November 01, 2009

Kind of scary

While Brave is screaming himself to sleep, I will recap on Halloween.

Let me start by saying that I grew up trick-or-treating. Since we were not allowed to open gifts on Christmas Eve, Halloween was my favorite night of the year. My mom, bless her soul, is not the Martha Stewart type (at least not back then). There were no costume workshops sprawled out on our kitchen table for the last two weeks of October. We were never dressed like felt sandwiches or purple balloon grape clusters. Instead, my brothers usually threw on their football uniforms and I usually wore my mom's clothes from the 70's and flashed a peace sign with my fingers for the camera. One year, in a fit of desperation, at about 6 p.m. on Halloween night, my mom pulled a dozen items of brown, dingy clothing from the hall closet - sweaters and leather jackets and scarves and such - and told me to tell people I was Cinderella before she met her fairy godmother.

Trick-or-treating is a fascinating practice, when you think about it. I remember the first year that Daniel and I had a house (granted, it was a rental) and we realized on the morning of the 31st of October that we were going to need large amounts of candy if we were going to stay home that night. I realized, too, that we were expected to open our door over and over and over to tired and sugared-up kids and disrespectful teenagers, and pretend to be happy about it. Trick-or-treating, according to Wikipedia, "...resembles the late medieval practice of souling, when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). It originated in Ireland and Britain,[3] although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy."

There is no trick-or-treating, however, here in our country in Asia. Thankfully, no matter how far away you travel, it seems, you can always find a handful of other westerners who are more than willing to squeeze their European-descended hips into a black leotard and tights, stuff a long black sock with garbage bags and hang it from their butt, paint their nose pink and don a headband with attached cat ears. Why not?

This year, we brought our little Batman, builder, and frog to the annual expat Harvest Festival. The crowded room smelled, appropriately, like sweat, polyester, and hot dogs. All of the princesses and superheros (including mine) and butterflies and ballerinas were crying. All of the hippies and nurses and Hannah Montanas were flirting. All of the parents were pulling out their hair, all of the volunteers were cursing their inability to say no, and all-in-all I think it was a Halloween success. What would Halloween be, after all, without a mom hissing, "You WILL wear the tiara I spent three days making" into her daughter's ear as the poor little thing tries to stash it in her brother's stroller because it is pinching her head?

Why do we do it, anyway? Dress our kids up and take them in public? To outcute the other kids, of course. To show off our felt and glitter skills. To hopefully get a picture that will win the $2,500 prize on We are Americans. We love junk food. We love to compete. We love to have fun. We love to pretend (in this case, that scary holidays are great for kids). We love to be social. Probably most of all, we just do what we have always done.

Kind of scary.

Happy Halloween!