It’s that time of year again when the spooks come out to play and the horror houses open up for business, when sales of sweets (candy in American English) skyrocket and when kids play dress-up in the pursuit of said sweets. However, while Halloween is celebrated in both England and the United States, each country has its own list of unspoken rules. Indeed, here a 5 major differences between English and American Halloween traditions.
While the English have counted pumpkins as a symbol of Halloween since the 1970s (thanks entirely to American influence), The United States is far more replete with them. Indeed, in the state of Illinois alone, around 500 million pumpkins are produced in an average year, with surrounding states not far behind. Compare this to UK estimates (around 4 million a year) and you start to see a wildly varying degree of emphasis placed on pumpkins by the two countries. Moreover, of course, the USA loves to produce pumpkin-flavored food items and beverages, such as pumpkin beer, pumpkin cake pops and pumpkin pie. These are by no means as common in England.
While door-to-door festivities have been on the decline in both countries in recent years – presumably amid media-driven fears for child safety – trick-or-treating still remains a key tradition among both the English and the Americans. However, in England – though sweets are very much welcome – another expectation for a trick-or-treater is that residents will be kind enough to treat them monetarily. Ironically, in the United States, famously the more capitalist of the two nations, no such expectation exists and it is considered rare for kids to be handed anything other than candy.
When one thinks of Halloween costumes, the immediate thought that springs to mind is one of ghosts, ghouls and monsters. Indeed, with zombies, vampires and witches being all the rage (haha, get it?), both countries do market such costumes en masse at this time of year. However, it is not usual among American Halloween revelers – particularly those of a more mature disposition – to don costumes utterly unconnected to the supernatural, including princess costumes, presidential masks (covering virtually every US president from JFK to Barack Obama) and costumes depicting various movie characters. While again, this is not unheard of back in England, it is not such a prevalent idea.
4. Alteration of the clocks
When comparing English and American Halloween traditions, I would be remiss to not mention both countries’ altering of the clocks either side of Halloween. In what is officially known as the end of English summer time, the English put their clocks back one hour every year on the last Sunday of October – usually before October 31st. Americans, meanwhile, turn their clocks back at the end of daylight savings time on the first Sunday of November (that’s this coming Sunday, in case you forgot!). What this means, of course, is that the English enjoy one extra hour of darkness on the night of Halloween. In fact, when you consider that England is higher up in the Northern Hemisphere than all of the US except for Alaska, you’d be right to imagine that the old island is already getting more darkness regardless of time changes.
As with Christmas, there is a gigantic disparity between English and American Halloween decorations. While you might see the odd (sometimes very odd) half arsed pumpkin in an English front garden, England doesn’t treat Halloween with anywhere near as much artistic frivolity as its counterpart across the Pond. Indeed, driving through suburban America at this time of year can be more like an extended tour of one of those Halloween haunted houses, such is the individual dedication to monstifying one’s garden.