Halloween Hysteria

I knew Halloween was big stateside, but Santa Barbara/Isla Vista has to be an extreme example of Halloween Hysteria. People from a one hundred mile radius flock here to experience the craziness of Del Playa and to party hard. The celebrations began last Thursday, the 25th of October, and will probably last until next Sunday, the 4th of November. We hardly celebrate Halloween back home in England, so this was always going to be an interesting experience for me.

The actual day itself is lost amidst this period, and the weekends seem to be the main periods of celebration. Sadly, I actually missed the festivities yesterday evening as I had an 8am midterm this morning. Criminal or what? I was a bit gutted as I had wanted to celebrate the day itself, whilst I was in the US. However, my schedule conspired against me, as did illness. Damn priorities.

But I do find myself asking the question: what is behind the celebrations? What are we honouring with our costumes, parties, games, food and decorations? Halloween is said to have originated in the Celtic festival of Samhain, where people would light fires and wear outfits to ward off roaming ghosts. There are numerous other historical origins thrown around, but to me it just seems like a modern development of vague past celebrations.

Still, there is no avoiding the fact that Americans go about celebrating Halloween with gusto. The efforts put into costumes and decorating are huge.

For example, I was lucky enough to go on a trip to Disneyland, organised by Tropicana Del Norte, on the 26th of October. It was heavily subsidised, and entry and travel set me back a mere $30!? Value for money or what?? The entrance fee alone can be $90 and up, so I’ve heard, so it was a fantastic opportunity. Moreover, it was their special Halloween celebration period, so the park was decorated and the rides had been altered with this theme in mind.

The most striking aspect of the experience was how much effort the families had put into dressing up. There was a family of four dressed as Kiss: spandex, platforms and all. Staff were also in costume. My favourite example had to be a family dressed up as Guantanamo Bay zombies– two parents, a young child, and a baby in a pram. However, they had made fake iron bars to put across the pram so it looked like the baby was in prison. 10 out of 10 for effort there! This all contributed to quite an atmospheric experience, when combined with the lighting, spooky music and artificial fog.

I admit, I had been a bit cynical as to what I was going to get out of the trip. I knew the rides were going to be enjoyable, but I also knew the queues would be long and it would be absolutely rammed full of people (both of which were true). However, I mentioned that the atmosphere was great, and I really enjoyed the experience of walking around the park: the rides and performances just added to it all.

Here are some photos from the trip. My camera’s night mode sucks, so some of these have beenĀ pinchedĀ from my suite-mate, the Great Dane, Emil Tang Ravnkilde Nielsen. (NB: I will not be typing that name out in full every time)

The Disney Castle, lit up and looking spooky (Emil)

The Nightmare Before Christmas was a key source of inspiration for the decorations, music and performances of the park.

The parade (Emil).

Undead Barbershop Quartet (Emil)

The Haunted Mansion.

The Great Dane himself, as Popeye, dancing with Pirate Goofy. You can’t make this stuff up. (Emil)

The Brits abroad- Giles and me being muppets, as per usual (Emil)

Having the trip to Disneyland was a good alternative to just getting dressed up, and going out to get wasted. However…. that part was still fun too. Even if I was sick and couldn’t really drink (but did, as you do). I had two nights out over the Halloween weekend before the day itself, and dressed up as an army guy and Alex from A Clockwork Orange respectively. It was fun, and there were SO many people out on DP.

Army Guy and the Beer Monster. What classy blokes.

Alex and Jesus. Yes I wore eye makeup. Yes it freaked me out when my patient next-door neighbour applied it. (Imogen’s photo)

Nevertheless, it wasn’t all about going out and getting drunk. I did take part in some traditional, All-American Halloween festivities, such as pumpkin carving. This was organised by our Resident Adviser, Alex Markovich. He sorted out enough pumpkins for each of his ground floor rooms to make 2 pumpkins, and he sorted the cutting and scraping equipment as well. Good man. This is just another example of our residential building wanting it’s residents to have a good time with their time spent here. This has been a key part of my year abroad so far, and having those chances there is excellent.

All these photos below have been taken from the Topicana Del Norte Facebook page.

John Sokol, Me, Alex Markovich.

So all in all, I have taken part in, and enjoyed several elements of the American Halloween Hysteria. Even if I missed the day itself, I don’t mind so much as there’s been plenty to do in and around it…..

….. and let’s not forget, there’s still this weekend to come too!

Wish me luck!