Lifestyle

What Brits Really Think About Halloween

It’s that time of year again – the nights get long, the weather gets cold and wet, the leaves start to fall, and the shops can’t decide if they’re promoting Halloween or Christmas. Welcome to October in the UK.

Halloween is recognised as a Christian festival (sort of). It’s recognised as the evening of All Hallows’ Day and is the beginning of Allhallowtide. Sorry? Yes, that well known three day period dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all other departed followers of the Christian faith. However, there is some speculation on the origins of the festival. Some believe that Halloween was originally a Celtic feast, which was Christianised by early followers in Britain.

Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

Now, it’s somehow become a celebration of all things spooky and terrifying. I get it: traditions are rooted in celebration of the dead, and included practices like wearing masks, and carving turnips, but I can’t help feel as though it’s become a little too Americanised? No, perhaps it’s better to say ‘a little too Capitalist’. Halloween doesn’t feel like a celebration of anything, to be honest. It feels like Valentine’s Day, or Mother and Father’s Day – a nonsense excuse to buy useless bits of plastic from a supermarket.

And what a holiday it is for Capitalism to cash in on! There’s an endless array of symbolism to turn into commodity. Every shop seems to have a display – a ghost shaped window sticker here, a giant skeleton there, staff dressed in witches hats. I worked for a few years in the very popular theme park in Southend-On-Sea. Every October, the spooky soundtrack would start, the decorations would be up, and during half term, we would dress up in our best costumes. It was a major, money-making event.

And as an eighteen year old, I loved it! My friends and I would hit the clubs every year, and we’d always wear a costume – usually something to make us look hot over something scary! Yes, that is me dressed as Black Canary in a leotard and thigh high boots in public.

Our year as Superheroes – Black Canary, Poison Ivy, dark Harley Quinn, and Black Widow. Photo by Ross Day.

Surely, dressing up in a skimpy outfit a la Regina George in Mean Girls is just more evidence that Halloween really has no point over here in the UK?

I always picture a US Halloween being a day of costumes, decorations, feasting, family gatherings, and childhood fun. Modern Family might be to blame, to be honest. Here in the UK, we don’t generally hold Halloween themed events in our schools, and very few of us actually host Halloween parties. Not a single kid Trick or Treated at my door last year. Perhaps this is just a result of our British apathy, or a rejection of Capitalism.

If anything, the only real allusion we have towards Halloween is that teenage boys use it as a time to be a badly behaved. I had high hopes for my first Halloween in my first home, but all that happened was a couple of 13 year olds kicked bins down our street and stole our doorbell. Of course we didn’t get it back – they don’t understand the concept of a prank.

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As a Brit in my mid-20s, I don’t find myself getting excited about Halloween any more, and I suspect this is a modern trend. Even the teenagers I teach don’t get particularly excited. One always asks me if we can watch The Purge, and obviously I always say no. Unpopular opinion, but once you’ve seen one scary movie, they’re all the same.

For me, October isn’t a time for all things scary. I love this time of year, but not the abundance of black and orange tat that’s shoved in our faces. I love walks in the cool, damp air; firing up the central heating; hot chocolate and spiced coffees; not feeling bad about staying indoors (as we all know the guilt of being indoors in the summer, and the January blues); the final thrust of fruits and flowers before winter.

With all this said and done, perhaps I’m the weirdo. After all, if no one participated in Halloween, the shops wouldn’t sell any of it.

8 Comments

  • Riana

    Interesting! I’m Canadian and grew up with Halloween as a big part of my childhood. Deciding on a costume and trick or treating was a big deal until I turned about 13. And then it was more about parties and stuff. I think I continued participating in Halloween parties through university but not much after that. I’m not big on the spooky side either – I do love Hocus Pocus but the thriller movies don’t do it for me. For now, I’m just a fan of the cheap candy that goes on sale on Nov 1!

    • Georgia Alzapiedi

      I always assumed that Halloween was celebrated like Christmas across the pond, if Modern Family is anything to go by! I am also a huge fan of discounted chocs and sweeties to start November.

      Thanks for reading 🙂

    • Georgia Alzapiedi

      That’s what my research suggested, although everything I could find was speculative. Not surprising since colonisers and dominant ideology erases that of native people.
      It does seem to be dying down in the UK. Perhaps when it’s on a weekend next year there will be more hype.

      Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  • Laura

    This was an interesting read. As an American, I agree that we commercialize everything to the point where we tend to ruin it. Christmas is the most commercial holiday by far so Halloween feels more carefree in comparison. There’s less pressure, and traditions vary so there are no expectations or gifts to worry about. I go all in decorating my house, passing out candy, and watching dozens of horror movies, but it doesnt feel forced. I do it because I want to whereas Christmas traditions now feel like a chore. I love the idea of the entire neighborhood roaming the streets in costume, and for my sisters and I, it’s a nostalgic time when we can walk the streets of our parents’ neighborhood and catch up with old acquaintances and still be part of the trick or treating and the atmosphere. It makes us feel like kids again. There’s nothing else like it.

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