Halloween: Let the Xenophobia Commence


Halloween is flat-out my favourite holiday. You get to dress up in stupid outfits and get free candy. What’s not to love?

As a child growing up in Canada, we always had two Halloween costumes: one to wear inside at Halloween parties and one to wear Trick-or-Treating outside when it’s -20c. Dressing up as a witch, skeleton or ghost was considered boring. Over the years, I’ve been a “punk rocker”, Strawberry Shortcake, Barbie rocker, a Ladybug, and a broken heart.* Halloween was a community event with local churches and clubs holding parties for whoever wanted to attend. We always had Halloween parties in school and were allowed to bring in 3 pieces of candy each day to eat at school. As we were not allowed fizzy drinks, crisps, candy or chocolate, this was a big deal! We would go trick-or-treating in massive groups, frequently changing costumes over the course of the night to hit up our neighbours again and again. 

The emphasis here is on community-orientated. Obviously, there are always people who want to ruin things for others by throwing eggs at windows and there are always going to be children and teenagers who, for a variety of social reasons, crave negative attention and act out in [self-] destructive ways but, as with everything, these are a minority.

Until I moved to the UK, I had no idea that Halloween was viewed as anything other than a kid-orientated holiday. Back home lots of people didn’t participate due to religious objections or concerns over the commodification of childhood; like with Valentine’s Day and Easter, Halloween is a just another holiday.

Then I arrived in the UK and discovered that Halloween is the celebration of evil children menacing adults for candy. It’s a horrid nasty holiday imported by hateful Americans who want to destroy the planet and do so by sending plane loads of teenagers to the UK for the sole purpose of causing havoc and destruction on Halloween.

The above might seem a little melodramatic but it’s a snapshot of posts about Halloween that are made on Mumsnet every year. The level of anti-American diatribes are so severe that I now deliberately avoid Mumsnet for the month of October every year. I’ve never understood why it’s acceptable to malign Americans using language that would be immediately considered xenophobic about any other culture or country. I’m not even American [and if anyone gets to be anti-American, it’s Canadians.** After all, we’re the only country to have defeated the US militarily on their own soil***].

I’ve gotten bored defending Halloween from people who have no idea what the origins of Halloween are [here’s a huge hint: google guising]. I’ve gotten bored reading posts by people who seem to think a child rocking up on your door saying trick-or-treat and singing a song is akin to having your knees capped for failure to pay off your gambling debts; although, to be fair, hearing me sing is probably on par with that. But, not 6 year olds.

There are always going to be people who ruin things for others but that doesn’t mean that Halloween itself is an inherently evil tradition. Or, that Americans deliberately invented it with a view to annoying British people.

It’s not acceptable to trash a tradition which is important to others just because you don’t like the country that the tradition originated in [ignoring the whole Festivals of the Dead, All Hallows Eve and guising stuff since they clearly don’t count****].

There are lots of valid reasons to criticise America:

  • imperialism
  • war in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • capitalism
  • racism
  • “War” on drugs 
  • genocide
Your neighbour’s kids being an arse on Halloween is not the fault of the American government or the American people. Frankly, it’s a reflection of the capitalist-patriarchal culture of the UK which others huge swathes of our children. It’s our fault and it is the price we pay for treating our kids like dirt.

And, hey, if you don’t like Halloween, just don’t celebrate it. There is no law that says you have to attend Halloween discos or take your kid guising/ trick-or-treating.

It’s another tradition: celebrate it or not but don’t use offensive language or  ahistorical constructions of reality to dismiss it



*Bonus points for those who can guess what decade I was born in.

**After you’ve listed every country and peoples wherein American policy has resulted in genocide or civil war. But, details. Clearly.

*** Granted this was in 1812 and technically we were a British colony and the invasion of the US which resulted in burning down the White House and cracking the Liberty Bell involved British troops but that’s not really all that relevant.

**** If you like to believe in ahistorical conspiracy theories. Obviously.

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