How Do They Celebrate Halloween in England vs. the US? 

Published August 22, 2022
Trick or treat mischievous boy

Despite not being a federal holiday, October 31st is almost sacred in the United States. But, if you're one of the millions of Americans who cling to their distant ancestry DNA test results, then you've probably asked yourself if they celebrate Halloween in other parts of the world, like England. So, if you were starting to get worried that you wouldn't be able to enjoy your Halloween cocktails and fun-sized candy bars on your upcoming semester abroad, you can rest easy. Your English Halloween might not look exactly like your one at home, but it'll be fun all the same.

Major Differences in American and English Halloween Celebrations

Although parts of the United Kingdom have started celebrating America's favorite spooky holiday, the Brits have yet to really catch the Halloween fever. America's cultural domination of digital media like television shows, films, and social media marketing has helped spread the holiday through the Queen's land faster than ever before. But, for all of the increased number of people carving pumpkins and dressing up, there are some things about America's favorite holiday that've gotten lost in translation.

In England, They Celebrate Guy Fawkes Night

Where Americans have Halloween, the English have Guy Fawkes Night, a raucous celebration held on November 5th that commemorates the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 where a group of secret Catholics, including Guy Fawkes, tried to blow up the English Parliament in retaliation for the anti-Papist cultural and religious crimes being committed and continued persecution under a Spanish-English treaty. Despite the plot failing and the country being largely protestant, the English still go wild on November 5th, burning effigies, setting off fireworks, and partying.

Guy Fawkes Day

While the number of Halloween celebrants is comparatively low in the UK with 2022 projections on total spending reaching only $817.51 million, some researchers predict that religious undertones for Guy Fawkes will lead to the holiday becoming absorbed within Halloween. Professor and author of Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, Nicholas Rogers, says that "In a more multicultural Britain, Guy Fawkes is a bit of an embarrassment. What you're doing is burning a Catholic on a bonfire, and that doesn't go down very well today." Thus, as Halloween grows in popularity in the UK, it's likely that specific ceremonies and practices that would've been celebrated on Guy Fawkes Night are absorbed into Halloween for one big, smorgasbord of an autumnal celebration.

England Has Less Candy Corn

If you find yourself in the UK in October, you're going to be hard pressed to find the Halloween treats you love the most, with candy corn being at the top of the list. According to one American transplant, candy corn just isn't as prevalent in the United Kingdom as it is stateside, which can be a devastating blow to those who're used to seeing bags of the sugary triangles lining store shelves come early September.

Chocolates on display

The Candy Is Different

Similarly, you won't find bowls full of Hershey products, but rather fun size versions of treats like Dairy Milk, Roses, Maltesers, and Buttons lining UK walkways, as the British favor a different variety of sweets and candies, produced by their own domestic brands.

Dressing Up and Decorating Aren't as Common in England

One of America's favorite parts of Halloween is dressing up - no matter your age. England and the United Kingdom have historically viewed dressing up as more suited for children, though that's beginning to change. Some Brits do enjoy putting on 'fancy dress,' but statistically, they're not spending anywhere close to the $3.32 billion that Americans spent on costumes in 2021.

Home decorations in London for Halloween

Additionally, the English don't take decorating nearly as seriously as Americans do. You wouldn't expect to find many 12-foot skeletons dominating the cobblestone streets of the average English village, but it's not impossible. As Americans think more is better when it comes to decorating, the English view decorating with a sort of tight-lipped austerity. The garish colors and scary scenes aren't as common in English gardens as they are in American suburbs.

Carving Pumpkins Is Fun for Everyone

According to the Guardian, there's an estimated 10 million pumpkins grown annually in the UK, and 95% of them are turned into jack-o'-lanterns. In contrast, the United States uses most of its 1.5 billion pounds of fresh pumpkin harvest for decorating on Halloween. When it comes to Halloween, it seems that everyone loves to have a knife in hand and a design in mind.

Halloween pumpkin trail in the village of Burton

Halloween Puts a Spell on the World

Halloween may be picking up speed in Britain thanks in part to America's grip on western culture, but if you really want to experience Halloween at its purest, you've got to stick to the states. However, give it another decade, and England could be well on its way to rival America's obsession with October 31st.

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How Do They Celebrate Halloween in England vs. the US?