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Strange Halloween will be even stranger with rare October 31 full moon

Skywatchers, ghouls and (especially) werewolves take note: The moon will be full this Halloween night across the entire United States.

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This is a truly special confluence of spookiness; a Halloween full moon visible for all time zones on Earth hasn’t happened since 1944, according to the Farmers’ Almanac. It won’t happen again until 2039.

But wait, there’s more: The Oct. 31 full moon also happens to be a “blue moon,” a designation for the second full moon to occur in a single calendar month. Blue moons are relatively rare as well, occurring on average just once every 2.5 years or so. We last saw one in March 2018.

The current definition of “blue moon” is actually a misinterpretation of the original one, by the way. The term once referred to the third full moon in a season (winter, spring, summer or fall) that sported four full moons instead of the usual three, a definition laid out by the Maine Farmers’ Almanac in the 1930s.

“But in 1946, amateur astronomer and frequent contributor to Sky & Telescope James Hugh Pruett (1886–1955) incorrectly interpreted the Almanac’s description, and the second-full-moon-in-one-month usage was born,” Sky & Telescope wrote in an explainer this week.

And in case you were wondering — “blue moon” has nothing to do with color. The moon can sometimes appear bluish, thanks to the scattering of light by dust or smoke particles in Earth’s atmosphere, but such effects are not tied to the moon’s phases at all.

In a year when most everyone is already wearing a mask and news headlines frighten you out of your wits on a daily basis, you may wonder, why bother celebrating Halloween? The CDC says many traditional Halloween activities, like trick-or-treating, are high risk for spreading the coronavirus.

Some folks are opting to “ghost” the ritual neighborhood candy hunt. A recent Harris Poll found nearly 75% of parents “have no plans to take their costumed kids door-to-door this year in search of candy, and less than a third of adults anticipate Halloween trick-or-treating taking place in their neighborhoods.”

However, no one likes to disappoint children. The kiddos are ready for some fun, and are excited about their costumes. (All they want to know is, “Do I have to wear a mask on top of my mask?”)

Just like everything else in this very bizarre year, celebrating Halloween feels uncertain. But, ready or not, here comes Oct. 31.

Although we aren’t sure what to expect, here’s a guide to help you know, “it’s a different kind of Halloween when …”

— No one wants to string toilet paper in the trees because it’s a tragic waste of a rare, precious commodity.

— You can’t decide which television program is scarier, a rerun of “Friday the 13th” or never-ending election commercials.

— There’s no need to rush home from work for the 5 p.m. start of trick-or-treating because you haven’t been to the office in seven months.

— You put glow-in-the-dark tape on your sidewalk to mark six-foot lines for social distancing trick-or-treaters.

— You dress as a quarantine couch potato, but everyone thinks it’s just your regular look.

— The jack-o-lantern sitting on your doorstep is wearing an N95 mask.

— You install a pneumatic tube canister delivery system on your front porch, just like the one at the bank drive-thru, to hand out chocolate, contact-free.

— The neighbor and his cat dress up as Netflix’s Joe Exotic and accompanying tiger.

— Your daughter dresses as a witch and uses a six-foot broom with a bucket on the end to collect candy.
— Hand sanitizer stations are located along the street at every other house.

— You attend a Zoom costume party dressed as one of the Brady Bunch.

— You buy your favorite full-size candy bars to hand out, but secretly hope no one shows up at the door so the stash can be all yours.

— Your son asks you to wear a pickle costume so your entire family can be dressed as a dancing hamburger on Tik Tok.

— You don’t want to risk catching the virus by answering the door, but you don’t want trick-or-treaters to think you’re avoiding them, so you sit in the dark for three hours. (Wait, didn’t you do that last year, too?)

— Because the doorbell is not ringing every few minutes, your dog is unusually calm for Halloween. But he can’t help himself during your Zoom Halloween party and licks the video camera.

— When you turn the clock back one hour, your wife says, “Too bad you can’t turn it back 12 months!”

Dear readers, whether you’re planning to hide under the covers tomorrow night, dance in the light of a blue moon or join a Zoom party dressed as a bottle of Purell, I hope your Halloween is fun and safe.

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