Every year, during Halloween season, my kids ask: "What are we doing for Halloween? Can we dress up? Can we go 'Trick or Treating'?"
And, every year, we say: "Sorry, but, we don't really celebrate Halloween here in Australia."
But, even though we tell the kids that Halloween is not really an Australian holiday, it has become increasingly harder to resist to let them celebrate it in their own way. A couple of times, the husband was convinced to carve Jack O'Lanterns (something he never did as an Englishman, of course!). Some years, we let the kids dress up at home and they go around pretending they're 'Trick or Treating' by knocking on our door and we give them lollies or chocolates as treats.
Today, we didn't even really think about Halloween. There were no pumpkins to be carved. My older kid, the boy, was off to an overnight school camp for the second time (sigh). His first camp was last year.
But, when the girl came home with her dad after her second squash lesson, she saw kids walking around in our neighbourhood, in costumes, Trick or Treating. Granted, there weren't a lot. But still, they were there for her to see.
So, as soon as she got home, she begged me to help her dress up. So, we looked for dress-up clothes and settled on her pink princess costume. Then, we accessorised.
Of course, she wanted to go out and do 'Trick or Treating' too but hubby and I said no. It just wasn't what we do in Australia, we reminded her. So, she asked for the usual compromise: Just knock on our door to say 'Trick or Treat' and she gets another sweetie. We said okay. We did the thing. Everyone was happy.
Then, I had the bright idea to exercise (!*) while waiting for dinner, as hubby offered to cook. My girl being my self-appointed 'exercise coach and trainer' (her words, not mine!), I asked her: Should we stay in and do Dance Central on the Xbox or go for a walk in the neighbourhood?
My daughter/exercise coach-trainer said we can do Dance Central. But, the connection on our screen was too patchy. So, she said: "Well, it looks like we might have to go for a walk instead." I said okay and off we went.
As we were walking, we noticed a family out for a walk. They had two girls with them, one a baby in a pram and the other, a cute girl in a fairy outfit. My daughter was the one who pointed them out and wondered out loud if the girl was out 'Trick or Treating'. While we were discussing that, we saw a couple of other groups of kids in costumes.
Yes, out 'Trick or Treating'.
"Oh mum! I really want to do it! I really want to go 'Trick or Treating' too! Can we? Can we, please? Please?" she started pleading again.
I just shrugged and said "We'll see." She didn't even have a bag or a container with her.
When we came to a part of the road that separated in to two different streets, I asked her which street to take. She opted to follow the same street that the little girl in a fairy costume with her family took.
And, when the girl stopped at a house to knock on someone's door, my daughter looked at me again and said: "Can I go and knock with her too?"
You see what she did there? That's what I get for giving birth to a smart kid.
I relented and said yes.
Luckily, the couple with the girl were very friendly. When they overheard us talking about my daughter joining their girl, they actually called their girl and encouraged her to take my daughter with her. They joined forces excitedly. And suddenly, the two shy girls who were too afraid to knock on doors to start with had an ally. Instant friendship.
Coincidentally, I found out that the couple were of Philippine heritage too. Another bonus talking point that helped us to bond.
So, together, the girls knocked on about a dozen or so houses around our local area. Happy to be handed out lollies in some houses. A bit disappointed when no one came to the door. Or when they were told that they didn't celebrate Halloween - or had nothing to give them. They were talking like good friends. It was tough to get them to accept that the 'Trick or Treating' had to end. The 'last house' ended up about 2 or 3 houses later. But, at least they ended on a high note.
We exchanged Facebook details and addresses and offered to organise a play date some time so the girls can see each other again. They were so pleased.
And, any parent would probably agree that there's no better sight than to see your kid ecstatic.
So yeah, we don't really usually celebrate Halloween.
But, today, as we met new friends, knocked on doors and saw happy faces, met neighbours, said hello to other people in our area for the first time... It was quite a feeling. Like you're a part of something. A community.
It reminded me of the years I spent with my family and extended family, visiting the graves of our departed loved ones every 31st October/1st November. Or the years I spent with my siblings, cousins, and friends, knocking on doors, singing Christmas carols, asking for donations in our neighbourhood during Christmas season.
My kids never had those experiences. In fact, living on our own here in Adelaide, with no immediate or extended family nearby, we've pretty much learned to keep to ourselves.
That's why even the non-Halloween celebration part of me has been taken 'Trick or Treating' only by accident, I must say: It was one of the nicest moments I've had with my daughter in our neighbourhood.
And, if we can do that only once a year, then yeah, I guess I'd be happy to embrace Halloween as part of our Aussie life finally.
* More on this exercise thing at a later blog post!