Ex-Pat-hology: All Hollow EveningHalloween in the UK sucks!
It is a lame abomination, the costumes are pretty poor, decorations almost entirely absent (we were the only house on the street with a jackolantern), the sweets are boiled. A lot of older kids just turn up, undisguised in hooded sweatshirts expecting candy for nothing. They don't seem to realize that only kids young enough to make grown ups go awwww over their cuteness in satanic garb, should participate. Exceptions for older kids only if they are creative enough in their costumes for pity for their sheer geekery to be honored. I've been tempted to put up a sign saying you must be this height or under to trick or treat here.
In the shops you are starting to find small selections of token offerings of costumery and sweets, in my local supermarket, this amounted to a choice of two sizes of witches hat, and packs of ten chocolate balls overpriced and wrapped in pumpkin illustrated foil. It is poorly organized, and barefaced attempt to create another cash cow holiday, but they don't really have a clue what they're doing.
It's not that I miss halloween per se. I think I only have fond memories of sugar delivery product gathering, dressing up and strolling through crisp autumn evening air, but it's not something you can resurrect by going to a costume party (aka fancy dress party in UK). Short of reverse growth hormone and other science fiction scenarios, it couldn't happen, it shouldn't happen. I wouldn't want to be a child trick or treating today with a cordon of security personnel escorting each group of kids spooked up in designer scare-wear, between lo-carb candy checkpoints in some gated community.
Brits don't need Halloween, they already have a seasonal holiday for the kiddies, Guy Fawkes night, 5th of November, the celebration of the foiling of the early 17th century English Catholic Bin Laden and his parliamentary bombing plot. This is tastefully done by having public bonfires and setting off as many pet-distressing explosions as possible. Originally it involved effigies and door-to-door child vagrancy (urchins asking for "a Penny for the Guy"). This latter sub-Dickensian exercise in pre-teen agit-prop and criminal education has more or less disappeared (my wife told me it was "seen as begging"), leaving only a thriving fireworks industry, and the predictable accidental childlike enthusiasm meets dangerous chemical compounds onslaught.
The only reason that Brits try to ape Halloween is the onward imperial surge of US culture. Brits see Halloween on ubiquitous US television shows and movies. The result is a sort of cargo cult version of the holiday. The kids barely know how to say trick or treat, some don't even bother, taking a perfunctory candy then aimlessly wandering back into the night. Some seem to recognize the inherent threat in the trick part, but they don't have a trick back up plan, they don't even know what TP'ing is (I'm not telling them). I'm also certain that these kids are pretty unambitious. My Halloweens were operations of military precision, statistics, topography, logic and topology combined to define the suburban route that would maximize the haul. I doubt if kids in our neighborhood came from any farther than two streets away, or knocked on more than ten doors in total, netting a pathetic handful of chocolates.
Don't even get me started on the Great Pumpkin.
Whilst I'm usually finding myself a constant, mostly willing, apologist for my country of origin, I sense more and more that the British loathing of America, is increasingly mixed with bitter envy. Most Brits I meet can't fathom why I would want to live here, when the weather and cost of living are better at home. As much as they look down on the consumerist brash ignorant obese masses from sea to shining sea, the UK is all too quickly following suit on track to be one of the most obese nations in Europe, with an urban sprawl threatening some of its most precious natural areas. At the same time as establishing the New Forest as a National Park, the government pledges housing targets for the surrounding areas of upwards of 80,000 more homes.
Tony Blair has doing his bit to promote UK's Halloween for years. He has been dressing himself up as an American President, and blindly following the same. It's just like the squinty eyed kid who dresses up as the cowboy.