Not Your Father's Hallowe'en

It’s not called Halloween here, it’s Hallowe’en. The apostrophe makes it that much spookier.

It makes sense that with all of the clubs and bars near the University, Hallowe’en would be a pretty big deal. College students, the weekend, and a holiday: the perfect storm. It’s not just us crazy kids though. The entire city was decked out in cobwebs, zombies, sugar, and streamers, all compensating for the fact that it’s been pretty quiet here recently.

So, what did I do this Hallowe’en?

Under the guidance of our RA’s, our house combined forces with two other houses and marched the long cold path towards city center. Waiting in wing were the “Monster Mash” double decker buses, the transit kings of the evening responsible for moving the hordes of people crowding the town hall down to the event. We were dropped off down by the river, where we were greeted by tents, fair food, and the aforementioned hordes. I was told there would be explosives (of the “safe”, fireworky sort, but explosives nonetheless), so my interest was piqued from the get-go. This was advertised as Belfast’s biggest fireworks show of the year, so I had high expectations.  

Set to the tuneage of classic rock icons like Boston’s “More Than a Feeling”, Van Halen’s “Jump”, and, much to my chagrin, Journey’s ubiquitous “Don’t Stop Believin’”, the show was synched better than any other I’ve seen. There was enough variety in the choice of fireworks to keep it from being the same old same old, and it really inspired a desire to learn about the, ahem, more “practical” side of chemistry. There was about fifteen minutes worth of exploding, and the crowd was captivated for every second. Props to you Belfast.

Afterwards, we ended up in a pub (trust me, that’s about the only cliché to this post). Kelly’s Cellars is touted as the “Oldest Traditional Pub” in the city, and it most definitely looks and feels the part: Low, warm lights; wooden tables, walls and benches; Guinness posters everywhere; full of laughter and cheer. Often there is live music playing, complete with fiddles, guitars, banjos, and bodhrans. Tonight, we were in luck, though the band played just a few songs sprinkled throughout our stay. More than anything, it contributed to the atmosphere of what I think a pub SHOULD be. Drinking isn’t the focus here, believe it or not. More often than not, pub-goers want to have a good time, good craic and conversation. If the odd Guinness happens to sneak in here and there, so be it. That’s life, right?

The night didn’t stop there. Per the request of a few others, our party train rolled straight into McDonalds without hesitation. Was it a taste of home? Maybe. Was there guilt in eating it? Yes. Tasty, tasty guilt. We ended the night playing Bananagrams, a game similar to Scrabble, but on steroids and more independent. I felt that I had a bit of an unfair advantage, being surrounded by 5 Spaniards and 1 Italian, but we had a good time nonetheless.

I didn’t go out and party. I didn’t need to. This is a city of options, and it was perfect. I’d much rather spend a night watching fireworks, going to a pub, eating disgusting (amazing) fast food, and playing a game that helps people learn and improve their foreign language skills. That’s what holiday season is all about.