By Susan and Simon Veness
The shops are in Christmas mode already, but no one really wants to think that far ahead yet, do they? Not when there are two major U.S. holidays—Halloween and Thanksgiving—to enjoy first. Americans take these two days seriously, and if you’re in Orlando on 31 October or 28 November, you’ll want to join right in, too!
Trick-or-Treating may be relatively new to the U.K. but it’s been a highly anticipated annual event in the U.S. since the early 1900s, and if you’re visiting Orlando with children it’s a must-do experience. You are more than welcome to join right in, even if you don’t have a neighbourhood of your own. Children from rural areas all over the country will be piling in the family car and heading to a larger neighbourhood too, so you certainly won’t be out of place!
But first, you need three things: a few tips on how to go about it, a costume, and a pillow case (more on that later). Home-made costumes are a terrific opportunity for children to be creative, but if luggage concerns prohibit you from bringing all the makings of a zombie or a giant rabbit, inexpensive costumes can be found at Wal-Mart, Target and even Costco (where your U.K. membership will be honoured). You may want to add a glow-stick necklace or a flashlight (torch) to help grown-ups keep track of their little monsters, and,with a good pair of walking shoes, you’re ready to go!
Trick-or-treating is extremely family friendly and safe (drivers know to watch out for little ones darting across the road, but be sure to use the pavement whenever possible), and the concept of “begging” doesn’t enter anyone’s mind. Adults look forward to handing out candy as much as children look forward to receiving it, and there are few things cuter than opening your door to a tiny ghost looking up at you with big eyes and pudgy cheeks.
How will you know if a homeowner is handing out candy? Most people will have a lit pumpkin on display, and their porch light will always be turned on (unless they have an elaborately decorated home with moody lighting and it’s obvious they’re celebrating the evening). In general, if the porch light isn’t on, skip that house and go on to the next one. In the warmer states, many homeowners (including us!) take the opportunity to sit on their front porch with a big bowl of candy. In the colder states they keep the door closed, but if the porch light is on children simply ring the doorbell and shout “trick or treat!”
And here’s where that pillowcase comes in handy. Although you can purchase plastic pumpkins or special bags to hold your loot, the real experts know there’s nothing like a pillowcase for durability, especially if it’s raining on Halloween night. Don’t forget to say, “Thank you” or “Happy Halloween” to each homeowner and remember to take your camera for a lasting memento of this special evening.
And it’s just that easy! Of course, there is still the chore of dumping your candy on the floor when you get back to your accommodation, sorting everything into like-with-like piles and then trading off the stuff you don’t want with your siblings. And if you really want to do All Hallows Eve like an American, be sure to have a DVD of It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown to watch while you eat dinner, which, where Susan originally hails from (Michigan), is a steaming bowl of chili and warm buttermilk biscuits.
The paid-for events of Halloween Horror Nights and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party run on 31 October too, and although it’s best to secure your tickets in advance, it’s one night Halloween Horror Nights generally does not sell out. However, Mickey’s 31 October party typically sells out well in advance.
After the sugar-buzz that is Halloween, it’s time to get serious about your eating and Thanksgiving is just the day to do it. An affirmation of ‘plenty’, Thanksgiving is all about spending time with family around a table filled with the abundance of the harvest. Roast turkey is the centrepiece around which a vast array of side dishes are planned, and although these traditionally consist of mashed potato, bread stuffing, turkey gravy, cranberries, green bean casserole, and a seasonal vegetable such as sweet potatoes topped with toasted marshmallow, each region of the U.S.—and indeed each family—has their own twist on the theme. But most include that timeless Thanksgiving dessert, pumpkin pie with whipped cream. It is so firmly attached to the holiday that just the hint of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove in any other dish makes American’s close their eyes and whisper, “Mmmmm….Thanksgiving.”
But it wouldn’t be an American holiday without some quirky tradition attached to it, and Thanksgiving’s quirk is the Presidential Pardoning of the Thanksgiving Turkey. Poultry was a common gift from the people to the President since the 1800s, and the tradition of pardoning is often incorrectly attributed to President Harry Truman—who, in fact, said they would “come in handy” for Christmas dinner. The tradition actually began with President John F. Kennedy, who stated, “Let’s keep him going,” and the deal was sealed when President George H. W. Bush (the first, somewhat more popular, of the Bush presidents) stated, “…this guy has been granted a presidential pardon, as of right now.” Presidents Clinton, Bush (George W.) and Obama have carried on the tradition, assuring at least one gobbler per year a long, happy life without becoming Thanksgiving dinner. Only in America!
All across the country,families gather on this day to celebrate in a relative’s home, cooking from dawn until dinner and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and American football games on television, and if the local restaurants are open (generally they are not) it isn’t difficult to get a table. The opposite is true in Orlando, but with a little pre-planning you can enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal with the relatives you brought with you.
While Orlando’s big resort restaurants(including those at Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World) have not announced their Thanksgiving plans yet, most typically do a traditional dinner. Mimi’s Café (near Mall at Millenia and in Winter Garden) offers a full Thanksgiving dinner, and will even prepare one for you to pick up and bring back to your accommodation if you order in advance. And, of course, Liberty Tree Tavern in Disney’s Magic Kingdom serves a modified version of Thanksgiving Dinner every day. Bon Appétit!
Why not start planning your own Orlando Halloween experience now with Attraction Tickets Direct?