An American Abroad: Holiday Season Part I

October, the true beginning of autumn. We are nearing the end of the month, coming in on Halloween and the general holiday season is on our doorsteps. This year will mark my first ever spending the Holiday season absent from my home in the Northeast region of the US. The cooling temperatures have left some nostalgic feelings in my mind of all those fall activities that I look forward to doing every year. Big sweaters, apple cider, raking leaves and jumping in the piles, wool socks, boots, down vests, pumpkin carving, bonfires, apple picking, leaves changing to yellow then orange then red.  I’d argue that autumn in the Northeast is one of the most beautiful seasons in the nation, with mountains and valleys glowing with color. The locals call those seasonal tourists “leaf peepers”, who come and go before the trees have a chance to shed their dying leaves.

In Wales, this astonishing change never comes. Slowly, a few leaves brown and yellow. Some fall and collect in the corners of paved roads. Mostly, the lush green of summer in still intact and it doesn’t look like it’ll change any time soon.  It’s a strange conflict for me to feel the cool nights and windy days, but still surrounded by green. Admittedly, I am still occasionally wearing flip flops, holding on to the last bits of summer before the bitter cold appears. Even though this is still possible with a warmer fall than I am used to, I can’t help but miss some of my favorite parts of autumn, only possible in the Northeast. I miss taking Sunday drives into the Vermont countryside to find a farm (or several) and pick out this year’s pumpkin for carving, pick more apples than we could eat in a month, and sip on hand-pressed apple cider made on site and sometimes right in front of you.

Last night, Jackie and I joined our American friend Marina to carve pumpkins and watch Halloween movies. Since we are living on a seaside coastal area, the farm lands don’t offer the sprawling pumpkin patches and apple trees that we see in the northern states. This means we were left to picking out our tiny pumpkins from the local supermarket (this is the first time I’ve ever done that!). Here’s the finished products:

Mine's the pirate in the middle!
Mine’s the pirate in the middle!

Another seasonal difference is the decorations. We are 10 days away from Halloween, which, in the states, means prime time for decorating the house, store or restaurant. Even the fine dining restaurants and nicest houses present a touch of extra cobwebs and carved pumpkins. The extreme decorators go all out creating haunted houses and creepy landscapes. I have yet to see ANY hints of Halloween decoration at all! In stores there’s a small section for face painting and Halloween candy, but that’s the extent of it. There’s no 31 days of Halloween on the UK equivalent of ABC Family. I never realized how long we (Americans) draw out our holidays. It’s not only the day of celebration, candy, and costumes- it’s the month of preparation that makes Halloween the holiday that I grew up with.

Thankfully, there’s a Halloween party hosted by my rugby club to keep my costume craving in check!

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