Study Abroad: Halloween In The USA

Halloween is a big deal in America, far more so than in England and it’s hard not to get at least a little caught up in the spooky spirit of things. Back home Halloween for me meant virtually nothing except for carving a pumpkin and when I was older going out dressed up on Halloween night and even then my effort was fairly minimal. So when I saw just how seriously the holiday is taken here it was nice to experience something so different. 

One of the big differences is that it lasts a lot longer: many see October 1st as the start of Halloween season and spend the whole of the month celebrating all things paranormal. People love to go all out on decoration, adorning the inside and outside of their houses with carved pumpkins, plastic skeletons and fake tombstones. I was luckily enough to return to New Orleans last week and in an already eerily beautiful city that has quite a dark and supernatural history (there is a strong connection to voodoo) the decorations looked phenomenal. Even people in the dorms here will decorate, putting up little bags of sweets outside their doors for people to pick up as they walk by. 

There is also just so much going on here at Halloween time, of course there are the parties and nights out but there is far much more to see and do here to celebrate. One of the most popular Halloween activities is to visit a haunted house; some local ones include ‘The Terror Test’, ‘Shadowlands’ and ‘The Dark Zone’. Not for the faint of heart these haunted house experiences consist of actors, sets and effects meant to terrify and disturb and the warnings accompanying them are often just as scary. Cinemas and theatres will also often make the most of the season by putting on special productions, for example the theatre here in downtown Hattiesburg showed ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ where everyone who attends dresses up and brings props. There are also more  family-friendly events such as visits to pumpkin patches and corn mazes, as well as specially set up trick-or-treat events so that small children can have fun in a safe and supervised way. 

Of course what is Halloween without a great night out and America certainly doesn’t disappoint in this respect. Almost every bar and club has something planned for the big night and usually throughout the week and weekend before as well with prizes for the best costume and tons of decorations. Living in southern Mississippi means we also have the option of heading out to New Orleans where the whole city, particularly world-famous Bourbon Street, turns into one big Halloween party. The sororities and fraternities on campus are also guaranteed to make the most of the occasion, my sorority Pi Beta Phi will be throwing a date party the day before with a Mexican Day of the Dead theme which I am very excited about.

The final big factor in Halloween celebration here is of course the costumes: people will begin thinking about their choice weeks and maybe months in advance, and it has been a big topic of conversation among my American friends recently. Costumes range from clever and funny, to classically scary. There are shops everywhere selling costumes, some solely dedicated to Halloween and every big store will have a section dedicated to props and outfits. I for one am super excited to see what some people bring out on the big night!

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