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A British Autumn vs. An American Fall

Everyone in America seems to say Fall is their favourite season.

Personally, I like Spring or Summer as it’s NOT COLD, but hey, everyone’s entitled to an opinion. I guess.

I do like lighting a fire and wearing a warm jumper (sweater) that is essentially a blanket. But you can do all of this in Winter too. And Winter has CHRISTMAS.

Anyway, this isn’t about my inability to understand the obsession with Autumn/Fall. It’s about the fundamental differences between how the UK and the US mark this strange time of year.

Halloween vs. HALLOWEEN

Halloween in the UK and Halloween in the US are VERY different things.

In the UK, Halloween is a day where you may cover yourself in fake blood to get into a party where everyone’s dressed a zombie or vampire or just wearing a lot of black. You may also stick a roughly carved pumpkin by your front door and get a small bag of sweets for the 5ish trick or treaters that come by the house looking all cute and asking shyly for some sweets.

Or it’s just like any other weekday night.

Halloween Pumpkins

In the US, Halloween is a major holiday. People plan for it like its bigger than Christmas. Or the apocalypse. 

Coordinated costumes are planned months in advance, made by hand and sometimes insanely expensive. I think there must be some form of points system for the most original costumes. I’m not sure who hands these out though. Maybe the Santa Claus of Halloween??

The sheer number of trick or treaters is another thing I can’t get over. Endless groups of children came knocking on our door asking for candy. And they didn’t take one piece. Oh no. They kept going until I removed the bowl from sight.

Also, parents who take their babies trick or treating, what are you doing? Everyone knows that child can’t consume chocolate. You’re a grown adult, go and buy your own!

Oh and a final thing. WHY are Halloween and Fall cards a thing? I thought the Brits had mastered greetings cards, but I can see the Americans are now challenging us for this grand title.

Cute, crisp Fall days vs. Rain, rain, rain

Fall Trees

Brits like to complain about the weather. We complain if it’s hot, if it’s rainy, if it’s grey and if its cold. So come Autumn, all you will hear is people saying, don’t forget to wrap up warm, winter is on its way, or my favourite catchphrase, “ooooh it’s a bit chilly.”

And I do not miss the rain during Autumn in the UK. It rains all year round, but rain, teamed with cold winds and falling temperatures creates a perfect storm leading to more complaining about the weather. 

On the East coast, American’s get to enjoy this beautiful slightly cold, fresh, blue-sky Fall weather. Its pretty nice. And definitely something I could get used to.

Fall Activities vs. The beginning of hibernation

In the UK, Autumn’s cold weather = sitting inside by the fire with tea on tap until spring and you get more than 6 hours of daylight. We may venture out to buy food or possibly go ice-skating, but Autumn is essentially the start of the winter hibernation for Brits.

In contrast, Americans like to do “stuff”. And the weather isn’t that bad. So, there are endless Fall activities and bucket lists to keep everyone entertained until the warmer months.

There’s pumpkin patches, corn mazes, Football games, marshmallow roasting, drinking hot Apple Cider, haunted houses, decorating, eating caramel apples, watching Hocus Pocus, going apple picking, and enjoying beautiful Fall walks, and endless half marathons, 10ks (as below!!) and 5ks.

Fall 10ks

However, there is one Fall activity I don’t understand. On the East Coast where we get to experience a full Fall, the minute it starts to get cold and the leaves start to change colour, there’s a Fall photoshoot on every corner. I honestly can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone dragging her poor partner to every orange/yellow/red tree in cute boots, a tan hat and some kind of woolly jumper or fancy coat to get the perfect insta shot. Probably with a cup of coffee, preferable Starbucks, in hand.

Everyone seems to adore Fall and the autumnal aesthetic. I have to say, it does look gorgeous all the time and I love not having to wear a rain-coat when I go out. But come on. What’s so exciting about everyone taking the EXACT SAME PHOTO?

(Uhh, ‘cos it looks so cool, Ellen).

