Category Archives: Americana


Halloween from cradle to cubicle.

Halloween: an American institution from cradle to cubicle.

I like most holidays, but Halloween has always been one of my favorites. In all the years I lived abroad, I tried to celebrate it as much as possible. But it always struck me as a very American holiday – one that Brits may enjoy, and Europeans may make a nod to, but no one else goes quite over the top like the Americans.

This year – my first year back in the US – Halloween falls on a Friday. This weekend I have been invited to no less than three Halloween parties. That is in addition to my office Halloween party which took place yesterday (yes, you read that correctly: professional adults get dressed up at the office in front of their co-workers, during working hours… hell yeah).

And if I hadn’t been feeling under the weather, yesterday evening I would have also attended Night of the Living Zoo, the National Zoo’s annual Halloween event. Yes, a party at the zoo. For Halloween. For adults. Really.

When I was living in the UK, I’d be lucky to get invited to one Halloween party to attend. Now I’m swimming in them. Finally, I can give Halloween the attention it deserves.

Given the four Halloween parties over three days, I even momentarily considered ordering more than one costume, so as to avoid donning the same Alice in Wonderland dress three days in a row. But then I thought maybe that would be going overboard. So instead, I decided to simply sleep in my costume for three nights. A reasonable compromise.

But even if you’re not going to any Halloween parties, you can’t escape. I just stepped out for a coffee, and there are people in costumes everywhere: so far today I spotted a chef, a footballer, a prisoner, and a woman on a bicycle covered in gold sequins and technicolor feathers. Rock on.

The great thing about Halloween in the US is that a costume can be anything. When I was celebrating Halloween in Europe, for example in France, I noticed that people were a lot more limited and formulaic in the costumes they wore. Women pretty much stuck to the standard witch or devil, and men were vampires, ghosts, monsters, or zombies, not straying far from the original meaning of All Hallows’ Eve as a celebration of the dead and departed. My European friends would often question non-scary costumes: “What does Superwoman have to do with Halloween?”

Americans, on the other hand, are as happy to be a nurse as a nun as a ninja. And, if you’re an adult woman (or even a tween, according to this article), generally the idea is for the costume to be as short and skimpy as possible. Because Halloween is the one time of year when it’s totally acceptable for (a) women to dress as provocatively as possible, and (b) men to dress in drag.

P.S. Being child-less and yard-less, I can’t/won’t even begin to touch upon all the other integral and amazing aspects of Halloween in America, including children going trick or treating (an unforgettable part of my childhood), pumpkin picking, carving jack o’ lanterns and roasting the pumpkin seeds, dressing your infant  up in a costume that you enjoy more than they do because they have no idea what is going on, and last but not least the practice of decorating one’s front yard for Halloween. When I was growing up, the only “decoration” that occurred for Halloween was when the high school trouble makers threw eggs and toilet paper at unlucky people’s houses. But now it seems to be a thing that people do: decorate your house/yard for Halloween in the same way you would for Christmas. Take it to the next level, America.


Filed under Americana, Clothing, Holiday

Ridiculously and unnecessarily large flags

I was driving to the mall the other day (more on this in a later post, malls being a quintessentially American institution) and as I was working my way along the main boulevard I spotted something waving in the distance. It was a GARGANTUAN American beast of a flag, hoisted up on a big fat two-story pole and flopping lackadaisically in the wind (some pretty gusty conditions must be required before the weight of all that fabric to be fully unfurled).  I wondered what was going on there… A special occasion? Some sort of government office?  But when I drove closer, I realized it was… a car dealership.

On the way home from the mall, I spotted the colossal flag again.  I was momentarily confused, because I was pretty sure I was driving home a different way than I came, although I’m only just getting to know the area.  Then I realized I WAS on a different road, this was just another gratuitously large flag adorning another random business.  I’m not sure if it is intended as a way to draw the attention of prospective customers to the establishment, a demonstration of the patriotism of the owners, or both.  In any case, those are some damn big flags.

This led me to wonder, what and where is the largest flag in America?  Which, of course, led me down a Google rabbit hole and irrevocably lost me 15 minutes of my life.  Because there seem to be as many flags that claim to be the “world’s largest American flag” as there are British towns that claim to have “the most pubs of any town in the UK.”

SUPERFLAG: the World's Largest Flag, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

SUPERFLAG: the World’s Largest Flag, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

As far as I can ascertain (not wishing to waste further valuable moments of my life), the American flag which appears to have the most legitimate claim to the title of “biggest” is the so-called SUPERFLAG, which measures 255 feet by 505 feet and requires 600 volunteers to carry.  And, this being America, you can visit and pay to rent the flag.  I think I might get it for my back yard…

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January 30, 2014 · 7:43 am