So how do I feel about Halloween? I can’t help it, I love it. I love the fall air, the leaves crunching, the carved jack o’ lanterns, the toasted pumpkin seeds. I love trick or treating and seeing people in the streets. I love the costumes, the more original and creative the better, and all the candles. Okay, maybe what I love is Halloween as portrayed in all feel-good Hollywood movies and television series.

Halloween appeals to my inner drama queen. I never miss an opportunity to get dressed up. Some of my finer costumes: (And if I had access to my childhood photos I would definitely be posting photos of these!)

  • Tube of crest toothpaste (That was a difficult one to walk in.)
  • Clown (But not just any clown, a miniature version of my mother’s clown costume.)
  • Bag of jelly beans (Actually, I think that was my sister’s)
  • Witch (Not that original but I loved it anyway because I rearranged it and spent the rest of the year wearing it as a nun’s habit. I watched too much Sound of Music.)
  • Pippi Longstockings (A classic that works well with my hair and freckles. Always a crowd pleaser, too.)

The costume Ivan and I would wear this year if we had a reason to put on a costume:

Well, us and some third person. Because no one expects the Spanish Inquisition! (Ha ha. I bet no one expected me to be a Monty Python nerd, either.)

So how do expats spend their Halloweens?

Last year in China was forgettable. No costumes, no smoking punch bowl. Just me trying to explain what Halloween is to a bunch of Chinese. Turns out they have their own version, not exactly of Halloween, but of All Saint’s Day (which is tomorrow). Theirs is in April and is called “Tomb Sweeping Day.” Similar to the West’s All Saint’s Day, they visit their ancestor’s graves or the local Buddhist temple to clean up, leave food offerings and give paper money which the ancestors can use in the afterlife. (This was explained to me by a few of my students. Please forgive me if anything is incorrect, as they weren’t so sure of it themselves. Here is a site where you can read more.)

In Vienna, Austria we had a lot of fun although we didn’t dress up. Instead, we went bar hopping in the city center and drank lots of pünch in the streets. I really admired the Viennese creativity. (Or maybe they were American tourists?) While I saw lots of prostitutes, (and I am pretty sure those were costumes), I was most impressed by a pumpkin-head wearing an actual carved out pumpkin on his head and a group of very authentic Klingons.

My Halloweens spent in Kuwait revolved around school, as did every major holiday except the AWL Christmas bazaar, which strangely holds a spell over me some 13 years later. We wore costumes to school which broke up the monotony of navy blue and white. Of course I pulled out the Pippi for that, but I can recall another rather cringe-worthy one where I attempted to pull off a “Louisiana Swamp Mama” which just didn’t really translate internationally.

Looks like Halloween in Avilés is going to pass quietly and without much fanfare. A columnist in the local newspaper was pretty disgusted by Halloween, calling it a tacky Yankee holiday that is threatening local culture. He called for a renewed respect for the dead by celebrating Todos Los Santos day quietly and respectfully (I hope he has never been to Mexico.) and ignoring the Halloween marketing.

While I think Mr. grumpy columnist needs a good dunk in the apple bobbing tank so he will lighten up, I can’t help but agree with him about the marketing and commercialization. This is a problem pervasive to all the great American holidays and I do get fed up with it all. Do we really need Halloween beer bottles and Halloween toilet paper? Is all the commercialization necessary? (Except for this. This I love! What child of the 80s doesn’t love My Little Pony. The DH even knows their theme song.)

I guess now that Halloween has passed, we can get ready for the onslaught of Christmas decorations.


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