Is it worth talking about the rise of US holidays in Britain?

Everyone loves a knees-up, but with Halloween growing in its popularity and the sheer effort it warrants here in the UK, we ask if the growth of it and Thanksgiving is worth questioning.

Is it worth talking about the rise of US holidays in Britain?

I've put time, money and effort into some class Halloween costumes, if I do say so myself. Its origins are based in marking the beginning of the Sowhain festival, a Gaelic occasion which welcomes the later, darker half of the calendar. So it's easy to see why Halloween is steeped in scariness and haunting rather than daisies or coloured eggs.

It's a different case to Thanksgiving, whose appeal is altogether more confusing here in the UK. Its origins are multifarious but, most commonly, based in North American celebrations of good harvests and closure of battles between Native Americans and the settlers. As such, there are ethical issues with celebrating Thanksgiving on both sides of the Atlantic.

Britain is also taking Thanksgiving in its stride. A couple of years ago, Waitrose reported that one in six Britons then celebrated Thanksgiving, if for no other reason than getting an all-trimmings Turkey dinner in one more time before Christmas in what they called "Britsgiving."

With Halloween, however, the issues are more to do with it having morphed, by and large, to being a holiday with little function besides trying to get people to spend more and more money. But the question that comes with that is: what's the harm? We're electing to spend the money after all and it's just a bit off fun.

Another question is of the big ol' US cultural hegemony. This refers to the unmissable phenomenon of US cultural exports monopolising those of other countries. There are millions of ways to celebrate the end of one half of the year but why do it with clown masks and trick-or-treating? One upon a time British Halloween was a sedate event where trick-or-treat was excessive and apple-bobbing and a Hammer horror was the order of the day.

But all of this seems benign no matter how much you try to problematise it. We can become slightly obsessed with the superficial aspects of celebrations – the decorations, the food and such but it's all about the celebrating at the end of it all. If we can really align ourselves with not having a laugh because it's from the US we risk treading muddy water.

The issue of contending with the US cultural hegemony is a complex one and, agreeably, one worth taking seriously but at the same time we must choose our battles wisely. After all, Hocus Pocus is a really good film…


Bhavesh Jadva

Bhavesh Jadva Voice Team

Former Media Editor on Voice and former Arts Award Editor on AAoV covering film, TV, music and comedy.

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  • Luke Taylor

    On 31 October 2017, 10:16 Luke Taylor Contributor commented:

    As someone who rarely celebrates Halloween (due to lack of social life and living in the countryside), I don't often see the appeal of Halloween myself. Why watch horror movies on one particular day when you can watch them any time? Also I despise the thought of strangers knocking on my door...

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