I went to primary school in Romania where Halloween was surprisingly not completely ignored. Only a few years after the fall of Communism, there was a gradual influx of Western media thanks to illegal satellite dishes that people installed on their roofs. My dad had purchased a huge satellite dish when I was around 4 years old. I remember he always had to climb up to the attic to be able to reach the dish and move it towards the right signal. My mom then had to look at the TV screen and shout when she saw a clear image.
This way I grew up with MTV, CNN, Cartoon Network, German TV channels like Pro7 and RTL. I feel like my childhood was defined by these foreign yet familiar TV channels. I used to watch MTV nonstop. In the mid-90s, MTV was still music television and you could just put it on and it was like radio but with racy images. The occasional Real World or MTV News would offer some insight into American culture, but otherwise it was just me and Madonna, Simply Red and George Michael. My favorite video was Madonna’s Like a Prayer and Chris Isaac’s Wicked Games. It was pretty sexy.
I think I owe my knowledge of the English and German languages and that of American culture to TV. After school, I used to binge-watch classic American TV shows dubbed in German. Shows like Alf, The Cosby Show, The Simpsons, Roseanne, Married with Children, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Family Matters. The list goes on. I was really familiar with all of these characters and the lives they lead. It never once occurred to me that it is so far removed from my life.
So American celebrations such as Halloween were already in our collective consciousness. At school, we had a Halloween party where we dressed up. We didn’t really go Trick or Treating because older people didn’t really know it and didn’t really care. We didn’t bob for apples but we did carve pumpkins. So we distilled Halloween traditions that were easy for us to emulate.
My relationship with Halloween was quite personal since for a few years in my early teens, I thought I was a Wiccan. I was definitely influenced by Buffy and the Charmed sisters. Not to mention Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I made my own Book of Shadows, I recruited my eager yet ignorant younger best friend to play demons, vampires, evil witches that I could fight. She was never a winner, never one of the good guys. Maybe this is why we are not friends any more.
One game I made up was particularly cruel. I used to turn off the lights in my room, so that it was completely dark and I would come at her with a wooden “stake”. I would kick and pretend to do head rolls and vanquish her. Other games included, me being Special Agent Fox Mulder and her being boring Scully. We would walk out in the garden and I would pensively look up at the huge satellite dish on our rooftop and say in my best impersonation “The truth is out there”.
So anyways, Halloween is coming up and I was just reminiscing about the time I actually started celebrating Halloween and how it just petered out at some point. The occasional dress up during university felt a bit forced. It didn’t have the innocence of a child’s enthusiasm any longer. Besides, in the Netherlands, especially in the South, Carnival is a huge deal. University shuts down and there is a week of nonstop beer drinking in crazy costumes. Truly mad.
In two days I am going to a Halloween wedding. My boyfriend and I were pretty uninspired, didn’t want to spend a lot of money on costumes so we ended up going for a classic couple’s costume. Morticia and Gomes Addams. Apparently, I look like Anjelica Houston. My boyfriend is blonde and blue eyed, the opposite of Gomes. Also his demeanor is that of a Northern stoic and not that of a hot-blooded Latin oddball. So we’ll see how good of an actor he is.
I just wish sometimes that I was among people who love celebrating Halloween. It is really a celebration of the beginning of my favorite season! I love the eerie stories and spooky ambiance and don’t get me started on all the great movies!
So I hope that you guys will all have a spooky Halloween and don’t forget that it’s not only an American tradition, for there are little girls and boys all across the world who like to dress up as witches and goblins and hope that one day they can go Trick or Treating just like those kids in the movies.