Monday, 25 October 2010

Holiday season

Well, the 'holiday' season is fast approaching all around the world in all different cultures & religions.But nowhere is this joyous time better exemplified and played out than in America.

To begin with, they dedicate a whole season to the festivities. Not happy with just Christmas Day in December, they begin in September with the build-up to Hallowe'en. Now, in the UK, Hallowe'en is a well-recognised, traditional festival and we have a good, fair attempt at it with a bit of door-knocking treat or tricking and some hand-me-down witches costumes. If you're lucky, someone may hold a small party and there may be an apple to be dunked for, some scraggy pumpkin , half-carved out before the mother gave up and Nightmare on Elm Street being repeated AGAIN on the TV.

To be fair to the UK, Hallowe'en is a strange festival; an event celebrating the dead and the passing of their souls?? Really? I'm not surprised we don't go hoop-la over it.

But, as with most things, USA outshine the rest. Around September time, the transient Hallowe'en superstores pop-up selling every whimsy you could ever desire for the spook-fest. Trick-or-treating is the NORM and the debate this year has been raging for weeks over which day to actually trick-or-treat, as Hallowe'en has been rude enough to fall on a Sunday, not a convenient Saturday like last year.

My family & I were lucky enough to be invited to a Hallowe'en party at the weekend, and there wasn't a scraggy pumpkin in sight. Haunted hay-rides, spooky stories and bloody BBQ was the invite and it delivered 100%. Fang-tastic pulled pork and sides, mucho booze for the adults and an actual storyteller for the kiddies plus goody-bags made from pumpkins. My soul happily passed over that night, glorious!

Now, Hallowe'en is still just under a week away so the main event is still to be celebrated, but America is ready. Pumpkins & harvest wreaths adorn every porch and mailboxes have their autumnal covers on. This visualisation of Hallowe'en is rarely seen in the UK, and I love it. It lends a sense of community and hospitality, it makes you feel as if you could knock on a stranger's door, and you would be welcomed in with a hot toddy and sent off with doggie bag of goodies. Of course, this is not the case, but it's nice to feel that way.

In fact, community and neighbourly cheer are alive and well this side of the pond, at least it is in the South East, a sentiment that is fast dying out in the UK. With increasingly stressful and busy lives, economic woes and bad weather, the British just don't seem to have time to reach out and bond with their neighbours. Before I left, most days I would make an effort to avoid any contact with my neighbours, even though they were lovely; I couldn't be bothered with the small talk and God-forbid, we might actually get on and be friends. How awful, and how un-British!

But here, with a slower, more peaceful pace of life, beautiful weather and more space to live, there seems to be less pressure to be pally with your neighbours and from that, natural relationships develop. Cook-outs, beers and long, sultry fall evenings are perfect for entertaining on the porch.

So, we are looking forward to the trick-or-treaters this year, instead of hiding from them back in the UK. And, once one holiday is over, it's on to the next, the mother of American traditions, Thanksgiving. I will save that for another time...

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