After celebrating Halloween virtually last year by watching scary movies streamed by Temple University’s South Asian Students Society, Varsha Palagiri is excited to dress up as the Joker this year and celebrate with friends.
“It was really easy to get involved [last year] but it still wasn’t the same feeling as being in person,” said Palagiri, a junior biology major.
Like Palagiri, this year, many Temple students feel safe attending their first in-person Halloween celebrations since the COVID-19 pandemic began due to the implementation of the vaccine mandates and safety protocols issued on campus and at bars across Philadelphia. Others are opting for smaller, more intimate gatherings by staying home and watching movies with friends.
On Aug. 13, Temple announced all students and faculty must be vaccinated by Oct. 15, The Temple News reported. On Oct. 15, the university extended the deadline to Nov. 15.
The City of Philadelphia requires people to wear masks inside buildings that do not require proof of vaccination to enter, according to the city’s website. Masks must be worn at all gatherings of more than 1,000 people.
Palagiri celebrated from her apartment last year because she feared going out and contracting COVID-19, she said. Now that she and most students and Philadelphians are fully vaccinated, she is eager to return to the pre-pandemic Halloween scene by stopping at a club, she said.
“Just like in person interaction, there’s just something different about being able to see a person as a whole and like just chilling with them,” Palagari said.
In October 2020, the City of Philadelphia advised residents celebrating Halloween to stay home if they felt sick and minimize social interactions to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This year, the city is encouraging people to wear masks, avoid large gatherings and hold any parties outdoors.
As of Oct. 30, there are 21 active COVID-19 cases among Temple students and employees. About 98 percent of all students and employees are either fully vaccinated or exempted from the university’s vaccine mandate, according to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard.
Emma Jacobs stayed home last Halloween, choosing not to celebrate because of the pandemic, she said. Although she still intends to lay low this year by avoiding large groups and parties, she plans to get more involved with Halloween-themed activities on campus, like going to the annual showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, she said.
“I’ve never seen it, and I’ve wanted to for a long time, so I thought it’d be cool to see it here first,” said Jacobs, a senior art history major.
Other clubs and organizations on campus have hosted Halloween-themed events and gatherings throughout October, like Babel Poetry Collective’s Halloween open mic night on Oct. 23. As an organization for poetry and performance, Babel encouraged poets, rappers, musicians, emcees and comedians to come in costumes and perform in front of a live audience at an open-air rooftop venue located at Broad Street near Carlisle.
Amir Methvin, a sophomore psychology major and Babel’s president, was happy to host the open mic night, especially because they couldn’t last year, he said.
“We had a mic, we had a sound system and performers could really perform,” Methvin said. “It was good to be able to do something for Halloween again.”
Sophomores Delaney Santoro and Sequoia Gawlik are excited to dress up in simple, fun and cheap costumes they can piece together from their closet and go out for their first real Halloween as Temple students, they said.
They plan to make the most of their Halloween experience by going out around the city or attending festivities on campus.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to see a lot of people,” said Gawlik, a media studies and productions major. “So we’re gonna get dressed up maybe every day of the weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”
Although Dana Felise has a lot of school assignments, she still plans to celebrate Halloween by staying in her apartment, dressing up, buying a bunch of candy and enjoying a Halloween movie marathon with her roommates while she does her work, she said.
“It’s still fun,” said Felise, a sophomore secondary english education major. “Halloween’s one of my favorite holidays.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misquoted Varsha Palgiri’s plans to celebrate Halloween.
Correction: Varsha Palagiri only planned on celebrating Halloween by going to the club dressed as Joker.