As I’m sure you noticed, Halloween came and went last week. I got a lot of questions about how the holiday is celebrated here (or if it is celebrated at all). Here are a few of my observations from our first British Halloween.
- Trick or treating is not the focus. Yes, kids do trick or treat here. But it is not as widely accepted as it is in the U.S. In other words, most kids where we live don’t. I live on a fairly busy street, and we had one trick or treater that evening (and the weather was beautiful). Where I live, you indicate that your household is participating by putting a pumpkin by your door. I know several families who actually gave their neighbors some candy in advance to give to their kids in order to ensure there was a treat on hand for them.
- The costumes are spookier and scarier. In the U.S., you can dress up as anything, from a baseball player to a beloved cartoon character to a princess. It’s what the British would call “fancy dress.” But here, the costumes are very much Halloween-focused. Ghosts, skeletons, witches, etc.
- The grocery stores are trying to make it a bigger deal than it actually is. You can tell that the stores are trying to capitalize on candy, decoration and other related purchases. In fact, the only real decorations I saw for Halloween were in the stores themselves. No home had decorated door fronts, at least not in my village. I did spy the occasional carved pumpkin in a window.
- There were several Halloween-themed events scheduled, particularly as a draw to get visitors to touristy places, like National Trust properties, farms, and theme parks. And I noticed this weekend that on Strictly Come Dancing, the popular ballroom dance competition television show, Halloween was the theme.
So how did we celebrate? We started the week by buying some pumpkins at the grocery store, which we painted. In the U.S., we would have definitely visited a pumpkin patch for that, but frankly I didn’t have time to research if there was anyplace to go for that near us. Picking a couple up while I was at the store was much more convenient.
We chose not to trick or treat. I wasn’t sure how popular or accepted it was in our village, and I wanted to respect the local culture here. In hindsight, I think we could have visited a few homes without much fuss. We will probably plan to do that next year. Frankly, it’s not all the candy that I missed. It is the comraderie with neighbors that I love about Halloween… your yearly excuse to knock on doors, say hello, and marvel at how much the kids have grown and changed since last year.
Instead, we went to a Halloween party at our village pub. It was lots of fun, with games, stories, pumpkin carving and cupcake decorating. My four-year-old, dressed as Spiderman, observed that the costumes were “really scary” and complained that he didn’t get any candy. Luckily, his grandmother back in the U.S. sent him a package full of some of his favorites (and candy corn for my husband and I, which we don’t have here). So we “treated” him when we got home from the party.
All in all, while it was different than how we would have celebrated in the U.S., it was an enjoyable day. And when asked by friends and family back home if they celebrate Halloween here, my answer remains, “sorta.”