Thanksgiving vs. Bonfire Night

A better comparison would be Thanksgiving vs. Christmas (family holiday and all that) and Bonfire Night vs. 4th July (trying to overthrow the British government and all that). But those holidays don’t fall in Fall (see what I did there??) so I’ve gotta deal with it.

But having looked into this comparison, the two holidays do have some parallels. (Word of warning, the history nerd is about to come out of her lair for this section…)

Bonfire Night, (or Guy Fawkes Night) is one of my favourite British traditions. It originates from the Gunpowder Plot, led by a chap called Guy Fawkes. He planned to blow up Parliament on 5th November 1605 to end the government’s persecution of Roman Catholics.

The plot failed and the British government is still blundering around 400 years later.

So to celebrate this failed bonfire and fireworks display in the center of London, every year each town in the UK will hold a giant bonfire and fireworks display. Some towns will also burn a “Guy” (a dummy of Guy Fawkes, not a real guy), on the bonfire. It is still considered a family-friendly event.

Everyone will stand out in the cold, oohing and ahhing at the (usually questionable, sometimes amazing) fireworks display, hanging out with friends over a nice cup of hot cider or mulled wine.

Sparklers on Bonfire night

The “first Thanksgiving” was celebrated in 1621, not too long after the Gunpowder Plot. It was held by pilgrims who had fled England in search of a new home where they could practice their religion, away from persecution. (Sounding familiar??).

According to a quick bit of research, The Mayflower had a difficult crossing in 1620 and once they arrived, its passengers were marred by sickness and disease. Those who survived the first harsh winter were visited by an Abenaki Indian and another native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe. They chose to show the pilgrims how to cultivate the land and helped them to begin building their new community. 

Successful crops were welcomed during the following Harvest and they shared the very first Thanksgiving meal with those they who had helped them, including the chief of the Wampanoag tribe.

Today, the holiday is held on the fourth Thursday in November and remains to be a key Fall celebration. It involves seeing family and friends, eating copious amounts of food, getting stressed about cooking said food, parades, and watching American Football. Being thankful is also usually mentioned at least once during the day.  

History lesson, done.

Football/Soccer vs. American Football/Football

American Football/Football is a huge part of Fall. The NFL season kicks off with its first game at the start of September, officially marking the long-awaited arrival of Fall. It then runs through winter, until February where months of eagerly shouting things at a TV are culminated in the final showdown at the Superbowl.

In the UK, Football doesn’t hold such an affinity with a particular season. Due to seemingly endless cups and leagues happening throughout Europe, you’ll never have a Sunday afternoon free of the footie (football). Some of my fondest childhood memories are waiting for my dad to finish watching Soccer AM on Saturday mornings so that we could ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING.

While the games are fundamentally different, my feelings towards them are the same. I vaguely understand what’s going on, but I don’t get it.

Fall in Boston

Living in a different country has meant I’ve had to adapt to some new (and strange) foreign customs. Like watching people play a game called Football with their hands, getting glammed up to sit in a pile of decaying orange leaves and not needing to keep an emergency umbrella and raincoat in my car at all times (not that I ever did, that would be way too organised).

But there are a few similarities such as the obsession with pumpkin spice and knitted jumpers that seems to come over the majority of the population on September 1st.

And the inability to restrain the Christmas craze until December 1st seems to be a common theme across the pond. I was hoping that Christmas might be kept at bay until after Thanksgiving in America. This is not the case. I heard 2 Christmas songs on the radio on November 12th. No one can resist Christmas.

4 Comments

  1. Beautiful comparison between the two countries. I would say both US and British have their own nice seasons.

    • Ellen Ellen

      Thank you so much 🙂
      Yes, there are so many unique traditions in both America and the U.K. no matter the season!!

  2. Great post! I love your tone and writing style, made me fly right through. I couldn’t agree more about American football (and sports in general, honestly), I just don’t get the hype. It’s like the same thing over and over again hahaha

    • Ellen Ellen

      Thank you, that’s so kind of you to say. I’m glad you enjoyed reading it!!
      Haha, I totally agree… I’m going to my first American Football next week so I’m trying to reserve judgment until then, but I just don’t find watching it (and most other sports) that exciting 🤷‍♀️

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