Northern Ireland news

'Sand pumpkins' crafted on Co Antrim beach to mark Halloween

Andrew Difford with one of the sand pumpkins he created as part of a pumpkin challenge on Waterfoot Beach, Co Antrim. Picture by Mal McCann

PUMPKINS have been crafted out of sand along a beach in Co Antrim as people find alternative ways to mark Halloween during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 'sand pumpkins' have been created along Waterfoot beach on the east coast as part of the Pumpkin Challenge event.

Organised by Waterfoot Sandcraft, it encouraged people to visit the beach either yesterday or today to build their own pumpkins out of sand with a bucket and spade.

Traditional Halloween events have largely been cancelled or discouraged due to restrictions on gatherings aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.

However, queues outside the popular fancy dress shop Elliotts in central Belfast yesterday suggest many are still keen to celebrate the occasion in their spookiest costumes.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) has said traditions such as 'trick or treating' or 'bobbing for apples' should not go ahead this weekend due to the increased risk of infection.

Dr Gerry Waldron, head of health protection at the PHA, discouraged the sharing of food and sweets and face-to-face interactions with older and vulnerable neighbours.

He said that "with just a bit of creativity, we can think of new ways to have fun at Halloween which also keep us safe from Covid-19".

"We want people to have fun, but to not become complacent or risk the health of themselves and others by going against guidelines or regulations," he added.

Derry has cancelled its annual Halloween festival, which usually draws thousands to the city and is billed as the biggest Halloween party in Europe.

The city's mayor Brian Tierney has recorded a video message urging the public to enjoy Halloween within the current Covid-19 restrictions.

The SDLP councillor – who is isolating at home after being identified as a close contact of a family member who tested positive for the virus – encouraged the public to celebrate from home through the council's online Halloween programme.

"Derry is the home of Halloween and it's a huge time for celebration across our city and district but it's important that we do that in a way that keeps our community safe during this uncertain time," he said.

"Council are hosting an exciting Halloween programme online including a number of interactive activities that families can get involved in.

"If we can keep social interactions to a minimum in the coming weeks I believe that it will allow us to enjoy a better Christmas that we can spend with our closest family and friends."

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