New York City’s festive Halloween parade

Hundreds of participants including Vikings march in this wild four-hour extravaganza

Photo: Wikimedia Commons Creatures of all varieties celebrate the spooky holiday, dancing the night away in the New York City Halloween Parade.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Creatures of all varieties celebrate the spooky holiday, dancing the night away in the New York City Halloween Parade.

Donald V. Mehus
New York

New York City’s grand and glorious Halloween Parade, now celebrating its 41st year, will be held—as always—for some four hours on the evening of October 31. Much of the show can be seen on TV nationwide. Just check your local station for the program commencing 7:00 PM EST. And remember that by tradition, there are always some Viking warriors marching along too.

The Greenwich Village procession, 7:00 to 11:00 p.m., is billed by its promoters—and with some validity—as “the nation’s most wildly creative, public participatory event in the greatest city of the world!” Hundreds of puppets, fifty-three bands playing all kinds of music, dancers and artists, and thousands of other New Yorkers in costumes of their own creation will pass by the throng of spectators. The Grand Marshall of the festivities is actress-comedian Whoopi Goldberg.

Each to One’s Own Taste
The parade features characters in every imaginable outfit. Passing along lower Manhattan streets are not only those in ghostly Halloween get-ups but also other figures, from the legendary and the fictional to the historical and the contemporary—and seemingly just about everything in between. The Vikings will be crowned of course with their apocryphal horned helmets.

For such a popular and well-established New York tradition, the spectator is well advised to arrive early to get a good viewing spot. However, even if you fail to see much of the procession beyond the tops of passing high floats, all is not lost. After the parade is over, you can simply stroll along the sidewalks and happily gaze on many other costumed revelers as they pass by you. It seems that about every tenth pedestrian is in as Halloween costume of one sort or another.

A Special Segment of the Festivities
Now for a very special segment of the evening’s festivities, head for Greenwich Village’s Christopher Street. Many participants here are colorfully garbed in creations of a flamboyant, even outlandish manner, these in accordance with the individual own taste, whim, or imagination. As they happily stroll around, a truly festive mood pervades.

After observing this extraordinary and fun-filled mélange awhile and taking a number of photos, I remarked to a local shopkeeper that I would like to see just one traditional, neatly clad American couple. The shopkeeper, who had apparently seen it all, remarked, “Well, you won’t see any around here.” Then, lo and behold, just a few moments later, what did I see but just what I was looking for—a slender, attractive, neatly attired, and neatly coiffed young couple.

Happily, I went up to the pair and asked politely, “Excuse me, but would you mind if I took a picture of you? I will tell you why afterwards.” They courteously consented after which I explained that I just wanted to take a picture of a good, regular American couple. The young man thereupon replied, “We’re from Poland.” I was quite amused by it all, murmuring to myself, “You just can’t win them all.”

One of Many
The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade is but one of many big festive events offered in New York spread throughout the year—and free of charge to one and all. Next will be the big Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a fun-filled event, which launches the Christmas season. Then a month later comes the New Year’s Eve celebration at midnight Dec. 31 to Jan. 1 in jubilant, jam-packed Times Square, marked by the dropping of a giant, illuminated ball from high up. And then in the spring on March 17 comes St. Patrick’s Day with a big, banner-filled parade proceeding up Fifth Avenue.

And of course in mid-May comes la crème de la crème: Norway’s own Syttende Mai festivities held in Brooklyn. At one time this borough could boast being the largest Norwegian community anywhere outside of Oslo. Observed on the Sunday closest to the 17th of May, our big day is celebrated most fittingly with a long parade followed by a patriotic program in none other than the city’s Leif Erikson Park.

So do keep an eye out for New York’s celebrations through the year, and do try, whenever you can, to join fellow revelers here in this great metropolis, New York City. We look forward to seeing you!

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.