Halloween is not celebrated as much in London, so my friends and I decided to bring the cheer across the boarder. A typical US college Halloween consists of all of your friends dressing up as crazy as possible and celebrating at Halloween parties. There are not as many costume shops in the UK and the selection was very limited, so we searched local markets in hopes of finding something unique. The best place to get costumes was Primark, which is a clothing store that has many different styles for men and women and very inexpensive prices. Primark often has costumes, footed pajamas and random clothing items that may be hard to find in the US. My friends found metallic gold leggings and light-up t-shirts and dressed as LMFAO. Another friend wore a German outfit he got while at German Fest. Most of the non-American students did not feel comfortable dressing up at first, but once they saw our outfits, decided to deck out.
My work had a Halloween party, gave away candied apples and set up stations outside for pumpkin carving and looking at “spooky” animals. On the Sunday before Halloween, my friends and I visited an old haunted mansion at Greenwich, where spirits told ghost stories about near-by landmarks. On Halloween night, about 13 of us dressed up and took the tube stations by storm. Not many people were dressed up, but the Brits definitely loved our costumes. We went to a Halloween party, and security made us remove our masks; I’ve never heard of doing that in the US. I must say, Halloween was one of the few times I missed home. I love getting dressed up with my friends from school and going to see what everyone else dressed as. This year was very fun, but did not trump a classic American Halloween.
The second holiday that the US students had to celebrate abroad was Thanksgiving. IFSA-Butler hosted a Thanksgiving meal for students. My friends and I were unable to go because we spent Thanksgiving weekend visiting Marrakesh, Morocco. Those who went to the dinner said it was fantastic, and some students also made a feast in the residential kitchens.
Finally, we had the lovely opportunity to soak up the Christmas spirit in London. The streets were filled with celebrations and happy shoppers, the store windows were decked with cheer and the weather was just right to enjoy a day on the town. I had two wonderful Christmas parties at work, where we had a secret santa with our co-workers. I received socks that looked like the tube map, and a double-decker bus figurine. The students who lived in my dorm also had a secret santa. We drew names and set a ten-pound limit. We made food and enjoyed a great dinner and watched as we opened funny gifts.
Overall, holidays brought a bit of homesickness for most, but luckily we had each other and great support from IFSA-Butler. We ended up having a great time celebrating the holidays in different ways, and learned to appreciate the value of family traditions. The best part was bringing our bits of culture to those who do not celebrate the same way we do.