Halloween is back, and apparently so is the spirit behind America’s spookiest holiday.
The COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on Halloween gatherings last year. Many traditions like parties, parades and haunted houses were deemed unsafe last fall as the world tried to navigate the pandemic without a vaccine.
That is not the case this year, with vaccines and booster shots available in abundance as well as the general downward trend of cases. And although the pandemic isn’t over — last year’s fear is giving way to a renewed appetite for Halloween traditions, especially trick-or-treating.
Earlier this month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, gave his blessing for trick-or-treating — especially for those who are vaccinated. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), agreed.
"That’s one the reasons why we emphasized why it’s so important to get vaccinated, not only for your own safety, for that of your family, but also for the good of the community, to keep the level of infection down," Fauci explained. "When you do that, there’s no reason at all why you can’t enjoy the holidays in a family way, the way we’ve traditionally done it all along."
President Joe Biden also encouraged outdoor trick-or-treating this year, though the Bidens will be traveling abroad on Halloween and unable to greet annual visitors at the White House.
Polls recently conducted by the Associated Press show Americans are eager to celebrate Halloween in 2021, though still more reluctant than they were in pre-pandemic years.
Of the 1,083 adults surveyed between Oct. 21-25, 35% of respondents said they planned to hand out candy on Halloween. In 2019, that number was 42%. Last year, it was only 25%.
Sixteen percent planned on taking their kids trick-or-treating this year — down from the 25% of 2019, but higher than the 12% of 2020.
And costume sales are up, as are the sales of candy and decorations. Aneisha McMillan, a spokeswoman for the trade group Halloween and Costume Association, told the Associated Press sales have increased by at least 25% compared to last year.
House and yard decorations for Halloween on display in Arlington, Virginia, United States on Oct. 27, 2021. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Google search trends reveal witches, rabbits and dinosaurs are among this year’s most popular costumes. McMillan said others are dressing up as characters from the popular TV shows "Squid Game" and "WandaVision," and some couples are going as a vaccine and syringe.
"A lot of people are getting really creative because they can’t find the singular costumes they wanted. They’re doing group costumes, or couples costumes, so they can kind of mix and match and pull things together," McMillan said.
This story was reported from Atlanta.