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The true American Halloween experience

It has more to it than you think!

The arrival of fall brings spices, hot chocolate, sweaters, pumpkins, bonfires and the merriment of festivities, among which Halloween is one of the most popular. At the beginning of October, carved pumpkins, fake skeletons and spiderwebs or ghosts created out of white bedsheets, adorned the USC campus to decorate for the holiday.

Halloween started as an ancient Celtic festival in America but is now one of the biggest commercial festivals. Historically, it was a tradition and celebration where villagers disguised themselves with animal skins to drive away unwanted spirits. However, many international students who are not used to celebrating this day in their countries feel excluded from it.

David Lin, an international student from Taiwan, is one of those students who has never experienced Halloween.

“Halloween is interesting and it is a tradition—an American tradition,” Lin said “We never celebrate Halloween in Taiwan, but I look forward to doing something this time.”

For most people, Halloween is about finding a costume, dressing up and going trick-or-treating. For Americans, this has been a Halloween tradition for more than a century.

For Peyton Alonzo, a Southern California native, donning a costume and going trick-or-treating has been the only Halloween tradition he has partaken in.

“I have family members who are younger so I go trick-or-treating with them or just hang out with family, friends and good food,” Alonzo said. “The biggest thing is dressing up in costumes but other than that, there aren’t any other traditions.”

However, there is more to Halloween than turning into your favorite movie character and eating candy. For students who have never experienced Halloween, there are a lot of great ways in which you can create and experience an authentic, spooky American Halloween experience.

1. Visit a pumpkin patch

Halloween is a time when pumpkins are ripe, huge and plentiful. So what better way than to visit a pumpkin patch and look around for one to take home? Grab your carving knife and try your hand at creating the spookiest pumpkin. Those not adept at carving can try painting their pumpkins.

Here are some places where you can find pumpkin patches in Los Angeles:

2. Host a (safe) bonfire

With the autumn winds chilling us to our bones, the holiday nights could be the perfect time to start a bonfire and hang out with your friends and family. Grab a cup of hot chocolate, blankets and toast some s’mores. Take turns telling scary ghost stories to have a spooky Halloween night!

You can whip up a large cup of hot chocolate by following these quick recipes.

3. Visit a haunted house or park

Nothing screams Halloween more than an actual haunted house. Los Angeles has some great haunted houses that could scare the wits out of you. If you don’t want to indulge in kids’ activities, such as putting on costumes or going trick-or-treating, taking a stroll through these haunted houses could be an ideal Halloween activity.

Here are some immersive haunted experiences that L.A. has to offer:

4. Indulge in some fall food

The possibilities surrounding fall food are endless, be it roasted pumpkin seeds, a pumpkin spice latte or a baked apple pie. During Halloween, some of the most scrumptious food of the year grace the tables of American households and combine all kinds of sweet and spicy flavors. For students who have never tried these foods, Halloween might be the time to do it!

Try out these quick and delicious fall recipes:

5. Costume contest

Even if everything else fails, it’s never too late to dress up. After all, Halloween is one of the most popular dress-up event of the year. Some people even make their own costumes, as an ode to their creativity. You can also experiment with various designs and makeup and transform yourself into your favorite fictional character.

Here are some last-minute DIY Halloween costume ideas.