Insights for Expats: What Expats Think of an American Halloween!

Hands up if you’ve been momentarily terrified recently when walking round your neighborhood or heading into the local Walmart? Yep – it’s that time of year! Tis the season when huge, hairy animatronic spiders are likely to jump out at you as you amble on by. You don’t have to be new to the country to be caught out by this kind of OTT decoration but if this is your first year in the US, it’s more likely to happen.

I’ve now been in the US, on and off, since 2005 and I still marvel that people are willing to spend hundreds of dollars to decorate their front yards – especially just before the real spending madness of Thanksgiving and Christmas begins.

I decided to ask some fellow expats what they like and dislike about this most American of holidays and found that it evokes some very strong – opposing – opinions!

Several people loved the fact that this is a real community event. In some areas such as Houston where I live, you might not have met your neighbors before Halloween due to the high temperatures all through summer. Fiona Henry and Shahina Baig both commented that they enjoy the community coming together to celebrate and enjoy watching the children have fun.

It’s not only houses which get adorned for the season of course. Kids – big and small – get to dress up as their favorite characters. Back in the UK, it used to be spooky costumes but in the US, anything goes! Be prepared to pay a significant amount for those costumes though, especially if you’ve left it til the last minute to shop!

Many expats are initially slightly bemused that this is referred to as a holiday. For the Brits in particular, a ‘holiday’ implies a day off work not an evening spent roaming the neighborhood with overexcited, sugar infused kids!

Speaking of sugar… between candy, chocolate, cookies and other sweet treats this is not a time to be on a diet! Nicola Cowburn is not a big fan of Halloween but she does love a tradition that her family have begun in recent years. Her kids collect candy and then take out a few favorites, packaging up the rest and sending it to the troops. This sounds like a fantastic idea to me and certainly better than munching your way through all the leftovers until Thanksgiving….

Luba Davis is one of our contributors who LOVES Halloween! Her family enjoys dressing up in themed costumes, entering contests and going to parties. She’s also a big fan of baking spooky cookies and shared this wonderful picture for our article – those look yummy!!

Luba notes that there was no equivalent fun holiday in the Soviet Union so she likes to make the most of it each year. If you live near her, look out for a Storybook Witch wandering your neighborhood on Wednesday night!

The closest holiday calendar wise in the UK is Guy Fawke’s Night on November 5th. Leading up to that date, children used to make a ‘Guy’ from old clothes and stuffing and carry him from house to house. They would knock on the door and call ‘Penny for the Guy’! The money they raised would be spent on either candy or buying fireworks. Come November 5th, Brits would gather around a bonfire to commemorate the failed Gunpowder Plot from 1605, setting off fireworks late into the night. Anne Macleod remembers ‘guising’ fondly but also noted that the weather in Texas for ‘Trick or Treating’ would be far better than that experienced in Scotland at the end of October!

Costumes can bring out the very best in creativity and some Americans will take this very seriously! You will already have seen some of the celebrity parties this past weekend.

One of the local celebrities in Karin Carson’s neighborhood, Bobbi Brown, would give out makeup instead of candy making hers one of the most popular houses on the block! Another neighbor dresses up as Frankenstein, plays creepy music, blows dry ice and scares all the kids! They also have Halloween parades at some of the schools too. This is pretty unusual though – I literally just got an automated call from my daughter’s school reminding us that costumes are not allowed!

Karin was kind enough to share this fantastic picture from her neighborhood celebrations – don’t they look amazing?

We can’t finish up an article about Halloween in the US without mentioning pet costumes! Once your kids have given up on dressing up, you can always carry on the fun with your pets! How about we share some photos of our pets in the comments below? I for one never tire or pictures of pugs in costumes – thanks Heather Williams for this adorable picture of Lyonel!