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Halloween 2020 - Oxfordshire's scariest yet?

It's been a ghastly year but fear not! Although trick-or-treating can't happen this year, there are plenty of super(natural) social distancing-friendly events for the whole family to get involved with. Here is how Oxfordshire is celebrating this most ghoulish of holidays...

Spook Responsibly

Oxford City Council is calling on people to be aware of social distancing at all times, meaning no parties or trick-or-treating. But they have a list of suggestions for ways you might share your costumes and other creations remotely. One particularly eye-catching initiative is the Big Neighbourhood Pumpkin Trail, where residents can display drawings or paintings of pumpkins in their windows, and parents give sweet treats to the kids when they spot them - enabling the customary sugar that usually comes with the season, without the face-to-face risks.

Oxford Pumpkin Festival returns for a hybrid selection of in-person and digital events, all raising awareness of Halloween-related food waste. They are hosting carving sessions, cook-alongs and outdoor tours to demonstrate how to make the most of this seasonal food, instead of treating it purely as a decoration and then throwing it away. By celebrating this humble yet vivid veg, you can make a serious point seriously enjoyable.

Family Phantom Fun

There are a number of opportunities to substitute trick-or-treating for otherworldly treasure hunts and trails, which give a similar sense of achievement and fun rewards. Bunkers Hill Garden Centre are re-running their popular Pumpkin Hunt. For a minimum donation of £1 to Mind or Restore, kids can enjoy searching for gourds, to win a prize and certificate. While you're there, check out their Ugly Pumpkin Parade (a delightful celebration of wonkier veg, with names like Knobbly Norman) and vote for your favourite! Similarly, head to Waterperry Gardens to seek out bats among the landscaped grounds. The Halloween Bat Hunt is £2.50 per child and includes a winged friend to help you search! And the Ashmolean are hosting a Spooky Museum Search - find Wally amongst the artefacts and spell out a spooky phrase to claim an 'I found Wally' bookmark.

Venues around the county are transforming into haunted hubs of activity over the half term - all with staggered arrival times, pre-booked slots and a raft of measures to ensure maximum covid-proofing. There is a small handful of tickets left to visit the Witch's House at Cogges Farm - we're assured she's very friendly and will be accompanied by an array of spiders, bats, potions and cauldrons to keep you entertained. Blenheim Palace's cafe is serving up spooky snacks, and there are fire shows in the grounds throughout half term week. Meanwhile, Halloween at Stonor involves bewitching trails, pumpkin carving and some atmospheric storytelling.

And now for something a bit different: things that go 'bang' in the night are promised at the Family Fireworks Spooktacular, a drive-in, low-noise evening of thrills and chills in Abingdon for the whole family bubble to enjoy.

Digital Dread

There's lots on offer for revellers of all ages who prefer to join in the fun remotely. Learn how to make your costumes more convincingly creepy with a special-effects makeup masterclass with Hannah Cunningham from BBC III's Glow Up, hosted for free throughout half term by Pegasus Theatre. Also encouraging creativity is Dr Lizzie Burns, whose regular free Origami For Wellbeing sessions in partnership with Oxfordshire Libraries will take on a special spooky flavour on 31st Oct. Live To Your Living Room, the digital brainchild of Folk Weekend: Oxford are hosting a Halloween special with family favourite Nick Cope, featuring interactive games and songs - dressing up is heartily encouraged! And Shantara Yoga are hosting a Story Yoga session for little ones aged 3-8 to go on an imaginative autumnal adventure.

Grown-up Ghouls

Who says kids get dibs on the spooky fun? Oxford Castle and Prison have brought back Ghost Fest in a social-distancing-friendly format, so you can dabble with the paranormal in one of Oxford's most haunted buildings. And the Ultimate Picture Palace are hosting some special screenings of cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show - we can't blame anyone wanting to Time Warp out of 2020!

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