Halloween in the UK

You might have thought that the origin country of the beloved spooky holiday would celebrate with grandeur, but Halloween in the UK isn’t too spectacular. Young children still parade about as fairies, superheroes, cartoon characters, and the like, participating in Trick or Treating and carving pumpkins. Adults have appropriately themed parties or ignore the holiday altogether, glad to have outgrown the hassle of costumes and long walks through the neighborhood. 

Unfortunately, Halloween here seems to serve the same purpose as it does in the US, a grand excuse for college students to get trashed. 

In hindsight, the modern holiday we know as Halloween is seemingly a celebration hand-crafted for the going-out and partying crowd. Halloween exists as a night of indulgence in which we are encouraged to forget who we are and spend the night as someone else. So while small children run around at dusk, 20 year-olds are putting on makeup and pre-drinking as much cheap alcohol as they can to avoid paying the high costs at the clubs and bars. 

Surprisingly, this wasn’t always the case in the UK. A BBC article  from 2012 looks into the clash between Halloween, a holiday growing in popularity at the time, and Guy Fawkes Day in the UK. During late October and early November, firework displays and bonfires are held all over the 

country in celebration of the failure of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, a plan to blow-up the House of Lords in Parliament. The figurehead of this plot was Guy Fawkes, a Catholic conspirator with a colorful history who was arrested while guarding the explosives placed under the House of Lords. Fires were lit around the city to celebrate the survival of King James I after the attempt on his life and that celebration continued on throughout the centuries. 

Guy Fawkes Day used to stake a bigger claim than Halloween throughout the UK with merger parties being held to celebrate both, the climax of which was the bonfire and/or fireworks display. But as US consumer culture made its way across the globe, it has been questioned if Guy Fawkes Day is losing to Halloween as Fall Holiday Supreme. 

Many say yes, it has, with the expectations for Halloween growing every year as children and teenagers want better costumes, more candy and grander parties. Safe to say it must have taken a hit because when I walk around York I see loads of Halloween shops, but never a flyer or mention of any event for Guy Fawkes Day, which is shocking especially when brought into consideration that York is the birthplace of the infamous conspirator. It is also assumed to be taking a hit due to increasing safety standards about fireworks. With the explosives now being handled more carefully and under stricter watch, it’s far easier for anyone under 18 to buy candy or pumpkins, and probably cheaper for the parents too. 

Those of the opposing viewpoint claim that Guy Fawke Day isn’t dying out necessarily, Halloween is just growing. Celebrations of the foiled plot still exist with bigger cities like London holding grand displays and festivals. The rise of Halloween does not necessarily equal the demise of Guy Fawkes Day, the two can co-exist and thrive. 

All in all, Halloween is present in the UK, but not quite to the level the US fancies it. Check back in for Christmas time though, while the US putters around with Thanksgiving, the UK will already be a month into the full Christmas swing!