Growing up, a plastic pumpkin from Poundland, a packet of Cadbury’s Buttons and Hocus Pocus on the tv was as good as it got when it came to Halloween. We weren’t allowed to go trick or treating you see as, a) it wasn’t the best neighbourhood in Central London and b) my parents were pretty indifferent to Halloween – they saw it as an ‘American thing.’ Something you saw in the movies, not something we had to really concern ourselves with. Little did we know back then what a big part America would come to play in our lives, complete with two little half yanks!
Fast forward to 2015 and suddenly, along with things like Black Friday, we Brits are increasingly adopting more and more American ways of doing things. Now we’re seeing people go ‘all out’ for All Hallows’ Eve. While the shops are over loaded with eerie goodies and costumes, the houses here are also upping the ante on decorations (that’s Essex for you!). We’ve also had heaps of party invitations this year – and even Maia’s pre-school is pumpkin-ed up and ready for fancy dress. The little kid inside me eating her chocolate buttons and watching Hocus Pocus feels a little cheated of all this hype and novelty fun!
This level of retail brainwashing ALMOST makes me crave a ‘proper’ Halloween for the kids (and myself!) this year – especially as it will be our last in London. Costumes, decorations, pumpkins, trick or treating, the works! We Brits did invent Halloween after all! But, almost.I said.
Just because you can buy all the ingredients for a Pumpkin Pie, doesn’t mean that you’ll end up with a tasty Pumpkin Pie. Same goes for Halloween. Just because you can buy all the things to look the part doesn’t mean you are guaranteed a cute Halloween like you once saw in the movies. There’s more to it than aesthetics and the USA has it nailed. I’ve got a American ideal in my head when it comes to Halloween (think ET Halloween street scene) but there’s some key cultural ingredients that I think I, and a lot of other Brits, are still lacking in order to recreate it on home soil:
I DON’T TALK TO MY NEIGHBOURS – In fact I don’t know the names of anyone on my street. There is the odd polite smile, but that is as far as it goes. We keep ourselves to ourselves. I’m not alone in this. Being socially awkward, evasive and private around neighbours is a very British problem – and intensified in London. This makes knocking on a neighbour’s door asking for the odd Haribo a horrific thought. So let’s just keep avoiding eye contact shall we….
I’M GUILTY OF NOT ANSWERING THE DOOR: So Halloween karma is after me. It’s not just me right? Admit it, how many people do you know that sometimes can’t be arsed with Halloween and sit in the dark pretending to be out when the door bell rings…?
I CAN’T FRIGGING CUT PUMPKINS: I’m already seeing works of art from my American friends splattered across Facebook. My three uneven triangles, two for eyes, one for nose, and a wonky jagged smile just won’t cut it….
LAST MINUTE COSTUMES– Americans do costumes SO much better than us don’t they? Albeit sometimes random ones that aren’t remotely spooky. They seem to put such a lot of thought in to it and plan ahead. And they love to make their own… just to show us up even further! Today, I was guilty of panic dashing to Sainsbury’s to see what was left in the costume section. I ended up with some mediocre cat ears and oversized witches hats. Boring!
IT’S COLD – Anyway, what’s the point of spending all that money and time on a costume in England when it’s going to be shoved under a thick puffer coat as we trick or treat. It’s bloody freezing – we need to wrap up!
AM I BEGGING? Perhaps again it is a socially awkward British thing, but I still feel uncomfortable outright asking people for sweets. In the back of my mind I can still hear my mum calling it ‘begging’ when I was little. I just can’t shake the association off, so I lack the British balls to organise a real trick or treating escapade. It would throw me well out of my comfort zone.
So this year while we won’t be going ‘all out’, we will be going out. We’re heading to a friend’s house for pumpkin carving with the kids. Certainly a step up from chocolate buttons and Hocus Pocus! But I honestly can’t wait until Halloween next year when we live in the States – I’m going to shake of my bad British memories and habits and learn from the masters!