I knew that America was crazy about Halloween. I really did. I mean, I've seen the movies, read the children's stories, and know from my experience writing about marketing that it's a really, really major deal here (and that the mania is extending more and more to the UK each year.)
But I still didn't really get it. I didn't realise how Halloween dominates the whole of the autumn season, with the first pumpkins and decorations appearing in the shops in late August; how the whole town would be talking about costumes from at least mid-September; how everything everywhere would be pumpkin-themed, including a special Pumpkin Spice latte at Starbucks (which, I have to say, sounds foul).
I wouldn't have predicted that we would get letters from preschool asking for the boys to wear their costumes all day on a particular day and bring in treats for the whole class. They were also given a special box asking us to collect for a particular charity 'when you go trick or treating'. (not 'if'). The Doctor, who claims not to be a fan of Halloween, looked at me in horror. "We're not really going to go are we?" " I think we're going to have to," I replied......)
I didn't realise that here, Halloween decorations for the home go beyond the odd carved pumpkin in a window. There are houses in our town with huge, inflatable witches and ghosts in their front gardens; entire spooky graveyards planted in their lawns; life-size skeletons sitting on their front porches; not to mention armies of pumpkins stretching from their front doors to the street. (We have two small pumpkins - one painted a series of 'interesting' colours by Littleboy1 - and are definitely letting the side down). No doubt they'll be replaced by equally impressive Christmas displays after the 31st- or maybe people have Thanksgiving decorations (inflatable turkeys)?
Now don't get me wrong. I do think Halloween is fun. I'm not being a Halloween Scrooge or a Halloween denier. My mother threw my sister and I a fantastic Halloween party as a child and it was probably the best party we ever had. I love apple bobbing, jack o' lanterns and all that stuff. And some of the decorations really are pretty (although not the inflatable witch).
But it seems to me that Halloween here has become practically the biggest festival of the year. There was nothing like this big a fuss about the big American holidays - the Fourth of July, for example. People seem to get excited about it in a manner that would only apply to Christmas in the UK. (Example: I belong to an online 'Moms' group for the town, and I've seen emails from mothers worrying - really STRESSING - about not being able to get a particular costume for their kids. And one of our neighbours was worrying two weeks ago, during a rainstorm, that the weather might not clear up in time for Halloween... )
And I do wonder if the day itself might even be an anti-climax, after so much feverish excitement. You can't even get a pumpkin in the supermarket this week - it's almost like we've moved on before it's happened.
Still, I'm willing to get into the Halloween 'spirit' for the time being, mainly because I know the Littleboys will love it. Maybe we'll even persuade The Doctor to come trick or treating. And who knows, maybe back in Nappy Valley in three years' time we'll be assembling giant inflatable pumpkins on our porch.....