Back home in the US, October is one of my favorite months. Not only because it is my birthday month, but also because the weather starts cooling down a little, and we get a promise of a few colder weeks ahead after a super long hot summer. Near the end of the month, my boys and I usually gather at my brother’s house with pumpkins to carve; we’ve been doing it since before the boys were born. We show up with a pumpkin per person, some wine, and Chris always has a pot of butternut squash soup on the stove. If we’re being honest here, I come more for the soup than the pumpkin carving (my artistic skills are slim). We typically spend Halloween together as well, letting our collective four boys run amuck, begging friendly neighbors for candy and trying to eat it all when our backs are turned. Often the neighbors on my street also host a pre-trick or treat party on the street with Halloween snacks, drinks, and treats. To me, all of this is the prologue to the holiday season ahead and I truly look forward to it every year.
We’ve known since we moved here that, while Halloween is catching on in Europe, the Netherlands, and Maastricht, it isn’t as big of a thing here as it is back home in the US. That being said, we were told to still put the boys in costumes and let them wander around the neighborhood when the time came.
When I was recently in Sweden earlier this month with Melissa, I came home to Halloween decorated kitchen windows. Normally we find those “window clings” and let the boys put them in our windows back home. Not finding any, Josh was determined to make things festive, and he drew and had the boys cutout all the pumpkins, ghosts and bats! I was so impressed and the boys were very proud. If any of our neighbors had questions before, I think it is pretty obvious now that we are Americans 😉
A couple of weeks ago, our international school had a gathering at one of our favorite restaurant/playgrounds, Villa Kanjel, where we all brought pumpkins and carved them. Being American, we’d found some huge pumpkins and had to borrow Melissa’s car (again) to get ourselves and pumpkins to the event. There were so many families, it was great to see so many people there – some carving their very first pumpkins ever. Many were perhaps smarter than us, choosing smaller pumpkins. This year our boys actually stuck around and did most of the work themselves, instead of leaving it all to the parents. They did a great job. We hung around a while after to chat with the parents and the restaurant even served pumpkin soup. It wasn’t a cozy night on my brother’s back porch with his soup and our family members, but it was still a fun time and made me look forward to the holidays a little more.
Halloween arrived the day after we returned from Italy. We’d been so busy with several back to back trips that we’d not done too much else to be ready. We convinced the boys that investing in costumes for a “holiday” that not many participate in here seemed silly, so they agreed to don their baseball pants, hats, and shirts and go as American baseball players. We headed out shortly after 6pm when it was already dark (upon the advice of one of my new neighbors) and walked around the corner to ring the bell of the 2 neighbors who told me they would be home and to send the boys over. We assumed we’d only get a couple of houses to visit before calling it a night, but it was worth doing.
Light rain started as we headed out and as we turned the corner, there were a gaggle of young kids and moms in front of Tina and George’s house, my Austrian neighbors I met the day I knocked on doors and put cards through the mail slots. We all said hello and the boys excitedly got candy. I immediately noticed that the other moms were handing candy to Tina and George as well. “Interesting,” I thought, and then they turned and all handed us candy! A little confused, we headed to the next neighbor’s house and all the kids got candy, and the other moms once again handed over candy to the neighbor.
I introduced myself to these moms and discerned that they also all lived nearby, some knowing Melissa, but none of them Dutch. We walked with them to another handful of houses, the kids knowing to only ring the doorbell of houses with a lit pumpkin outside or some other sort of decoration in the window. These houses were the minority in our neighborhood for sure, but still enough to make it a fun night. At each house the moms/kids continued the handing of candy over to the people who were handing out candy to the kids.
The rain started coming down a little harder and the boys agreed we should call it a night. They had gotten more candy than they anticipated and I think enjoyed the challenge of trying to find the right houses to “ring”. I said my goodbyes, hoping that I’d see these families again in the neighborhood and we might remember each other.
Before you think the boys had a kind of boring/quiet Halloween…they did get to wear their “costumes” again to school the next day where there was a bake sale and Halloween party – so I think they’re just fine 🙂
The dressing up part of Halloween has never been my favorite thing. My kids went a couple of years not wanting to wear any costume, even if they’d picked it out in the store. I’ve also cringed in the past at how much candy comes home with the kids, knowing how much sugar they don’t need and how much I’ll end up throwing away. BUT the community aspect of it has always been appealing to me and I’m glad I got to experience a little bit of it tonight.