As a child, Halloween was right up there next to Christmas for me as far as holidays go. I loved everything about it. The refreshing autumn air, dressing up for school and having a classroom Halloween party, the Halloween parade that my elementary school held every year. And then going home, freshening up the makeup and heading back out for a round of trick-or-treating. We would grab our pillowcases (way “cooler” and a much bigger haul than that little orange plastic pumpkin “bag”) and head out with our parents, running from house to house each hoping that the next house would be the one that sprung for the full sized candy bars.
There was one house on our street, the last house of the dead end right next to the woods, that we were always terrified of. The house was dark save the porch light. We always knew they were home and therefore eligible trick-or-treat participants, and they’d always jump out of a pile of leaves and scare the living hell out of us while our parents laughed and assured us it was okay to take candy from these strangers. We fell for it every year.
We loved the thrill of creeping up to the scarily decorated house, wondering if something was going to pop out or not, but emboldened by our desire to accumulate the largest quantity of candy possible. The adrenaline rush was palpable as we all nervously giggled and huddled close and argued over who was going to knock or ring the doorbell.
Of course we were always polite and shouted TRICK-OR-TREAT as loud as possible so that we really “deserved” the candy we were begging for, and we always said thank you and happy halloween before we skipped over the lawn to the next neighbors front door.
We were always a costume making family for the most part. Of the costumes I remember or have pictures of, all were made my by mom and they always turned out great. But I was a stubborn child and in third grade I insisted on making my own costume. We were learning about bats in science class and DUH a bat was obviously a really easy costume for an 8 year old to make. I used a vampire cape and some construction paper and finagled my way into full blown bat mode. Looking back makes me laugh because this costume was terrible and I’m pretty sure I wore it to school and was totally proud of it while the vast majority of my neighbors and classmates probably had no idea what I was. Here’s some photo evidence:
As I try to recall my costumes from every year I remember very few, I only remember the thrill that came with dressing up for school and going trick-or treating.
Flash forward to college when I joined a sorority. I absolutely loved my sorority and all of the amazing girls I met because of it and some of my best memories from college are with my sorority sisters. But our weekends were always chock full of mixers and that meant dressing up. A lot. Pretty much any mixer was an excuse to put on a costume and I never realized it before then but DAMN portraying wit and sexiness at the same time is hard work. I clearly never pulled off the sexy part… I was just trying to pass for whatever the mixer happened to be that week. Rock of Love Mixer? Okay what do I own that looks like white trash? Nerds and Cheerleaders? Yeah I’ll definitely go for the nerd look.
By the time Halloween rolled around I was already costumed out. Halloween was just like any other weekend except that this time there was no theme to guide me and I had to try to think of a costume on my own. My senior year I was so lazy that I spent a ridiculous amount of money on a hoodie and leggings set that had a skeleton silkscreened onto it and called it a day just so I wouldn’t have to think of yet another costume.
Then I graduated and came here to Spain. Halloween is an afterthought here. Some bilingual schools will celebrate it because it’s a holiday in the English-speaking world, but even then the don’t do it right. The only part of halloween that exists here is the costumes. No haunted houses, no scary decorations, and no trick or treating. No Hocus Pocus on ABC Family or Halloweentown on Disney. I figured this out when I studied abroad in Granada, and by the time my first Halloween as an auxiliar in Spain rolled around I was pretty lackluster in the Halloween Spirit department.
Halloween here is misconstrued as being a holiday when you can only dress up as scary things. Ghosts, witches, zombies and vampires are pretty much your only options… a giant M&M would not go over well. That killed my spirit even more as I was never one to opt for the scary costumes. Since Spain already has a dress up holiday, carnival, Halloween is a bit lost on them and I don’t blame ’em.
As an auxiliar I am forced to teach students about Halloween; it’s history and customs and traditions. As a result I now know more about the origins of Halloween than I ever did while I was in the US, but I also have done more word searches and crossword puzzles about Halloween vocabulary than I ever imagined I would do, and am totally Halloweened out after doing Halloween things at the language academy for the past week and a half. The only good part was the Kit Kats, one of the few candies from the US that are available here. I’d kill for a Butterfinger or a Reese’s right about now.
I realized my Halloween spirit was dead the day before Halloween this year. We were supposed to wear costumes to the academy and I totally forgot, and then couldn’t even be bothered to put something festive on yesterday, Halloween day. I used to paint my nails in Halloween colors and do Halloween crafts for fun! Yesterday I watched Hocus Pocus during my lunch break and when I got home at night I ate a frozen pizza and was in bed reading articles on Thought Catalog by 11:45.
So it’s official: I no longer love Halloween. I’m kind of sad about it, but I’m realizing it’s hard to hold on to traditions when you are surrounded by people who don’t share the same culture as you. I think it would be different if I were still living in the US, because it’s hard not to get excited about something when there’s so much hype. But here, where pumpkins are few and far between and the Sanderson sisters are completely unknown, my Halloween spirit has been laid to rest with Billy the nice zombie as Thackery Binks skips off into the sunrise with his little sister.