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How to Party on Halloween During a Pandemic: Themes and Costume Ideas


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person social gatherings have been #canceled. Halloween college parties this year are anything but the same as usual. So, how do we keep our spooky and fun Halloween traditions going while practicing social distancing? What are you going to be for Halloween? Here are party themes and costume options you might want to try out, plus safety reminders and ideas for celebrating Halloween at home.

Top 5 Halloween Costumes and Themes for 2020

The most interesting aspect of a costume party is what everyone chooses to wear--who they choose to be for one night out. Which one of these are you going to be for Halloween?

1. The Plague Doctor

How to Party on Halloween During a Pandemic: Themes and Costume Ideas

The Plague (also known as the ‘Black Death’) struck Europe and Asia in the 14th century. It was a pandemic that took over 20 million lives, one-third of Europe’s population. 

Back then, plague doctors wore long black leather overcoats with gloves and boots. It’s comparable to what we now refer to as PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). A striking difference is that plague doctors used beak-shaped masks. These masks were intended to keep the plague doctors from inhaling "pestilential miasma," or disease-ridden air while in close contact with patients. Doctors also used wooden canes to lift their patients’ clothes and examine their bodies at a distance. 

While the iconic Plague Doctor look used to have a practical use, now it’s one of many Halloween college costumes you can choose to wear. It’s sinister enough that beak-shaped masks are a staple in festivals, like Italy’s “Carnevale” or Carnival of Venice. And yet it’s a look that’s easy enough to recreate on your own for Halloween. Sure, it might not be the best idea to throw a pandemic-themed party but maybe this is exactly what you need to chase away those post-quarantine blues.

2. Bat or Vampire or Vampire Bat

How to Party on Halloween During a Pandemic: Themes and Costume Ideas

Bats are nocturnal, have fangs, and dwell in caves. No wonder these creatures are associated with darkness and vampires. In the 1897 film Dracula, bats were portrayed as dark, evil, bloodsucking monsters that vampires turn into when they need to fly away. In more recent films, like Bats (1999) and Vampire Bats (2005), the computer-generated images were deliberately used to make bats look more terrifying than they actually are in real life. 

Beyond the portrayal of bats in horror movies, there are real-life reasons bats are feared. The most significant reason being that bats carry human-infecting viruses, including coronaviruses. This fact has prompted even more fear of bats with little to no acknowledgment of the role of humans in the spread of viruses. A vampire costume might seem typical for Halloween. But, this year, the fear of the bat is so much more real.

3. Homemade Mummy

How to Party on Halloween During a Pandemic: Themes and Costume Ideas

Due to the disruption of supply lines during this pandemic, tissue rolls have become more important than ever. The lucky few who were able to stockpile extra rolls during the height of the tissue shortage now have an opportunity to make a relevant and easy-to-put-together costume. 

Instead of buying a new costume for a college party that’s over Zoom, why not just wrap yourself in tissue paper and call it a night? It’s quite simple to pull off being a homemade mummy. It’s cheap if you already have extra tissue rolls. And there’s not a lot you can mess up when you’re trying to look like a mummy. If you’re in a city where social gatherings are already allowed again despite the pandemic, you can even decorate your place for an in-person party with only tissue rolls required.

4. Frontline Workers

How to Party on Halloween During a Pandemic: Themes and Costume Ideas

Brave COVID-19 frontliners the world over, are in the spotlight during this pandemic. If you’re not in the mood for spreading dread this Halloween, why not be a beacon of hope instead? 

Dress up as a doctor, a nurse, a paramedic, a scientist, a soldier, a farmer, a mailman, a delivery person, a factory worker, or even a grocer. Be any one of the professionals--the heroes--who have kept the world working amidst the several levels of quarantine and restrictions that became necessary due to the outbreak of CoViD-19 worldwide. If you’re a frontliner, you can come to the party as yourself! 

With enough room for a responsibly physically-distanced party, you have all that you need for a “Heroes of the Pandemic”-themed Halloween. No need for additional decorations. After all, just about anywhere during this pandemic can pass as sufficiently scary.

5. Old Costumes, DIY Painted PPEs & Printed Face Masks

How to Party on Halloween During a Pandemic: Themes and Costume Ideas

With PPEs everywhere this year and most countries recommending the use of face masks in public, it only makes sense that we suggest you paint a disposable PPE and have a scary face printed on your face mask/face shield for Halloween. You can design them on your own or you can buy masks with readymade prints like these ones

On the flip side, you can upgrade an old costume and use it as your PPE. For example, a skeleton costume can be worn with a filtered cloth mask that has a skeleton’s nose, teeth, and jaw printed on it. Try on an astronaut costume; it’s essentially a full-on PPE. For a last-minute, hassle-free, and safe get-up, just look for an unused white sheet that can cover you from head to toe. Then, cut holes for your eyes. Then, have fun at a real-life, in-person party while keeping yourself and others safe.

Safety Reminders for a Safe Halloween Celebration

This year’s Halloween experience is definitely different due to safety protocols, essentially changing college parties as you know them. But different can be good. Following safety protocols and having fun don’t have to be mutually exclusive. 

  • As a general rule, make sure your costume can double as your Personal Protective Equipment. Also, wear face masks that have filters; they’re generally safer than plain cloth masks. 
  • Stay vigilant when it comes to physical distancing. If you start seeing people blatantly ignoring the WHO recommendation to stay about 2 meters away from the next person, maybe it’s time to leave the party. 
  • Instead of hugs, try air kisses, the Star Trek-inspired Vulcan salute, or a Kiwi nod. 
  • Bring a hand sanitizer with you so you don’t end up looking like a germaphobe, inadvertently reminding your schoolmates of all the stresses of facing the pandemic.

Celebrate Halloween at Home

If there are no in-person social gatherings you can go to yet, throw your very own Halloween party at home!

Host a virtual party.

Make your video conference background eerie, like the wallpaper in The Shining or a Grim Reaper looming large behind you. Watch thrillers together, share ghost stories, and enjoy each other’s virtual company until the sun is up.

Have a costume contest online.

Flaunt your get-up at your virtual party. Invite everyone you know on Instagram or Twitter to post their photos too. Then, the next day, have a basket full of sweet treats delivered to the winner.

Play party games with your friends.

Among Us is currently quite popular on Twitch. The game revolves around killing everyone on the ship if you’re an impostor, and finding out who the impostor is if you’re a crewmate. Sounds very similar to a go-to in-person party game you’ve already played a hundred times already, right? It’s something the whole gang can try. If you end up not liking Among Us, there are hundreds of other party and horror games on Steam, like Phasmaphobia and Dead by Daylight.

Have a horror movie marathon.

Whoever said a college party had to involve dancing? You can also have drinks and eat while watching horror flicks together with your friends online. Turn off the lights and make your living room a cinema. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon all have Watch Party features and thousands of movies to choose from. 

So, what did you end up deciding on for Halloween 2020? Share which party themes and costume you went with on’s Explore Experiences page!

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Works as Management Team at Our School and Us