Where is the best place in the world to celebrate Halloween? Definitely in the U.S.! Coming from a country (France) where Halloween is not a big holiday, I was insanely excited about experiencing a proper Halloween in New York City. Most of my American colleagues and friends seemed to be over Halloween because they have been celebrate it so many times. But I felt like a little child about to experience her first real Halloween ever!
Halloween is not only a one-day holiday; it all begins weeks before the actual date — October 31st. People start planning parties and discussing their costumes, and shop windows display Halloween decorations. Restaurants, cafes and bakeries release their pumpkin-based special of the month, while pumpkins miraculously pile up on the sidewalks outside of stores. Once you notice this, you know Halloween is on and that you have to get started.
The first step is evidently the costume: what will I dress up as? In France, 99 percent of the people who agree on dressing up for Halloween will opt for a scary or evil costume such as a vampire, the devil, a witch, the killer in the ‘Scream’ movies, and that’s about it. At the end, everyone looks the same. In the U.S., people dress up as EVERYTHING and ANYTHING, and are much more original than my French peers. Amongst the endless options that were offered to me, I decided to dress up as the person I have wanted to be over the last few years: a female rock star. Looking for an outfit is pretty easy in the U.S. Every city has huge Halloween or costume shops displaying a wide range of outfits and accessories. It took me a couple of weeks to gather my whole outfit, going from shop to shop in New York, in Washington, D.C. and online. The more I would gather the more excited I would get!
The following step is to find out what to do and where to go. Halloween being on a Monday this year, everyone expected the Halloween weekend to be crazy. There were a lot of parties and events planned over the weekend. My friends and I opted for a Halloween party at a famous venue in New York on Saturday night and decided to attend the New York 39th Annual Village Halloween Parade on Monday evening. We could not wait for Halloween to come!
The third stage of the Halloween tradition came to me without me asking. On the Thursday night before Halloween, I was invited for dinner at a friend’s house. One of them is American and the other is Russian. At the end of the dinner, my American host offered to carve a pumpkin. I could not ask for a better activity! The three of us emptied it, designed the face and carved it. My American friend was obviously leading the activity and giving us advice on how to do it properly. Carving a pumpkin actually involves some techniques that I cannot wait to share with my non-U.S. friends next year. It was very entertaining and satisfying to find out how evil our pumpkin looked like once we put a candle in the middle.
On Saturday, despite miserable weather –freezing wind, rain and snow- my friends and I were thrilled with excitement. We all decided to start dressing up after dinner and to meet in the lobby. I was so excited when dressing up that I could not do my make up right or put on my fake eyelashes. Thankfully my out-of-the-water-zombie friend arrived and helped me to get ready. We later join our friends in the lobby; everyone was running around trying to fix their spider nets in their hair or adding the final touch to their costumes.
We all headed to 8th Avenue to hail a taxi and realized that every busy taxi was driving costumed people; we knew this would be a fun night! As we arrived at the venue, we felt relieved to notice that every single person in the line was dressed up. When we finally got in, my eyes could not believe what they were seeing: it was crazy! People were truly into their characters: A giant M&M would come around to offer a bite, zombies would fall in front of you, and superstars would pose anytime they would see a camera.
On Monday, October 31st New York was hosting the Village Halloween Parade at 7pm. I could not possibly miss it! The Parade was scheduled to last for two hours and to finish at the Webster Hall, the biggest/oldest club in New York. I made sure to be at the kick-off point of the parade at 6 p.m. to get the best spot. The cold made the wait painful but it was all so worth it! The parade started with the angels, all dressed up in pure white costumes and throwing glitter to bless the ‘public’. Dozens of groups of people, each of them playing different music, followed: zombies mimicking the zombie walk to perfection, bloody cheerleaders performing the (Michael Jackson’s) Thriller choreography, flying skeletons, Sponge Bob and his buddies, the Bat Mobile, the Harry Potter cast, and many random costumes, including Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski, Ketchup and Mayonnaise, Charlie Chaplin, the Ghost Buster team, the Silver Surfer, a giant E.T., etc. My favorite one was by far the Hulk; it was monstrously gigantic and scary. The parade was very lively and entertaining thanks to all those costumed strangers. It made me realize how much an institution Halloween is here in the U.S. I truly felt like I was part of the American culture when participating in this traditional event.
One regret that I have about this Halloween is not getting the chance to see children in their cute costumes knocking on houses’ doors for a trick or a treat. But overall, this Halloween 2011 was unbelievable and I am looking forward to sharing this experience with my friends back home.
— By Jenny Ba