Growing up as a child in small-town Texas, October always brought scents of roasting pumpkin seeds, damp hay bales and an occasional breath of cool weather to come. Of course, I and all my friends looked forward to hayrides and apple bobbing, but Halloween and its sugar rush were the eternal stars of the show.
Every year, my church would host a “Trunk or Treat” in its parking lot for the neighborhood kids. Children ranging from infants in their mothers’ arms to teenagers conned into shepherding their younger siblings would put on their fancy dress (or costumes in the US) and dash around to collect as much candy as possible. Members of my church would stand by their cars’ open trunks with huge bowls of chocolates and sweets, their vehicles strung in flickering lights, tinsel and glaring pumpkins. Some used the beds of their pick-up trucks to construct whole scenes of autumn festivities, setting up scarecrows for tricks and horse saddles for treats. Ring toss, corn hole and horseshoes also ruled the day as parents did their best to dodge flying bean bags.
During my time in the UK, I have noticed that most Halloween fancy dress is of the scary variety. Americans tend to lean more toward punny, novelty, or pop culture costumes, in addition to a gory zombie or two. We explored the full range of fancy dress every year in our little parking lot as Disney princesses, villains, ladybugs, Frankensteins, red riding hoods, Spider-Men, and a variety of zoo animals ran amuck.
As I grew older, my age group was entrusted with candy refills in addition to making the rounds as fellow trick-or-treaters. It was our job to dash from trunk to trunk with overflowing bowls of candy when chololates ran low and levels of children ran high. We didn’t mind, as we also got to pick through said bowls for our favourite candies. Eventually, we graduated to hosting kids outside our own cars, proud owners of shiny new drivers licenses. The younger teens then delivered candy to us, and we did our best to supply the rising tide of trick-or-treaters with the sugar they required.
At the end of Trunk of Treat each year, happy and full of chocolate, we
performed a cursory cleaning of our vehicles and optimistically swore we would vacuum the glitter in the morning. Sonic was often our celebratory fast food of choice as we drove home on the eve of November, and after unloading decorations and candy at home, we slept like the dead.
While trick-or-treating in London is growing in popularity, it still isn’t as huge as it remains in the US. However, there are a few areas that provide exciting trick-or-treating experiences for children, safe and full of delicious candy. Kensington Mums offers a list of areas recommended by their community, including Ilchester Place, Abbotsbury Road, and Oakwood Court. Kids Sorted also offers some sage advice, such as to start early and only knock on doors with decorations.
Many articles online heavily recommend the communities of St James Park and St John’s Wood, as they house many Americans who take it upon themselves to provide spooky and child-friendly entertainment. Expat neighborhoods seem to be the number one recommendation, as residents have often grown up with American-style Halloween festivities.
Whether you and your kids have grown up trick-or-treating or not, consider taking the time on the night of 31 October to slip on your fancy dress and venture out to gather a sweet harvest that will last until Christmas!