COVID-19 Scares Canadians Away From Halloween 2020

Halloween is a time of campy spookiness and fun frights. But this year, for many Canadians, COVID-19 has added a very real layer of fear that’s putting a damper on the season. Rising COVID-19 cases and physical distancing requirements are causing widespread concern about participating in many of the classic Halloween traditions, including door to door trick-or-treating and having Halloween parties.

To understand just how large of an impact COVID-19 will have on Halloween this year, Maru/Matchbox surveyed 482 Canadian adults across every province. Only about half of those who participated in Halloween activities last year expect to do so again this year.

Halloween 2020 had the potential to be a big celebration; It is happening on a full moon, falls on a Saturday, and with an extra hour in the day, thanks to October 31st being the last day of daylight savings. But the spread of COVID-19 means it is unlikely to be the blow-out people are yearning for.

There is a great tension here. People are longing to celebrate, but they want to do it safely. And there is big money at stake.

An estimated 9 billion retail dollars are spent on Halloween in America each year, according to the United States National Retail Federation. And per person expenditures have been climbing at a rapid rate. Retail spending on Halloween has doubled in the past 15 years alone. Chocolate and candy account for just over half of the retail dollars spent, according to a National Confectioners Association spokesperson. So, any change in Halloween habits will have a significant economic impact on that industry and others.

Right now, things are not looking good. Medical health officers across Canada are expressing concerns about trick or treating and parties, while offering reassurances that Halloween is not “cancelled.” B.C.’s Dr Bonnie expressed that she, “think[s] we can have Halloween this year, it’s just going to look different.”

Quebec’s National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda similarly suggested that “if there is a Halloween, it will have to be a special Halloween, different. Perhaps we’ll have some virtual Halloweens but a Halloween where everyone is walking around and visiting other people’s homes… that concerns me.”

It concerns a lot of Canadians too. Half the people who handed out treats last year won’t be doing it this year. And few expect to have a party with friends, unlike last year. But people aren’t ready to give up on everything.

There are still sizable numbers who aim to celebrate Halloween by festively decorating their homes, dressing up in Halloween costumes, and transforming millions of pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns. And there is even some interest in the “virtual Halloween” Dr Arruda mentioned.

Mars Wrigley is one company that is leading the way to a virtual Halloween by creating an online app, Treat Town. In Treat Town people create a virtual avatar, decorate a virtual door, and knock on friends and family members’ virtual decorated doors. People can purchase credits to give their trick-or-treaters, redeemable for real candy like Snickers and M&Ms, the company’s top Halloween sellers, online or in stores. And the National Confectioners Association is offering tips on how to make Halloween “fun at a distance.”

The door is not closed on trick-or-treating for 2020, but many Canadians are concerned, and Halloween is sure to be “different.” As Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer David Williams soberly suggested, “We’re looking at the protection of the children so that they’re not bringing more than the candy back home with them.”

At Maru/Matchbox we track the trends that matter. To learn more about how COVID-19 is transforming your brandscape, contact us. Be sure to also explore Maru Reports extensive coverage of how COVID-19 is changing the habits of the Canadian consumer.

Originally published at on September 24, 2020.