Nov 2, 2009

Halloween: It lost something in translation

I can barely remember childhood Christmases or Easters. One Christmas stands out because it was the last before I moved to Norway at age 8; one Easter stands out because we ended up spending the day in the ER getting stitches put into my sister's forehead.

The holiday I remember best is Halloween. I always went as a witch, all in black with a pointy hat. I had no interest for skeletons or ghosts or vampires, and to this day I disdain any girl who shows up dressed as a princess. You know, looking pretty in pink. What's scary about that???

I was lucky: I had family members who could sew. One Halloween I had a gorgeous outfit because it was decorated with red tulle and sequins, and I wore a domino mask. I may not have been a scary witch but I was certainly no princess!

Carving pumpkins is a lot of fun, too. Sort of the grown-up version of playing with mud pies (oh, and don't throw the pumpkins innards down the kitchen sink; it'll clog) - and then you get to be creative.

One of my more adult Halloweens in California had me wearing a troll costume we'd made for a play our youth group had put on for our local Sons of Norway lodge. My then-boyfriend wore his, too. He was 6'4" (193 cm), and at one point we opened the door to a pair of sisters. My boyfriend started out with his head under my arm, but then he slowly stood up to his full height. The two girls screamed and fled in terror. I hollered after them if they didn't want any candy, and we heard from way down the block one little girl yell to the other, "Don't you want the candy?" The braver one came back. We didn't mean to scare them so, and did say so, but my goodness, did that whole episode symbolize what can be fun about Halloween!

So when the custom slowly started here in Norway a good decade ago, I happily opened my door to the first trick-or-treaters - only to be absolutely dismayed at the cheap, store-bought costumes. No effort made to make oneself look the scariest or the most convincing. I was so disappointed in how only the commercial side of the holiday had made it across the Atlantic that I stopped opening my door. Then the Norwegian kids egged my windows. I never experienced that, either, in the US, so it was another disappointment. They'd not only imported the plastic parts, but also the nasty parts.

Where's the effort to out-scare each other and run around being something you're not for one night? It's supposed to be a kids' holiday, one where we grown-ups take a backseat and let the children have safe fun playing spooky dress-up. I remember delighting in being dressed up with the other kids, and hopefully being scared by some grown-up (in a good way), but mainly intent on being the one who scares. The kids here put on whatever costume is popular this season, and ring a doorbell to get candy and that's it.

It's just not the same. And that's why I choose not to celebrate it here.

9 comments:

Protege said...

I loved reading this post. I think I can follow the sentiment behind the fact when the true traditions of a festival become obscured by the greed and the commercialism.
I really can not believe that the kids egged your windows, that is truly distasteful.
I wonder if you ever feel the urge to return to California for good, or do you feel Norwegian at this point?

Keera Ann Fox said...

I neither want to return to California nor do I feel Norwegian. I think I'll blog about that. :-)

~Tim said...

What a shame that it has been a disappointment to you. You got a good post out of it though!

alice said...

Even before I lost my mother on the eve of All Hallow's Eve, I had lost my taste for for Halloween. It hasn't been fun for me since I was at the trick-or-treating age. Since then, it's all just been commercialized and felt forced. We spend money on cheap, plastic costumes and foist a bunch of fat- and sugar-laden crap on our kids (who, if anyone is looking, can't afford the extra weight) and this is supposed to be FUN? No thanks. Bah, humbug.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Thanks, ~Tim! There's a huge debate in the online newspapers here in Norway about it. 80 % want it gone (there is an alternative dress-up-and-go-ring-doorbells tradition in Norway, on New Year's Eve that people still prefer). Their attitude matches Alice's.

Alice, do they have any Day of the Dead celebrations where you live? My Cal. friend found that to be a wonderful way to grieve after she lost her mother.

Soup Dragon said...

Keera, as you mention, Halloween is quite new here in Norway. You won't find many grandmothers or aunts or whatever who will spend time sewing costumes for this imported tradition. So indeed, this is a kids' holiday, they organize it themselves, and they will have to do with whatever old crap costume they can find or nag their parents into buying. And they have no parents guiding them in what to do and what not to do.

Personally, I have accepted that Halloween has come to stay. I stock up on candy, pop some popcorn, slice some carrots and wrap them up. I don't care about the costume. I just demand that everyone who come to my door must sing! Just a little children's song, whatever.

As for the eggs, I have reason to believe (ie. I have seen in my neighbourhood) that is mostly older delinquents who are just out to make trouble. They usually come around later in the evening. I fire up some 500W lamps outside, and find myself something to do in the yard or the garage, and they will just move on.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Soup Dragon, I've read that other Norwegians demand a song, too, before handing out the candy.

Unfortunately, I have no options where I live to either turn off the porch light as a signal, nor monitor the outdoors like you do. I figure the kids toss the eggs on my windows because I'm in a first floor apartment next to a path. I never noticed anyone doing that back in the States so it is both annoying and sad to experience it here.

I may have a change of heart next year. We'll see.

alice said...

I haven't been to one, but Emmie has always been a fan of the Day of the Dead, so I've heard a lot about it. I don't feel the need to grieve anymore, though. It's just (yet) another reason I don't really like halloween.

Keera Ann Fox said...

I sometimes think it would be wonderful to celebrate that I once knew some fantastic people. That's the allure of Day of the Dead for me.