Friday, November 1, 2013

Our first Halloween in Scotland

Halloween is not a significant holiday in Scotland. Not yet, anyway. It's not so minor as Arbor Day in the U.S. (Heck, I don't even know what day that is.) But it certainly isn't a major day of celebration. One of our Scottish friends politely told us to "enjoy your holiday." Halloween certainly isn't hers.

Most kids here don't go trick-or-treating, and if they do something for Halloween it's usually an informal gathering at a friend's or neighbor's house. Most of the houses and flats don't offer candy. Almost no one decorates. The lady who cut my hair at the barbershop said that "cheap Chinese decorations" have only recently become available -- I guess all the cheap American decorations never made it over to the U.K.? -- and large numbers of pumpkins made an appearance just a few years ago.

How can you "fill your skull with candy" if no one's offering any?
Candy pushers operate year-round here -- little kids are offered candy at shops and restaurants, by neighbors, by strangers, etc. -- but stores don't devote much space or resources for Halloween. On a daily basis, I see more kids with candy (the Scots tend to call it "sweets") than I did in the U.S.

You can find costumes, but the variety isn't huge. So when Jackson decided he wanted to be Yoda, we searched stores and came up empty.

Hello, Amazon!

Jackson hasn't seen any of the Star Wars films, of course. But he loves a Star Wars alphabet book (and a numbers book).

"I do lightsabering!"
Only one of Jackson's playgroups did anything for Halloween. And most of the kids/mothers didn't show. But those who did came in costume, were offered candy and cupcakes and juice (sugar, sugar, sugar!), colored Halloween pictures, bobbed for apples, and took home a bag of more candy.

Every girl was a princess, except one. She went as a pirate. Way cooler.
Jackson's long-sleeved costume impeded his ability to scarf sweets, so off it went.
Bobbing for apples. If by "bobbing" you mean "stabbing apples with a fork."
When I asked the mothers of Jackson's other buddies about what their kids were going to be for Halloween, most of them hadn't bothered. When I asked what time the little'uns go out -- the sun set yesterday at around 4:40 pm, so it's not like the U.S. when kids generally go out at dusk or nightfall -- I was met with blank stares. We headed out around 6:00 pm with Jackson, which worked fine.

We didn't go door-to-door on our street. Virtually none of our neighbors participated in Halloween. Instead, we went to five homes where we knew the families would be participating. One family (a Scot and a Norwegian) have a 14-month old and weren't doing anything for Halloween, but took pity on us and invited us to visit their flat and got candy just for Jackson. They didn't expect any other trick-or-treaters. We stayed for a little while, letting the boys play and nibble on candy. Then we headed to the houses of two American vet students, and finally to two houses of our Scottish neighbors who decorated for Halloween. A total of five homes.

Touring those five homes took us an hour, because at each we got invited in to chat and take pictures. It's not like in the States where you knock on the door, say trick-or-treat, collect your loot, and race on to the next house. Here, you're somewhat expected to actually have a "trick" to perform: a joke, a song, a riddle, etc. You're not knocking on the doors of strangers, so some small talk is common. Toddlers don't perform on command, so Jackson was exempt. But that meant Kate had to step in the gap -- a role for which she is well-suited. ("The mommies on the bus go chatter, chatter, chatter...")

Since there isn't as much Halloween spirit here for Jackson to enjoy, Kate and I decided to participate. I generally hate wearing costumes, but Kate found me a fantastic t-shirt and mask, and she got herself a wig:

Leia paused for a selfie before Vader took her to her cell. Nowadays, Leia wears jeans and a light hoodie rather than a cumbersome robe.
I added some rain pants and boots to my costume. And if Jackson was going to have a lightsaber, then I needed one, too! What fun are lightsabers without a foe?

Not bad, given the lack of effort I put into it.
Back at our house, we had a grand total of five kids come trick-or-treating. One was an American. Granted, we were out of the house for Jack's forays from 6:00 until 7:00 pm, so we might've missed some kids. But in a suburban area like ours, getting only five kids from 7:00 onward implies there weren't many kids total.

I wonder if some of the disinterest in Halloween is because it so closely precedes a bigger holiday here, Guy Fawkes Night. Celebrated on November 5, the holiday commemorates a failed attempt at blowing up the House of Lords (as well as King James I) with gunpowder. Nowadays, there are bonfires and large fireworks displays. Glasgow will have two fireworks displays, one on Saturday, November 2, and one on Tuesday, November 5.

We'll miss our first Guy Fawkes night because tomorrow we're flying to Barcelona for a week! Very excited. Since we'll be out of town, I expect I won't make a post until we return.

I know you'll miss me.

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