Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What's Halloween?

Halloween is the first major American holiday that we've spent overseas. While it's not unheard of in Malaysia, I can definitely attest that it's not the major, major event that it is in America. There was a smallish display at the grocery store stocked with super expensive imported candy ($22 for 55 fun-size pieces) and an assortment of devil's pitchforks, witch hats and fairy wings. Not a single licensed character costume was in sight. No Disney princesses, no superheroes, nada.

I had hoped that we could jump into some other expat's established Halloween celebration, but I heard a lot of "Well, we tried something last year and it didn't really work out." If you think about it, trick-or-treating involves a community. For Thanksgiving or Christmas, we can host a celebration and invite people over. But for Halloween, you have to convince others to open their doors to you.

Luckily for me, my friend who's also a newcomer to Penang decided to organize something. We found ourselves having to actually explain Halloween. One Australian friend asked, "What exactly do you do? What do you hand out? What do the kids wear?" When you have to lay out all the details (kiddos in costumes hyped up on free candy), it sounds a little crazy. Thank goodness a few other families decided to join us in our night of madness.

How many kids can you cram in an elevator?

A friend told me that she used to go Guising on Halloween as a kid growing up in Scotland. There, a simple "Trick or Treat!" would not do. Kids had to sing a song, tell a joke, or say a poem to earn their candy. I kind of like that tradition.

Since running to Costume City or Target was not an option, we made our own costumes. I haven't figured out where a craft or fabric store is, so we had to use whatever materials we could scavenge from around the house. What's the best way to handle this? I delegated it all to my dear hubby. ("Hey Andy, I'm going shopping. Oh, and by the way, do you mind making the kids' costumes while I'm gone?" And then I quickly slipped out the door.) He did a great job. Maria's costume was kluged together from a Tae Kwon Do jacket and paper pockets attached with safety pins. Brad offered up his prescription glasses for her to wear.

Dr. Fennel from Pokemon Black and White

Brad had wings made of cardboard from our many shipping boxes. He spent the entire evening making sure he didn't poke some little kid in the eye.

Pokemon Latios and a Poke Trainer

Clark had the easiest costume of them all.

Cowboy Tex

When you live in a high-rise condo tower, trick-or-treating takes some logistical planning, especially if you have a security card that only accesses your floor. I jokingly suggested they should walk up all 32 flights of stairs. Instead, we crammed 25 kids plus a few parents into the 2 elevators and went around as one big group. The kids were at my door for all of 3 minutes, and I was done with handing out treats for the evening. After visiting the 8 or so condos that handed out candy, we all gathered to have a Halloween dinner together. For once, my kids don't have the hordes of candy that comes from visiting 20+ houses, but they still had a ton of fun.

This post is part of Friday Daydreamin' at R We There Yet Mom? Check it out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.


  1. I never thought about how many other countries do not celebrate Halloween--well celebrate in the sense that people from the USA celebrate it. Goodness, I can imagine how quirky it sounds as we try to explain it to other--you see, we dress up and then knock on strangers' doors and ask for candy. Ooh that just sounds bizarre and dangerous. I am happy that you and the kids were able to celebrate :)

  2. I didn't think other countries didn't celebrate it either - but I am so glad y'all found a way around it and the kids had a good time!!

    Thanks for linking up!

  3. Actually made me feel a bit nostalgic for my childhood when we had to use some creativity and cobble together costumes from whatever was around the house rather than heading out to buy something ready made. Sounds like a fun celebration was had by all!!


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