Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cross-cultural Halloween

This was our first Halloween (post-child) that we haven't spent visiting family in USA.

The first year our 11 month old went trick-or-treating in her grandmother's neighborhood dressed as a monkey. This was the remnants of an idea I had where the Slovak would dress up as a pirate and the baby would sit on his shoulder dressed as a parrot or, in Pirates of the Caribbean style, a monkey.

As it turned out I had my work cut out for me just convincing him to go out with us trick or treating, much less dress up himself. It was an uphill battle, but I like to think my rhetoric won the day:

Slovak: There is no way my child is putting on some freakish outfit and going around to strangers' houses.
Me: It's just Halloween; we did it when we were kids and it was fun.
Slovak: It's a bizarre American custom that I'm having no part of.
Me: But you love all the other American customs. You're more American than me sometimes. Why declare war this one?
Slovak: Yes, well, this is one step too far.
Me: How exactly is this different from Mikuláš? People dress up in freakish outfits and you get candy.
Slovak: That's different! Mikuláš is a TOTALLY NORMAL thing to do. Halloween is not normal.

(He grudgingly agrees to walk with us and observe, if not participate. We come back after one block and examine our haul.)

Slovak: Um, Halloween is awesome. Look at this candy!!!


OK, maybe not a victory for my persuasive skills...but chocolate speaks for itself.

The next year, we all dressed up! At almost two, K already knew about pirates (is still very into pirates, in fact), so we dressed up as a family of pirates. The Slovak put up a good show of not intending to dress up for several months in advance, but kept coming up with suggestions for how to make his pirate costume. I read between the lines and decided he didn't mind too much. When his costume got compliments at all the houses we went to (he looked very rakish and pirately) he perked up even more.

Sadly, the night ended early when K got excited (got into the spirit after a few houses), took off running and fell flat into a mud hole she couldn't see in the dark. It was an interesting addition to the costume, but we calmed her down and took her home. We were all jet-lagging anyway, since we had flown from UK the day before. Had to wake K up to get her ready in the first place!


This year, at almost three, K and her Apo dressed as Charlie and Lola. He wore a baseball shirt with CHARLIE written on the front (internet design your own shirt shop!) and she wore an outfit like the ones Lola often wears and put butterfly hairclips in her hair. A little girl dressing up as another little girl doesn't have far to go, costume-wise.

We were concerned that we wouldn't find any Halloween parties or trick-or-treating events, since it obviously isn't celebrated in this country (see the Slovak's distrustful attitude above), but I hoped that some expat group would have planned something. In the end some friends tipped us off that in a certain neighborhood on the outskirts of Prague, mostly populated by foreigners, they have trick-or-treating every year!

It was the most surreal experience. The neighborhood is new, so it was prefabricated (but huge) houses laid out like an American suburb. Hundreds of trick-or-treaters dressed up in a wide array of costumes. Every third house decorated for Halloween, some people sitting outside their houses, dressed up and giving out candy. It was like being instantly transported to America, except...I heard Hebrew, French, Spanish, German and English at least. English as a native language and English as a foreign language. Oh, and even some Czech. Prompting the following exchange at a Czech house:

Me and K: Dobrý večer, trick or treat! (good evening)
Czech lady: Dobrý večer, Happy Halloween!
Me and K: Děkujeme, na shledanou! (Thank you, bye!)
Czech lady: Na shledanou! (Bye!)

Now there's a conversation I never thought I'd have.

(Another conversation I never thought I'd have: serious consultation with husband re spelling of na shledanou. Space or no space? Neither of us was sure! Not because we can't write, but because you never write that word down: you just say it! I am fairly sure that some people write it all together but that a space is, in fact, correct.)

K had a fun time trick-or-treating, though she had a hard time with the idea of dressing up as someone else. Kept telling me, "I not Lola! I K! Apo not Charlie! He's Apo!" She also likes to say things like, "I not cute, I K!" "I not naughty, I K!" I'm thinking she has a very strong sense of self.

Happy late Halloween!

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post. for us we say Dobra vecer.(good evening)
    I love reading how your daughter is adapting as I often think how my own child will adapt when we move back to the states after living overseas for almost 2 years.
    and happy belated thanksgiving!



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