Halloween be thy name

Halloween in Brooklyn

It’s Halloween, and I have to say that I am scared. Not by ghosts, vampires, ghouls and lost spirits, but by the scale of America’s commitment to the Halloween tradition.

Although I recently read a news story that said that UK spending on Halloween-related products has risen by more than 1000% to 120 million pounds in the last five years or so, I’ve got to say that the whole thing has always passed me by. Sure, you might see the occasional trick-or-treater out on the streets, or a carved pumpkin in the window of a home or two. And yes, greeting card shops and fancy dress stores often had displays of a largely orangey nature in the run-up to the ‘big’? night. But nothing can prepare you for the all-encompassing commitment to Halloween that engulfs America on October 31.

Imagine Oxford Street during the January sales (except with the vast majority of the shoppers being dressed like the cast of the video to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, and you will have some idea of what Carroll Gardens was like this evening. Belligerent young masses roamed the streets, their long-suffering parents trailing a few yards behind, with all children grabbing sweetscandy from the huge number of families sitting out on their stoops waiting to receive the youthful trick-or-treaters.

It wasn’t just spooks and spookesses either, with Batgirl, Darth Vader and, erm, a giant spoon all among the participants. The little girl downstairs showed the Brit-friendly nature of Brooklyn, coming dressed as a number 2 London Routemaster bus. I didn’t quite have the heart to tell her that Red Ken has probably turned it into a bendy bus by now.

Kids wandering the streets I can kind of understand. But New York today was simply jampacked full of crazily costumed people or, as I prefer to call them, freaks.

Stepping into the liftelevator at the office today, I was joined by a cowboy with a facial gunshot wound, as well as a mad scientist complete with Einsteinesque hair and a frankly desultory clipboard. Cinderella (who, by the look of her, hadn’t been starved to the point of malnutrition by the Ugly Sisters) stood alongside me the queueline for lunch. And I’ve seen more sodding cheerleaders than Giants Stadium over the last few hours. Whatever happened to putting a white sheet on your head, ripping two holes out of it for eyes and hoping that your mum didn’t notice the rips over the coming months?

When it comes down to it, most of these people are old enough to know better. I mean, is there really any need to turn up for your office job dressed as Heidi the mountain goat herder’s daughter? I think not. Call it bah humbug-ism, call it just being a British killjoy, but let’s save Halloween for the kids. Even if they do squirt water at you and run off with your Jaw Breakers.

7 thoughts on “Halloween be thy name

  1. EiNY

    Give it a year or so, and you will suddenly find yourself appreciating Halloween in New York. All those kids and their parents out on the street, the people sitting on their stoops waiting with candy. More of a neighborhood spirit than anything I experienced in my 27 years in England.

  2. britoutofwater

    It’s Bonfire Night that I’m going to miss most though. No wrapping up warm for the ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahhhs’ as the fireworks go up, before heading off to the pub for a warming whisky.

  3. Magpie

    A Yank out of water myself, I’m bemused to report that your compatriots have given Hallowe’en a dry, self-referential twist.

    Metro (which you’ll know is the morning reading matter of choice on the London underground, not quite as good as the Post but not surprisingly, far more ironic and hey, it’s free) recently featured a photomontage of the the following artistically rendered pumpkins:

    1) one dazed-looking specimen hovering over a pile of pumpkin vomit, with a stream of pumpkin snot running out of its nose
    2) one with a gun to one side of its head and the other side blown out
    3) One particularly evil looking one with a tiny, scared-looking pumpkin in its mouth


  4. Karen

    I’m from Ireland and celebrated halloween every year as a child and went trick’r’treating, alright maybe not to the crazy extent as in AMerica, but we did it.
    Now my mam has decorations all over the house, in the windows and the garden!
    Over here in Iceland, they don’t have it at, well not in Oct, they have something similar in Feb.

  5. Pingback: A Brit Out Of Water » Blog Archive » A long overdue Halloween missive

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