Dublin Halloween festival cancelled due to Covid-19

Experts warn against trick-or-treating but say socially distanced costume parades are safe

North Dublin’s annual Festival of Flame at Halloween has been cancelled due to Covid-19, Fingal County Council has confirmed.

The popular event had been due to take place at 13 different locations around the county.

However, on Monday, the local authority issued a statement saying it had been cancelled, making it the latest such event to be derailed by the pandemic.

“Adhering to public health guidelines and ensuring physical distancing is maintained must remain a priority, and with this in mind the Council has regretfully taken the decision to postpone this year’s events,” it said.


“Despite the disappointment, the Council’s Events team are planning to return with a bang when the restrictions have eased and are hoping to hold a fireworks-themed event at a later date.”

The cancellation comes just a day after Fáilte Ireland, the tourism body, announced the 2020 New Year's Eve celebrations would not proceed.

Last year 110,000 people took part in the three-day festival which was watched by a further 80,000 onlookers and involved fireworks displays, live music and illuminations.

Such cancellations are a considerable blow to the hospitality and entertainment sectors.

Guidelines for celebrating

Although there is no specific guidance in Ireland around celebrating Halloween during the pandemic, the US’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued “alternative ways to participate in Halloween”.

Gone are the usual scary masks, handing sweets to children at the door, and of course anything that involves the potential for close-quarter screaming.

However, the age-old art of pumpkin carving, scary scavenger hunts and costume parades are all ideal ways of maintaining some blood-curdling customs at a safe social distance.

Given the outdoor nature of Halloween events, and the fluidity of costumed children in pursuit of treats, it is not entirely clear how social restrictions might impact things, although some dos and don’ts are clear.

Under Level 3 of Ireland’s Covid alert system (currently in place in Dublin and Donegal) only one visitor is permitted to somebody’s home and there are to be no social gatherings. While trick-or-treaters are not exactly visitors, the to-and-fro of children to houses poses obvious risks.

Level 4 bans visitors altogether while level 2 allows for up to six, but it is hard to know where various counties will be by October 31st.

Regardless, the CDC notes that when it comes to spreading Covid-19, some things are just too risky. These include traditional trick-or-treating where sweets are handed to children door to door; crowded indoor costume parties; or gatherings where people may be screaming or shouting.

Moderate-risk activities

Notably though, it offers some advice and guidance on "moderate-risk" activities and how to approach them. These include:
– "One-way trick-or-treating" where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway).
– If you are preparing goodie bags, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing them.
– Having a small socially distanced, outdoor, open-air costume parade.
– A socially distanced outdoor costume party with protective masks.

“A costume mask (such as for Halloween) is not a substitute for a cloth mask,” it points out.

“A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.”

It also advises people not to wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe.

“Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.”

A staple of any decent Halloween is screaming and although it is hard to envisage a festival without it, the CDC points out that if it is likely “greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.”

Low-risk activities

But in an extremely restricted year, the experts do offer some low-risk, safer alternatives:

– Pumpkin carving with members of your household or with others outside and distanced.
– Decorating your house.
– A Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk from house to house admiring decorations from a distance.
– Virtual Halloween costume contests.
– A Halloween movie night with people you live with.
– A scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with household members in or around your own home.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times