Pic. No. 1 Clare's Halloween pumpkin
In England; you turn off your porch light and close the curtains with the hope of discouraging the kids from the local estate from calling. Does it work? Nope, the streets become awash with marauding gangs dressed in hoodies.
The doorbell sounds and you tentatively open the door.
"Trick or treat?" hisses a malevolent teenager, his face half obscured by a bandana.
"Treat!" you smile, trying to disguise your consternation, and simultaneously handing over a bag of sweets.
Aforementioned malevolent teenager looks disgusted and replies, "we don't take sweets, only cash or cards," he says pulling out a handheld card reader.
"Sorry, I don't have either," you reply, "so it will have to be trick."
"Your choice," says the teenager chewing on his gum, and swaggering off with the rest of the gang.
Ten minutes later, the dog plop arrives through the letterbox. A truly British, heart-warming affair.
In America things are completely different, as I began to realise when, two days after arriving in Clermont, Clare announced, "Come on. We need to get to the supermarket to prepare for Halloween."
"Are you having a laugh?" I queried, "all you need is enough cash to pay off the local teenagers, and you're sorted."
"Not in America, you miserable git," replied Clare pushing me into the passenger seat of the car, and setting off to Walmart.
So what exactly is the difference between English and American Halloween? Well, in America, it isn't the local teenagers who are the opportunists, it is the marketeers. They have managed to squeeze as much money making potential as is possible from such an obscure celebration [do you know the origins of Halloween? I haven't got a scooby why we wear sheets with eyeholes cut-out on 31st October].
Oh yes, they go the whole hog here; the houses are decorated, costumes are carefully put together and a fortune is spent on sweets for trick-or-treating children. To illustrate the point, I have put together the following photo-diary.
Pic. No. 1. Clare decorates her house with a dodgy looking ghost, a spider's web at the window and a dead bloke (bottom right). [Interesting fact; I have also got a dead bloke in my garden in Oxford, except mine is genuine unlike Clare's Walmart affair].
Pic. No. 2 Clare buys Izzy a pumpkin to make a lantern
Pic. No. 3 The finished article, ready to go outside the front door
Pic. No. 3 A box of candy waiting to be bagged up for the trick-or-treaters. No cash or cards to be seen. It's weird here
Pic. No. 4 Izzy's Halloween costume. I know she looks like a conspicuously un-scary princess, but that was her choice and we didn't want to dampen her enthusiasm
Pic. No. 5 Trick or treating around the Hills of Lake Louisa. Yep, people actually decorated their houses like this and spent $100s doing it.
Pic. No. 6 A ghostly severed foot pursues Izzy from house to house whilst she trick-or-treats in blissful ignorance
Pic. No. 7 Clare gets into the spirit of things by donning a grotesque mask
Anyway, I now have 6KG of candy to take back to Oxford with enough E-numbers to have Izzy bouncing off the walls for the next six months, and an inevitable excess baggage fee.
P.S. Just in case you were wondering about the origins of Halloween, here you go: The festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the "lighter half" of the year and beginning of the "darker half", and is sometimes regarded as the "Celtic New Year". The celebration has some elements of a festival of the dead. The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family's ancestors were honoured and invited home whilst harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm........ yep, I thought it was pretty boring too.