Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Yes, some do celebrate Halloween here, to answer your question. No, I am not having a party this year, not just because I feel buried (ha ha), but also because I just don't know enough people in the area to invite (sad but true).
But one encounters some funny reactions to Halloween here. Take trick-or-treating. In the US it is the most innocuous thing, really. Kids get to dress up and knock on doors and expect candy and get it most of the time. Adults get to decorate their houses and dress up and see children dressed in all sorts of costumes, scare the living daylights out of them, and then delight them with free candy. I for one use Halloween as an excuse to buy big bags of "bite-size(d)" 3 Musketeers bars, Milky Ways (great from the freezer), Snickers, and the rare but wonderful Baby Ruths. Adults get to have parties where they can be something they cannot be for the rest of the year. Very occasionally one might find a few eggs drying on the side of the house, or toilet paper in the trees in the front yard, but I don't remember hearing of too many incidents of vandalism or wanton destruction. Though admittedly a few years ago one of my friends left a bowl of candy by the door while she went out to walk her dog, and when she returned not only was the candy gone, but so was the bowl! Nevertheless, it's pretty minor and more for mischief than thievery.

Maybe it's the being something other than yourself that scares the English. Maybe it's the US-import aspect of it. Or maybe the English really aren't accustomed to images of ghosts, ghouls, goblins, witches, warlocks, and weirdos. Whatever the reason, some people here react strongly against Halloween. It's true that there seem to be more folks here who will use it as an excuse for the aforesaid vandalism and wanton destruction. But it surprises me when I encounter such a reaction. For example, 2 years ago there was a mask being sold which had red liquid encapsulated inside so when you pumped a little balloon, the liquid flowed down the front and looked like blood. People were up in arms about it - it made the television news! My reaction? "Cool!"

And then I was watching some sitcom where the main character complains about trick-or-treating and denigrates it as "an American import". Then the other day I invited a friend to bring her child trick-or-treating with us tomorrow. She is not English (nor American); she discussed it with the child's father, who is English, and he categorically rejected the idea. I was taken aback. But then, these folks did not grow up with this tradition. They don't have fond memories of taking pillow cases around to hold more candy, nor waiting till late to get all the rest of the candy from the folks that don't want it lying around their house. They don't have the thrill of knowing they can go to just about any door and get free candy, and maybe get their pants scared off in the bargain. Jackpot! And then there's the survey of the candy loot when you arrive home (what you didn't eat while out and about, that is), the dismissing of the imitation Smarties and the cheap candy cigarettes (OK, that was awhile ago). As an adult, I pride myself in making the approach to the house so scary that some children walk very hesitantly up to the door (though I do feel bad for the really small children). I love hosting Halloween parties, decorating the interior so that it no longer looks like the house normally would, putting together the music, making the food (my graveyard cake was my favorite, but I also love an excuse for devilled eggs, and Knorr spinach dip in a bread bowl). And I really enjoy seeing the costumes my guests come up with - some are incredibly imaginative! It is a rare opportunity in adult life for a creative outlet. One of my friends not only wears the costume, but acts it as well. What fun! How I miss it all.

Fortunately there is trick-or-treating in MIL's neighborhood. I doubt there's any in mine. I barely decorated the house, but that's partly due to the chaos that is my house. Next year I hope to be better organized (ha ha).

Now I just need to get a hold of some bite-sized Baby Ruths...

P.S. This morning (Halloween day) I inquired at L's school about reading one of my favorite toddler Halloween books and handing out kids Halloween tattoos. The teacher said that it was district policy not to celebrate Halloween in any way. }sigh{

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At 3:53 PM, Blogger Melanie Gao said...

I remember a couple of really fun Halloween parties at your house in California. I hope we'll get to celebrate together again one of these years...

At 3:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who grew up and lives in England still I too was forbidden by my parents to go Trick or Treating. My Dad often complained it looked to much like begging and that he rather just give us sweets himself.


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