Hallowe'en is an event which started in Britain millennia ago, when it was called Samhain.

The ancient Britons believed that on October 31 the boundary between the living and the deceased dissolved, and the dead become dangerous for the living by causing problems such as sickness or damaged crops.

The festivals would frequently involve bonfires, into which the bones of slaughtered livestock were thrown. Costumes and masks were also worn at the festivals in an attempt to copy the evil spirits or placate them.

Then, centuries and centuries later, the Americans adopted the festival and heavily commercialised it.

Now let's hope that Britain doesn't adopt the American-style Christmas. As it is, Christmas in Britain - with the Queen's Speech, Nativity plays, heavy drinking, BBC repeats of Morecambe and Wise - is much better than in the US, especially the politically-correct Christmas of California...

We’ve already been flogged America’s Hallowe’en, so now comes a desperate plea: Don’t let them steal our Christmas!

By Caroline Graham
14th December 2008
Daily Mail

As I write this, it’s 79 degrees outside, the hummingbirds are humming and there isn’t a Christmas tree, strand of tinsel or fairy light in view.

My British friends have been calling – mostly after a few cups of seasonal cheer – to bemoan a very different sort of December: the cold, damp, dark days; the conveyor belt of pointless parties; the headache-inducing round of school choir and Nativity plays.

And I’m as jealous as Hell.

Let-down: The chandeliers on LA's Rodeo Drive cost a million dollars - but it's not Christmas

You see, I live in the heart of Los Angeles, a town where Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus has ceased to exist.

For the 3.8million people of this multicultural melting pot, Christmas is a mere component of something called The Holidays.

Take something really simple, like cards. If you go into any big store, you are offered a Holiday selection.

Cards promising a Cool Yule sit beside the ones commemorating Hanukkah and the African-American celebration of Kwanzaa.

Try as I might, I can’t find a card with the straightforward message Merry Christmas.

Sure, the shelves are stocked with holiday ornaments, holiday lights and holiday sweets but there is not a mention of Christmas anywhere.

You might think that the city’s large Hispanic – and Catholic – population would have something to say about that.

But, for now at least, their voices are ignored. So the schools here are on something called Winter Break.

Yes, there are decorated trees in shopping malls but, without fail, beside each tree is a Jewish candelabra, or menorah, in the interests of diversity.

After the local NBC News last night a message flashed up wishing viewers: Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah and a Blessed Kwanzaa.

Trafalgar Square in London shows how Christmas should be celebrated with its huge glittering tree, an annual gift from Norway as a "thank you" to Britain for liberating it from the Germans during the War

Now don’t get me wrong. I love this city, which has been my adopted home for 16 years, and I’m all for diversity.

But it just doesn’t feel like Christmas when you live in a place where political
correctness has overtaken tradition and, as Christmas approaches, I long to be 5,000 miles away in the drizzle and cold of home.

I think back nostalgically to an English country pub on a crisp Sunday afternoon with a Christmas tree in the corner and a damp dog by the fire.

I remember the sound of Salvation Army officers ringing their bells on a bustling High Street, where every shop is festooned in Christmas lights and competing Christmas carols blare out of every door.

I love the sense of civic pride that means every town and village has a festive tree and neighbours compete to see who can put on the best show of fairy lights.

It might not always be the height of taste but, believe me, when you have seen the West Coast alternative, you will realise you love it, come what may.

Of course, LA does have some festive experiences but they rarely strike the right note.

There is a shopping centre near me called The Grove that offers a ‘Winterfest Extravaganza’.

I was sitting there last week with my best friend Stan, grabbing a bite to eat before a movie.

At the stroke of 7pm, the mall came alive to a piped-in Perry Como singing Silver Bells as fake snowflakes fluttered from above on to our tanned, bare arms. It was hilarious but poignant and sad at the same time.

Better than a few chandeliers: Regent Street in London's West End turns on its spectacular lights

Even the famous Rodeo Drive, the heart of LA shopping, doesn’t get it.

Almost any British High Street would put it to shame. Rodeo, with its fancy shops like Chanel, Gucci and Prada, is decorated with French crystal chandeliers this year.

And that’s it.

The chandeliers are worth a million bucks but, carefully encased in plastic boxes, have the festive cheer of a used tea bag.

I spoke to one shopgirl and asked where the tinsel and fairy lights were.

She told me: ‘We tried normal decorations one year but the plastic melted in the sun.’

No wonder my British friends leave the city at this time of year. Many go home, the rest go somewhere colder and more Christmassy such as New York or Boston, while back in LA many of my friends use Christmas Day as a chance to catch up on movie-watching.

In fact, it is one of Hollywood’s best box-office days, when many studios launch their Oscar hopefuls.

This Christmas, in the absence of festive cheer, we can look forward to The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Brad Pitt’s latest film, and Valkyrie, about the failed Stauffenberg plot to assassinate Hitler. Very seasonal.

It is all very well to laugh at the Los Angeles Holiday Season but it should serve as a dreadful warning. What happens here in America is all too readily exported.

Already, Guy Fawkes Night and the ancient Hallowe’en are being pushed aside by an American Hallowe’en, a festival of plastic masks and excessive consumption.

Family bonfires and the traditions of All Souls’ Night are being eaten up by alcohol-fuelled parties for adults, complete with fancy dress and behaviour to suit.

For years, Chinese factories have mass-produced costumes and gimmicks for the vast American market.

Now they are flooding the UK with the same cheap tat.

Perhaps, then, I should not have been surprised when, earlier this year, I saw Thanksgiving recipes in British magazines.

There is a sense in which Thanksgiving, which we celebrate here at the end of November, is the true American Christmas.

This might explain why December 25 will never have quite the same edge in the US.

Thanksgiving is a time when families gather and share a turkey meal.

But it is decisively a part of America’s tradition. Not Britain’s.

A Jewish friend of mine blames the lack of Christmas spirit in this town on the fact that LA, more than anywhere else, is in thrall to the cult of political correctness.

‘It’s all gone mad,’ he said. ‘I’ve been invited to something called Hanukkah-mass this year. It’s ridiculous. You have to remember that White Christmas, one of the songs that embodies the holiday, was written by Irving Berlin, who was Jewish.

Back in my parents’ day there was no problem with celebrating Christmas in LA. Now it’s been ruined for everyone.’

I understand the complaints about the madness of the British Christmas.

I have been there, too, remember. Yet I would urge you to stop for a moment and appreciate what you have.

Believe me, Christmas is something to be celebrated, even if it is hard work and occasionally seems a little naff.

Christmas carol concerts, Nativity plays, pantomimes, too much drinking, misbehaving under the mistletoe at the office party, the Queen’s speech, the BBC repeats of Morecambe And Wise ... Treasure them all; you will miss them when they’ve gone.

Oh, and a Happy Kwanzaa to you all.