Halloween, Here vs There

Halloween in the UK (at least where we live) is very different from how it is celebrated in the US.

In the US, it’s very much a commercial holiday. You’ll find rows upon rows of costumes at your big box stores, and your smaller stores as well. You’ll find AISLES in those same big box stores packed, from top to bottom, with bags of candy to be handed out.

You’ll find costumes of the Power Rangers, princesses, Spider Man, Superman – you name it, they have a costume for it.

Towns in the US have designated times for trick or treating.

And, of course, there are rules: if the porch light is on, the homeowners welcome you.

But when that light goes off…ohhhhhh, nooooooo. Do not even think of knocking on that door.

Oh, and your friendly neighborhood hospital has its X-ray machines at the ready, should you want to have your children’s candy checked out of dangerous razor blades or the like. (Now there is a sobering thought…)

Unless we absolutely KNEW the house’s occupants, we weren’t allowed to keep popcorn balls or caramel apples or whathaveyou. (You never know what is in there.)

Here, it is no where near as commercial. It lies very close to it’s pagan roots – no princesses or firemen to be seen here (just ask Boo, he was the recipient of some pretty odd looks his first Halloween here). No, costumes are very much on the dark side: witches, goblins, devils, vampires. Lots of face makeup and fake blood.

Trick or treating – at least in this neck of the woods – is an American tradition that is not particularly welcomed by some. Heck, this is our third Halloween here, and we’ve just discovered today that people actually trick or treat! (In our last neighborhood, when I asked our older neighbors if children trick-or-treated, there was much shrinking back in horror “oh, no”.)

So my children were particularly delighted when one of my friends asked us if we would like to join them trick-or-treating tonight.

Until Boo got to the costume bit.

HE wanted to wear one of his old costumes, until he decided that he’d get laughed at. (You don’t see too many Vikings here at Halloween, needless to say.) This necessitated a very quick run to the Co-op to see if they had any more *appropriate* costumes and face paint left over. (They did -both – to my delight and surprise.)

No so much to Boo’s.

His response?

“I look like a dork”.

“Well, you’ll look like thousands of other dorks across the UK. Put your shoes on, please.”

Pea is not so concerned with the scary factor of her costume, and donned her usual Halloween tutu and hat. We were in a bit of a rush, so her classmate Scarlett kindly lent a hand painting her entire face green, with a black wart right so.


Ok, I admit, I had a great time.  It was a delight to walk around with other grownups – and we did have to walk, as you had to really look for the houses who were receptive to a hoard of about 10 children.  We probably hit a dozen houses in our hour out – I know,  a pittance compared to what you might do in the US in a typical neighborhood.

Interestingly, here in Hay, one puts a lit pumpkin in the window to signify that trick-or-treaters are welcomed – no porch light rules, here. There were no official hours, either (so no righteous indignation when teens are pounding on your door after you’ve very obviously turned your light off for the evening.)

What was precisely the same, was the trick or treating experience – the sound of little voices shouting “Trick or treat”, the smiling face at the door with a tray or bowl full of goodies, “thank you’s” shyly whispered or loudly shouted over the shoulder.


The evening was rounded up with a warm glass of mulled wine at the house of another friend, while all the children gathered on the living room carpet and inspected their haul.

Not long after, Pea brought me a near-empty treat bucket. I looked at it in horror, thinking she had eaten all the missing items. “No mommy, I gave them away, I didn’t like those kinds.”

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While  typically Pea, it’s clear that we need to have a chat before next year’s outing.

Apparently, she’s forgotten that Mummy gets first dibs on that bucket!


  1. Jacquelynn Porter says

    Thanks for bringing them to my house! I loved seeing their little happy faces. Lloyd bought some loose candy and I told him we can’t give anything away that isn’t in store wrapping…he thought I was crazy! So he ate all the sour straws and gummy lips. I guess that pumpkin in my window was quite a draw…I had at least 40 to 50 children treated here last night and thankfully didn’t get any tricksters. Lloyd said he used to put powered soap in their mail slots if they didn’t answer the door!!!

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