The candy aisles overflow with excess stock, unheeded “Sale!” signs littering the stores like so many crowded orange tombstones. Yards once teeming with inflatable witches and goblins lie empty, tattered ghosts pinned to front porches like the memories of Halloweens past. Never has a holiday, even this one, felt so dead.

Perhaps it’s the context. With 40 million people having tested positive during the global pandemic, the U.S. death toll is already over 220,000 and climbing. Trick-or-treating has been canceled in cities across the country as the Day of the Dead approaches with frightening finality. Who needs to sell tickets to a haunted house when simply shopping for toilet paper is so scary? Never has a day felt so aptly named.

Sadly, our children are forced to bear the consequences of our repeated failures to adequately contain Covid-19. Having already missed spring sports, graduation ceremonies and proms, they’re now pivoting to an entirely new set of missed opportunities in this last half of the year. What horrible irony that they’ve been forced to wear masks since March but now can’t wear the ones they’ve looked forward to all year. If we’d known the state would discourage going out on Halloween night, we could have let them wear that rubber Spider-Man mask all year.

Growing up, the end of October heralded the High Holy Days of my childhood: the celebrations of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas made up the most exciting two months of the calendar year. The crunch of leaves underfoot and the bite of winter in the air were liferafts in a sea of back-to-school dreariness. Weeks were spent discussing Halloween costume ideas amid the eternal debate of practical comfort versus realism; sure, those cleats are more realistic, but wearing tennis shoes with my football uniform meant I wouldn’t spend the next week hobbled by blistered feet.

Perhaps it’s just as well that Halloween is being put on the shelf this year; the jarring dissonance of children dressed up as the head of the Centers for Disease Control might have thrown us all over the edge. It’s bad enough watching the folks in Congress wasting their energy fighting each other rather than healing our country; the sight of all those mini Pelosis and McConnells walking our neighborhoods might cause a panic.

Cruelest of all, this year Halloween falls on a Saturday. The only thing better than staying up late counting candy bars and deliriously overindulging in sugar was the knowledge we could sleep it off without having to get up for school the next morning. Unfortunately, saying “that was a different time” is fast becoming a habit. Adults got their childhood; I hope we have the creativity and drive to give today’s kids theirs.

After all, never has so much justification been available for secretly eating the candy we bought for those going door to door. “They just never came,” we’ll say as we pick the nougat from our teeth. (Okay, maybe that’s just me.)

You can read more at RobertFWalsh.com, contact him at RobertFWalshMail@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.