Tuesday, 5 November 2013

A London Halloween: surprisingly spooky





I don't know how many times I've warned the Littleboys over the past few years that Halloween in England wouldn't quite be the same as in America. I tried to let them down gently so that they wouldn't be hugely disappointed by the contrast between Long Island and London. "Halloween isn't such a big thing in England," I'd tell them. "You might not find that everyone's out trick or treating, and people don't really decorate their houses like they do in America."

But now they probably think I'm a complete nutter.


In fairness, at my previous London home, I would quite often buy a stash of Halloween sweets and end up keeping them for a whole year after nobody came round trick or treating on October 31. But it seems things have changed. Last Thursday, we headed out not only to find the streets full of trick or treating families, but many houses lit up with pumpkins. Not only that, but people were making a real effort to dress up in spooky costumes just to answer their door.

At one house, which was dark except for a lit jack o' lantern, the door appeared to open spookily by itself, before the mother (I presume) then appeared wearing a bloodstained white doctor's jacket. Her two sons then appeared at the window looking like vampires, holding candles and staring blankly out of the window without even a trace of a giggle. This was better than anything that ever happened to us in the States, where (dare I say it) the spooky element of Halloween is sometimes altogether forgotten as teams of fairies, superheroes and firefighters roam the streets.

True, the house decorations we had been missing appeared at the last minute, on 31st October, rather than being up all month, but some of them were excellent, and the pumpkin carvings in the neighbourhood were extremely impressive (compared to our amateurish efforts, above). The boys were most excited by a pumpkin carved as Mario from Mario Brothers, and there were bats, owls, and all manner of other designs.

The only contrast the boys themselves could see is that the quantity of their sweet booty was slightly less impressive than in the US. Many people had run out quite early on, including us, and some people were handing out fruit instead, as it was the only thing they had left in the house.

 Next, year, I'll be dressing up to answer the door - and I'm certainly buying more sweets.


9 comments:

Kit said...

Interesting to hear that London has now adopted Halloween in force. I'm still very Bah Humbug about it, but my girls went on a Halloween walk at a neighbours' farm and loved it.

Virginia Smith said...

When we lived in England (Derbyshire and Cambridge) two years ago, my then-8-year-old was very disappointed in how (little) Halloween was celebrated. So I wrote this following blog post for her about how Americans do Halloween best.

http://theyearoflivingenglishly.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/us-vs-uk-halloween-america-does-it-best/

Melissa said...

I've noticed that Halloween seems to have really taken off recently - with some fairly scary costumes. In fact if I had some of the costumes I saw walk up to my door I'd be tempted not to open it.

We were on holiday in Cornwall in a tiny seaside village so didn't think anyone would do anything. And we didn't have costumes for the boys, but in a last minute dash, we bought and carved a pumpkin and bought a few sweets should people come round. We then went and sat in a pub and waited. All at once the entire village was filled with scary looking people so we darted back to our house, handed out sweets while I wrapped one of my children (the other wasn't interested) in loo roll to turn him into a mummy, and we did a mad dash around the village getting him some sweets. I have promised them that we'll make more of an effort next year.

En4tainment said...

We ran out of sweets to and was handing out 50p to the last lot of kids, next year we need to make sure we have lots more sweets x

Nota Bene said...

Yes I think Halloween here is one short night. It depends on where you are I suspect - in Finsbury Park the pavements were always full to overflowing with trick or treaters. By contrast in Loughton, no one does it, and when I suggested it a few years back I thought I was going to be run out of town!

Glad you and the boys had a good night

Californian Mum in London said...

It is a relief to me that Halloween is getting popular in the UK. The kids, and some of us adults, really enjoy a bit of dressing up and eating lots of candy.

anita jolly said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Expat mum said...

Here's another interesting difference. When you run out of sweets in the States you either put a note on the door (as we did) or just turn your front lights out, and no one bothers to knock. I love how everyone here felt bad enough to hand out something else!

Muddling Along said...

Or you could just start a trend for handing out fruit....