happen, and even if they do, babysitters are going to be in short supply, and there’s still the matter of people who have more than an ounce of common sense refusing to attend. People are nervous about dining out or sending their kids to school. They’re not going to want to dress up and go to a party.

Bars, which depend on Halloween to generate some of their most profitable and well-attended debauchery are probably not going to be open, and if they are, they are still going to have to operate without the participation of the people who would rather not catch a fatal or life-changing disease just so they can have a drink with their buddies while wearing a goofy costume.

It will be interesting to see how the businesses that depend on Halloween for a big chunk of their annual revenue will deal with this most unusual, yet interesting of times. Halloween, and later Christmas, will be two of the last dominos to fall in our great economic collapse.

The L.A.Times published a great article about the business aspects of Halloween (after I started working on this essay, but the timing is really convenient). If you haven’t already exhausted your free article limit this month, you can read it HERE.

In case you have, here’s a chunk of the beginning of the article:

With less than three months before the annual celebration of all things ghoulish and creepy, many Halloween festivities have either been canceled or will be dramatically altered out of fear of the nation’s biggest terror: COVID-19.

The likely results: A drop in orders for trick-or-treat candies and Halloween costumes and the loss of big crowds and hefty revenues at theme parks that host Halloween-themed events.

In short, another financial blow to an economy already weakened by the business closures and double-digit unemployment rates caused by the pandemic.

Halloween is “the holiday that comes second after Christmas as far as spending goes,” said Tom Arnold, a professor of finance at the Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond. “I don’t think it would be wrong to predict that spending gets cut in half, at a minimum.”

The article goes on to discuss how COVID-19 will torpedo theme parks, cruise lines and places that host haunted houses, and how Halloween retailers like Spirit Halloween and Party City’s Halloween City plan to open as usual later this month, but are preparing for a disastrous season as demand for costumes and decorations plummet.

Many costume-makers started dumping product as early as May, selling it to outlets like Zuilly and Ollie’s as “cosplay” and “dress-up” items. It was sort of weird to log into Zuilly on the fourth of July and see “Sexy Librarian” outfits.

Hershey, which counts on Halloween candy for 10% of its revenue in a normal year, is going to attempt to sell the public on the idea of a ten-week “Halloween Season.” They’re rushing their specialty candy, which includes green Kit Kat bars and Reese Cups and other horror-themed treats, into stores early so they can try to avoid having it all marked down to a fraction of its suggested retail price on November 1.

With bars closed or operating at limited capacity, the beer companies are cutting production and cutting back on Halloween promotions.

2020 might turn out to be the year that people observe Halloween by watching horror movies at home while eating big bowls of General Mills’ Monster Cereals like Count Chocula. I would guess that the only people who come out ahead will be streaming services, online retailers who sell horror movies and pizza delivery companies.

I know lot of die-hard Halloween fans are going to be disappointed and sad this year.

In the grand scheme of things, though, maybe taking a year away from traditional parties isn’t really that big a sacrifice. Halloween monsters would probably seem a little tame this year anyway.

Freddy Kruger or Jason might not seem so scary when there’s a very real possibility of catching a disease that will make you die alone in a hospital bed, laying face down with tubes rammed up or down your most delicate orifaces, spending your last days hallucinating from the sedatives they have to give you to keep you from ripping out your IVs.

We can’t forget why we’re doing this. COVID-19 is a real, airborne virus. It can be spread by people who show no symptoms and have no idea that they’re inflicting the virus on other people. Elderly people can die from this. Young, healthy people who catch this are more likely to survive, but they also have a good chance of sustaining permanent lung, heart or vascular damage. They may lose limbs. Children who get this disease can indeed die from it, but even if they survive they can develop vascular imflammation that can lead to serious life-long health issues.

The Coronavirus is way more scary than any Halloween story.

If there’s a silver lining (and God knows we could use one) it’s that maybe we can come out of this with a greater appreciation of our societal rituals and traditions. If you think a year without Halloween is bad, wait until we get to a Quarantine Thanksgiving. And forget about going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house. If she’s smart she ain’t letting anybody in.

I’ve been pretty vocal about being burned out on Halloween here in PopCult for some time now. I could use a year off from it. I love horror movies and monster movies and scary stuff and always will, but I can do without the focus on beer parties and overly-commercialized Halloween regalia. Honestly, the idea of celebrating Halloween by eating Graziano’s pizza while watching Svengoolie sounds pretty damned swell to me.

Think how much fun it will be when things go back to normal in 2021 (or 2022). Maybe we can appreciate everything a little more and respect just how fragile life on this planet is.

Then we can get back to being terrified of movie monsters, instead of going to the grocery store.

That’s this week’s PopCulteer. Check back for fresh content every day, and all our regular features.


  1. Thomas Wheeler

    Very well written article, Rudy. It’s all rather unfortunate, but accurate.

  2. Keith Mayo

    Seems that if masks protect us in our daily to and fro they’d also protect kids going door to door. From what I’ve seen at Walmart, most parents aren’t too worried about their kids being in close proximity to a huge amount of strangers.

    • rudy panucci

      I hate to break it to you, but those are not the same kinds of masks. Let’s not be silly about children’s lives.

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