October 30, 2008

Halloween: Why? And Where?

As the token Brit on the DT, the girls do have a good laugh at some of my sayings and mannerisms. I don't mind being teased really and its always good conversation. The way we do things and the way we celebrate events slightly differ too. The US's 4th July celebration where people pay homage to Independence Day and wave the flag to being a US citizen is far more glamorous than our 23rd April St Georges day - our day to wave the flag for our English Saint and all things English! You guys have Thanksgiving, obviously we don't and I often wish we had something like that because other than Christmas, our UK families just do not have any other nationwide special get-together day . Although we do treat Boxing day (26th December) as an extension of Christmas day to spend family time together.

So this brings me on to Halloween.
The British, at large, celebrate this event in a more restrained tone compared the the US. Which makes me scratch my head curiously because the tradition dates back to Celtic times in Ireland (a short swim from UK shores) where Pagans would treat this night as sacrificial in preparation for their winter harvest, using what livestock they had. It was also the night they would dress with masks and costumes to mimic the dead and ward off evil plus they class 31st October as the end of the Pagan year - to them it was party night! . So when the Irish settlers found homes on US shores, they brought these tales with them and continued the celebration to what it is known and loved for today. I have to admit that Halloween is celebrated with more vigour in the US than over here in the UK.

There are a lot of homes in the UK that do not entertain children who come trick or treating. For us its a more modern celebration that the older generation have not grown accustomed to but certainly it has become more popular in the last 20 years with the latter generations because of the hype that the US bestow on the event. The general rule of thumb on Halloween over here is that if the lights are on, you may trick or treat at that house. Its funny to watch my neighbours clamber home from wherever, draw the curtains and lay low for a few hours when they don't want little ghosties and ghoulies come a-knocking! Of course the UK kids love it and do it anyway (where they can) and Id say 60% of the houses on our housing estate do play along and its just the best night for dressing up, making pumpkin faces, play bobbing apples and stuffing your face with sweeties (candy) and chocolate. My daughter selects the best houses for treat giving (based on previous years haunts) and manages about 10 or 12 houses then comes home to splurge. We of course decorate the porch and hand out sweeties to any welcomed guest but as our house is hidden round a little nook on a street of old age pensioners, we don't get that many visitors - so we get to hoard the stash for ourselves too!
I wrote to Janine, one of our new SC DT who lives in Germany and asked if they celebrated it and her is what she had to say (thanks Janine!)

"Originally there's no Halloween here in Germany. We do have Fasching also called "carnival" in February/March where we dress up. Although the children walk with their self-made lanterns in November where they collect sweets, which can be most likely compared with 'trick or treat'. Halloween swapped over from the US some years ago, but it's no tradition here, and no trick or treat. Some kids do it though, but most kids collect sweets when they walk with their lanterns in honor of St. Martin in November ( you can find more information under 'Folklore' there). In Germany, Halloween is an additional reason to party, hehe."

7 comments:

Kimberly said...

I have lived all over the world. In each culture that is some "holiday or celebration" that mimics what we call Halloween here in the States. To me, it is just plain old fun. I mean, it is ALL ABOUT THE CANDY, right?! LOL

Jennifer.T said...

The UK sounds like Australia... Although it is getting more popular each year. I view it as a great reason to dress my DD up in costumes and take cute pics!

Jane - aka E M N O L said...

I love halloween - or - all hallows eve! Always celebrated it but since having children do go a little mad when it comes to pumpkins and baking ha ha

Angela W said...

I have always lived in the US. I love Halloween, basically getting candy! I always have and probably will until my boys get too old to trick or treat!

erin m said...

Thanks for taking the time to give us a little history lesson on Halloween...especially from a non-US perspective.

Davinie said...

A very cool post! Love the history lesson.

Mary said...

I wish more people would be more understanding of the people who do NOT observe this day as a holiday. I do not and having it thrown in my face everywhere I go is just too much and some of it is disgusting. It is just a money making opportunity and I can't wait for it to go away. One whole month of it is a little much. Thanks for sharing.