Do Black People Celebrate Halloween?

Hi, long time no see. Sorry for the hiatus. To give you a bit of insight into why I have been so lax on the blogging front I will let you into a little of what’s been going on in my life.

Firstly, I’m in what I am calling a sabbatical (although it feels like I’ve never worked harder). I took a half gap year. I took a break from life, essentially. I’m toying with a career change, focusing on my studies, learning new life skills and spending time with family. And I’m doing this all the way from across the pond in the (so-called) land of the free; America. Chicago, to be exact. And having a lovely time.

Secondly, as part of my possible career change and learning of new life skills, I am doing a publishing internship. I love it. I spend all day surrounded by books, what’s there not to love? However, it is all day, which has left me having to properly manage my time for the first time in about 10 years.

Thirdly, I have an Etsy store. I crochet and knit and then I make things and sell them on Coconut Creates (see what I did there?). Go, check out my stuff and, if you like what you see, purchase an item or two (or three or more).

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But, now that I’ve started to get my life in order, I’m back. I contemplated coming back at the beginning of November, you know, new month, new beginnings, but instead here I am writing a post in the last week of October, which allows me to talk about Halloween. Namely, to ask the question, do black people celebrate Halloween?

Sounds like a stupid question, right? Whenever a question begins, ‘do black people’ or, ‘do white people’ I’m immediately very wary of the answer. It’s the whole grouping of people from many different cultures and places by their skin that I’m very uncomfortable with. Nevertheless, it still (clearly) doesn’t stop me investigating.

Personally, I do not generally celebrate Halloween. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been involved in any kind of Halloween celebration. The reason? My Christian, Nigerian mother. In Nigeria, like most of Africa, witchcraft is very real and very taboo. You will frequently hear of people getting potions and curses and Juju. Your daughter got sick? Juju. You husband cheated on you? Juju. Your hair fell out from too much relaxer? Juju. Juju is no joke and therefore is not celebrated. In the words of my mother, ‘Halloween is demonic.’ We – my mother, sisters and I - would dive behind the couch whenever trick-or-treaters came to our door and I do not have any cute childhood photos of me dressed up as a banana or something equally as ridiculous.

Secondly, Halloween is not as big a deal in the UK as it is in the US. In 15 years nobody on my street ever put up a Halloween decoration (not even one) and I never heard of pumpkin carving apart from in American TV and movies and, come October 31st, we only ever had to hide from a grand total of two, maybe three trick-or-treaters. It’s not just my family friendly neighbourhood either. I’ve asked my friends from London, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Dorset… and it’s exactly the same throughout the Isle. Whilst Halloween is celebrated, it’s not a big deal. We Brits love a party so you will come across many a Halloween party but the level of costume detail is not even close to what it's like in the USA.

I also find the whole Holiday bizarre. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t grow up with it, but walking around kid-friendly neighbourhoods in Chicago with houses all dressed up with corpses and skeletons and terrifying paraphernalia is just not appealing to me.  Also, stalking the streets with people dressed up as my worst nightmares seems like a bad idea, no? Like, nightmares are real.

So Brits of all races don’t really celebrate Halloween and Africans don’t really celebrate Halloween. So maybe I should change my question to, do black Americans celebrate Halloween?

I’ll tell you what Google told me: No. This article from The Root laid it out for this Black Brit. It was an interesting, eye-opening read. Give it a perusal.

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I can’t say much to that, but what I will say is that every year black people all over the world - now that the internet has made every problem a world problem - have to deal with inappropriate Halloween costumes. I’m just going to lay it out there for everyone to read: Blackface is never a good idea. To that I am going to add Nazi costumes or any kind of oppressive dictator, Klu Klux Klan costumes, slave driver costumes… I mean, this should all go without saying, right? Oh, and along with blackface, discard brownface and ‘yellowface’ (unless you’re planning to dress up as a jaundice patient or a Simpson (of the Bart and Homer variety) or SpongeBob Squarepants).

However, on the flip side, my two older sisters, who grew up in the same house as me with the same Christian Nigerian mother, do celebrate Halloween; and one of them is raising black Americans. They have many a cute costumed childhood photo and, as I’m staying with the American sister this year, I shall be partaking in the ‘festivities’ in complete contradiction of everything I’ve just said.

I’m interested to know your opinions. Comment below or send me an email. Do you celebrate Halloween? Is Halloween a white people/ white American holiday? Let me know.