This year, unlike the past, oh, ten years, I decided to celebrate Halloween. Jon and I dressed up in costume and went to a Halloween party over the weekend (he went as a hippie, and I went as a mime – together we made up the combo “peace and quiet”). Celebrating Halloween this year felt a little like an act of American patriotism.
Halloween is not popular here. When I told some coworkers what Jon and I dressed up as for Halloween, they were confused and slightly disappointed that we had dressed up without the “Halloween theme” in mind. In other words, if you do dress up for Halloween in London, you’re supposed to be a witch, goblin, pumpkin, ghost, etc. The idea of dressing up as “just anything” is apparently not a Londoner’s idea of Halloween.
My friend Jane thinks that because Londoners have lots of other opportunities besides Halloween to dress in costume (i.e., attend what the Brits calle “fancy dress” parties, but what Americans would know as “costume parties”), the only thing distinguishing a Halloween party from any other fancy dress party is the “theme” of Halloween. It is true that there are a lot of stores open year-round in London devoted to renting costumes, and I do think it’s true that in the U.S., you dress up in costume pretty much one time a year on Halloween. So i think Jane is onto a good theory here.
Unlike what’s in today’s New York Times on the subject of Halloween in the UK (I swear I was going to post on this topic even before I saw that article – damn NYT, always stealing my thunder), I haven’t seen or heard anything anti-Halloween here. Definitely lots of Halloween indifference, though, which I guess I could relate to when I lived in the U.S., but now it’s a weird point of pride to talk about the “American” holiday of Halloween.
I will say that I’ve seen a lot weird Halloween promotions by stores, though, as if Halloween is solely a commercial holiday. For example, today, the London Underground advertised a Halloween special waiving the usual £5 deposit to get an Oyster Card, and two local gyms I passed displayed big signs encouraging members to bring guests for a free day-pass during “Halloween Open Weekend.”
And obviously when I think about Halloween, I think “gym memberships” or “debit Tube passes.”