Best Halloween! Europe or U.S.?

October 29, 2009

Rockerfeller Center Autumn, halloween

There are so many fantastic festivals in Europe, but no one knows how to do Halloween better than certain neighborhoods in the United States! We were spoiled and lived in one of those neighborhoods when we lived in Santa Cruz, where Mozart was born and lived her first 5 years.

We lived in a country neighborhood where each family really got into the trick or treat spirit. There was always a Halloween party (as well as Christmas and usually Easter one for the neighbors), great decorations, generous treats and even a hayride or caravan to take the kids from house to house as we all owned acreage, so the houses were far apart. Kids from other neighborhoods would even come!

Halloween is just not the same in Europe. Sure, one can find a few token Halloween things here and there, but for the most part it is not celebrated in the same way. It certainly is not considered a special holiday and door to door old fashion trick or treating is not done at all, except possibly in a few places in the UK that have copied it from TV shows. 


But our Mozart has not forgotten the joys of an American Halloween, so we have managed to make our own up whether in France, Spain or like this celebration in Umbria, Italy with a costume we bought in Turkey.

We will do it again this year in Barcelona with Dracula teeth, make up and blood that we got in Austria for Mozart's first scary costume for her made up "Countess Draculina". (We had been planning to get to Dracula's castle in Romania this year, but alas didn't make it due to my bike accident on the Danube and hospitalization, but will).


In fact, we have already basically done it early this year as Mozart wanted to do it with a 10 year old friend from Scotland who was in Barcelona for a holiday and would not be here for the actual day. They used their imaginations & repeatedly yelled "trick or treat" at our RV door and we pretended to be different people handing out the candy on a warm Spanish night. Then they giggled "upstairs" in our RV for a night play-date of candy eating, marveling over cherry flavored blood, tween girl gossip and dvd watching.


Last year though, things were very different. We had to go to NYC to visit the disadvantaged school kids that came with us virtually. It was fun but also hard work to visit five or six schools a  day via mass transit in neighborhoods that few tourists or even New Yorkers see (Harlem, South Bronx etc) and giving power point presentations to class after class.

I am especially glad that Mozart had this experience of service, but I also wondered where or how we would celebrate Halloween. I happen to tweet that question on Twitter and a little miracle happened. Family travel queen, Wendy Perrin from Conde Nast Traveler invited us to her house to share in their family's Halloween! Her globetrotting, geography loving boys knew Mozart from our Youtube videos and I'd connected with their mom for months online as we both have a passion for family travel.

We couldn't have had a more perfect day, nor could there be another neighborhood that was more idyllic for Halloween!  It was a warm, sunny glorious day in New York City with the freezing rain and wind from earlier in the week on hiatus for us, yet the trees in awesome autumn splendor!


Don't ever underestimate the power of social media! I wrote about how much it has impacted our travel in our popular post "Twitter & Travel 2.0" and this is one of my favorite stories. Thanks to Wendy and her very talented photographer husband, Tim and their generosity, we had a very special Halloween that we will never forget! Mozart had a ball with their boys and we even met Wendy's mom, brother and all the neighbors! If the kid's had their way, this would be a yearly tradition! You can get a hint from our new video above about the joyful delight that was had by all!

The whole day was like a fantasy come true, especially for Mozart who had been away from her home country for almost three years. She had just turned eight while visiting  Stockholm, so was the right age to remember it all and be fascinated to be re-experiencing all the joys of an American life. I lived in NYC for many years when I was young, yet had not been back in decades, so it was a bit of a homecoming for me as well.


 We started the day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art which was a smart choice as it was much less crowded than usual because of the holiday and seeing amazing Egyptian mummies can be a great way to sneak a little fun roadschooling in with a Halloween theme!


After having a ball in gorgeous Central Park (as seen above), we headed to FAO Schwarz, the world famous toy store where Mozart got a royal reception, free candy and opportunity do make some Halloween crafts! Don't worry, we will be writing more about these and our other exploits in NYC soon with more pictures and details, so just giving a peek for now.


