It's the 1st of October. Halloween is 30 days away, I think...
(I confess I almost opened up another window there to find out the date of Halloween....I'm pretty sure it's either 30th or 31st of October but if this was Who Wants To Be a Millionaire I wouldn't take the million pound question...I'm honestly not sure when it is).
...30ish days away, and yet driving Melchett to school this morning, we passed two houses down our street who've already got their front gardens (yards) decorated for Halloween (ghouls appearing out of the soil, tombstones and cobwebs, you get the picture).
I'll take some pics to show you a bit nearer the actual date, because I'm pretty sure this is just the start...I think this is going to be big, especially if all the lights and garden novelties in the shops are anything to go by.
Halloween appeared in the supermarkets well over a month ago, in fact, I think it was after Labor Day.
This is one of my local supermarkets. It's not a particularly big one in American standards (about the size of a trading-estate Sainsburys/Tescos/Morrisons). So it's only got 4 aisles devoted to Halloween! Wait till I show you pics from some of the super-super markets! This local one only has one aisle of costumes, wigs and make-up...
Anyway, in this 'small-fry' supermarket, you can still get your pumpkin decorations, cups, tinsel and tableware etc:
And as we're in Arizona, obviously you'll not just be wanting just round pumpkins...you'll be needing cactus-shaped pumpkin decorations too, and Halloween-themed baking trays:
...and your buckets, bags and skeleton-hand scoops to collect your 'candy' (sweets) in when you're out trick or treating,
...and your Halloween singing cuddly toys, and not forgetting your Halloween handsoap:
Not forgetting your essential Halloween pinatas...
Ah America, you really do love to party.
And the thing is, most of the times you party, I get it. But try as I might, I don't get Halloween.
OK so I had a very British Christian up-bringing, so we actively didn't do Halloween when I was growing up. Halloween was/is seen as a dark time associated with the worship of the occult etc. Our church instead put on movies or parties to get the children and young people away from the lure of Halloween.
But also, Halloween isn't really a big thing in the UK. Yeah, you'll get Disgruntled of Hope Bowdler ringing her local radio station up moaning about how "we're getting like the Americans the way we're celebrating Halloween".....but trust me, we're not....our Halloween is plankton to America's fully-grown blue whale - nobody's going to be setting up sight-seeing trips to go spot it in the near future.
Plus in the UK, Halloween isn't seen as a celebration - it's something a bit seedy, something to be worried about, something that only young people seem to get involved in. The media and 'society' have shown their distaste in Halloween, they publicise their posters you can download to put in your windows telling trick or treaters they're not welcome.
And the UK media love spreading the fear about what 'gangs of youths' will do to you if you dare to open up your door (I know, I once spent a day driving around my radio station's boundaries trying to get shop-keepers to say they were banning the sale of eggs to rampaging teenagers because my newsroom editor decided that youths egging people's houses, not even bothering to request 'treats', was a juicy story we were going to run....we didn't find any evidence of it happening at all, much to her disgust).
And if they're not telling stories of criminal damage and violence that 'might happen' to homeowners, then they're spreading tales of how it's unsafe to be out on the streets at night.
So our big celebration happens a few days later, Bonfire Night (or for less PC Guy Fawkes Night) on 5th November. Standing round bonfires, watching fireworks, spelling your name in the air with sparklers, eating hot filling food, baked potatoes, hot filling soup, toffee apples...that beats trudging around cold, dark streets where people are unlikely to open their doors for fear of their lives. Plus Bonfire Night is a much more family-orientated night. I get Bonfire Night.
But I'm afraid, try as I might, I don't get Halloween. I knew it would be big here, I just didn't realise HOW big. I've been quite gob-smacked that christian friends and churches over here not only think it acceptable, but are embracing it with decorations, dressing up and parties. It just seems so strange to me coming from the UK.
I think my problem is, I don't understand WHAT'S being celebrated. Independence Day, Mothers Day, Presidents Day, Easter, Valentine's Day....all of these I get. All of these celebrate something. I can see that therefore America (who honestly never misses an excuse to party) would want to celebrate these.
But I don't understand what we're 'celebrating' for Halloween. And don't get me wrong, I'm not against anyone celebrating it, I honestly just don't understand what's going on, it leaves me non-plussed. It's the most 'foreign' thing I've encountered living here since I arrived last November (and that really is saying something). It's got me totally stumped. (And I know that for some of you, you're not going to understand why I don't understand Halloween, just as much as I don't get what you do get....if that sentence makes any sense at all). It's like you're all speaking a foreign language and I can't work out why you're all so excited.
So there you go. I don't get it. I'm trying to get it because I don't see things as black or white as I used to as a child (then Halloween was bad and meant to be ignored), I can see that Halloween here isn't something dark and malevolent like it was in the UK when as I was a child/young person. I can see good, 'normal' people getting excited about dressing up, having a party, children able to walk the streets and knock on people's doors, and people actually welcoming them, not thinking that all children and young people are thugs to be scared of....
I want to get it, but today, on 1st October, it's still like you're all speaking Na'vi and all I can do is stand here and smile, dumbly and hope I start to understand you in the near future. I wonder if an Avatar costume would help...
and I mustn't forget the accompanying Avatar wig, make-up, ears, teeth etc...
(Keep an eye out for further installments of Halloween Watch with pictures of the many, many, many costumes people are buying, how the charity shops are getting involved, the decorated front gardens and houses.....and whether I move from confused and non-plussed to embracing just another reason to party....to be continued)