I have now experienced 2 Halloweens in America and I feel I can share some opinions on the differences between the Brit way and the American way (yay)!
Here are some notable things I’ve noted!
- “FALL-oween”* (*this doesn’t actually work as you have to read as FORLOWEEN or FAHHHLOWEEN but stay with me)
In Ohio the children went back to school mid August. A week before that happened, summer in principle at least (not in weather terms) ended and it became “FALL-oween”. Shops turned orange. The sunsets sort of turned orange. It was sort of Halloween but also Fall (which is of course Autumn). Some houses were suddenly being decorated with orangey-brown wreathes.
Posh Americans who shop at Pottery Barn would be getting out their “Fall” soft furnishings and ornaments – REAL! The catalogues for PB would facilitate the complete re-stocking of your house for a 2-month period (when you switch to thanksgiving and then “Holidays”, (which is of course Christmas). This would either be in quick succession or with a minor overlap.
Sub note: PB also has SPECIFIC full crockery services with Turkeys on it that you will use for 1 meal. Yep, 1 meal, can you imagine having a full set of plates that is just for one dinner! Sub note 2: This isn’t even Christmas (holidays) dinner, so you probably need another one with a goose on or a ham, which might be a pig or something.
Anyway – so the FALL-oween hybrid thing means you can have dual-purpose symbolism everywhere and this can also offset where you are on the sinister celebration of murder and death vs peace and kindness continuum.
Here are 2 great examples of excellent dual symbolism:
FALL Scarecrow: Happy, symbolic of harvests and the wizard of Oz and a GOOD imaginary friend
HALLOWEEN Scarecrow: Scary, sinister, symbolic of demonic possession and a BAD imaginary friend
FALL Pumpkins: An autumnal, warming ingredient for ALL foods including coffee and LOTS of pies
HALLOWEEN Pumpkins: Scary, sinister, symbolic of demonic possession and a BAD imaginary friend
- American interpretation of what happens in the UK
I thought this was really notable as a problematic case of misinterpretation: I was at a social gathering the other evening and an American lady said to me: “In England don’t you drag a man through the town and set fire to him.” In my head, I’m thinking where ON EARTH in England has this woman actually been?? (I did have a couple of possibilities actually). But then the penny (for the Guy ha!) dropped and I realised she was talking about BONFIRE NIGHT!!!
Americans do not have this! *For my American friends, bonfire night is the commemoration of a foiled attempt at blowing up the houses of parliament by a man (terrorist) called Guy Fawkes in 1605! Over in Blighty we celebrate this by setting off fireworks and having bonfires.
You’d like it! *Your pets wouldn’t.
- Quality of candy *which is of course sweets
In America Halloween seems to be all about candy. People get very excited about it. Shops are stocked with 2000 piece multipacks. There’s a full infrastructure in place for dealing with over supply. Vessels for collecting it on trick or treat night are bin bag sized.
There’s a candy hierarchy!
But notably, as a Brit, this is the main point. Today, the day after Halloween, I sent my 2 children off to school, thus leaving their large buckets of candy/sweets in my possession for 3-7 hours respectively.
Naturally I approached it and rifled through. I wanted nothing. NADA! And that’s got to be a good thing right? *Back to Mummy’s special drawer.
Anyway to conclude, in both our fair lands it’s mostly all good honest fun. Of course in America it’s bigger, it’s up a notch with a bit more of a whoop. In both, there are people who do, people who don’t, people who love and people who hate. So you say Halloween, I say Halloween. Nothing bad actually happened. HA! No-one set fire to anyone.
BE SAFE! Bring on the turkey dishes!
*I haven’t got turkey dishes
**I want them though
***And goose and pig ones and BE THANKFUL cushions
****Hey and no-one here bobbed for apples either! Weird.