Then it was on to Rockefeller Center ( yes, that's my kid pretending a gourd is a cell phone in the lead picture, fitting in with NYC street life!) and more shopping at every "bookahlic" 8 year old girl's fantasy store, American Girl! We particularly like how their quality historical fiction books (that Mozart has been reading on her own since she was three) have enriched our homeschool on the road, but also like the wholesome, educational movies & could not resist a jacket that says "American Girl" on it for our mini world traveling Yankee!


Finally we headed to Conde Nast Traveler to meet charming, brilliant, hard working Wendy Perrin who is an icon in the travel writing world. We got to see where she writes her popular Perrin Post column, meet the staff and tour the impressive building that has awesome views of Time Square, just opposite where the famous ball drops every New Year's Eve! Mozart even did a violin vignette there, which will be included in our next world touring montage, coming soon.


Quite the day, huh? After talking to Wendy for months about her commute via Twitter, we got to experience it first hand, as she expertly led us through Penn Station like the native Manhattanite that she is, boarding a commuter train to her Norman Rockwell style neighborhood in New Jersey. Normal fare to her, but more adventure for us, especially when I almost got lost in the fast moving mass of humanity that is Penn Station.


Even more thrilling and totally surreal was arriving back into Penn Station around midnight on Halloween! It was filled with outrageous costumed party goers of every description, many  from the annual Halloween Parade in the Village. There were no taxi's available, so making our way back to our Upper East Side brownstone near Second Avenue in the Eighties, was almost as exciting as a wild safari! There is nothing quite like New York City celebrating Halloween, so I am very glad, Mozart got to see this too as it reminded me of the excitement of my twenties in this vibrant city!



Much is said about the over commercialism of Halloween & there is validity to that argument, not to mention the sugar over dose. Still, one of my happiest childhood memories was the freedom, fantasy and shear joy  of Halloween, dashing from one loving neighbor's house to another, through fall leaves on chilly October nights, squealing with delight at the costumes and decorations. Then later dumping the stash of contraband candy and counting it all in disbelief, the sheer volume creating ecstasy.




I'm grateful that Mozart got another taste of this typical American holiday again, so it will always be in her memory banks too! She ended that night positively glowing in her coveted turn of the century style "Samantha" nightgown (based on books she loved about an Edwardian period NYC girl) from American Girl. She had really given a lot that week to the disadvantage school kids, so it was fun to be spoiled for a day! What is your happiest Halloween memory?



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OUr oldest girl, now aged 20, has three of the American Girl Dolls, Kirsten, Samantha and one more....don't remember her name. Two dolls were given her by our friends in Chicago, one she bought herself when we visited USA with four kids back in 1997.

A lovely post indeed.


I really enjoyed reading this post. You have some great Halloween memories!

Heather on her travels

Wow, that's a lot of Halloween fun for one post or eaven one day!


What a great story and a wonderful memory! I really enjoyed this post and I am hoping you are feeling a bit better!


Loved reading about your family's travel. It is wonderful to see how travel can really bring a family together.


Great Halloween post. We returned from Europe just a week before Halloween and I was surprised at how widely the holiday has caught on since the years I lived there, back in the 70s and 80s. Thanks for visiting my blog. I think I'm going to put you on my blogroll. But remember, there is still something of value to traditional newspapers!


How fun! What a great Halloween you had! My girls were feeling down about being in Brazil for Halloween because we were told it is not celebrated here. However, that information was wrong! My two teens were invited to a costume party at a local restaurant and my 9 year old was invited to a friend's house where trick or treating was done. They all three got to dress up which is what they really wanted and no one felt they had been deprived of anything after it was all done.

Tara Weed

One our favorite holidays on the road full-time in the states is Halloween. We have been in 11 different locations for it and always find a fun neighborhood. We love hearing locals debate over the best place to go or finding out in St. Louis you need to tell a joke before you get a treat. Salem, MA or Witch City as it is known is a must see crazy Halloween destination. We don't even know where we will be yet for Halloween 2010 but we know it will be good.

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