Halloween is a wonderful time. My favorite part of Halloween was always being able to run loose with my friends at night without any boring adults there to dampen the atmosphere. Few people were such avid trick-or-treaters as I. I even trick-or-treated right up until I was seventeen, the year when I dressed as Harry Potter and my best friend was my partronus (well, she was dressed as a zebra so it wasn’t exactly what you would call “true to the story” but close enough). This is why I feel it is important to share this story with the world (or at least fans of Womengineer!).
Last Monday, while I was sitting home alone in the drizzly, pre-winter Swedish darkness, I heard a knock on my door. Last time someone knocked on my door that late, it was the guy from Radiotjänsten and I was educated about a tax that I didn’t even know could exist (a tax for having a television in the U.S. would probably result in mass demonstrations and wild, uncontrolled rioting). Opening the door, I discovered two girls, lounging in the stairwell, looking slightly bored. At my expectant look, they said “Bus eller godis” (“trick or treat”, if there’s anyone reading this who doesn’t speak Swedish), in voices nearly as unenthusiastic as their demeanor.
At this moment, I was shocked—what should I do? It was the 28th of October, and apart from a little blood painted on the edges of their mouths, their dress was casual. What was the appropriate response? Was it “It’s not even Halloween—Halloween is on the 31st!” or “You need to at least have costumes to get candy!” or “Sorry, but I forgot that it was Halloween because I’m past the age when I myself can go trick-or-treating, which is really what Halloween is all about”. In the end, I just said we didn’t have any candy.
This is a wonderful example of something that is of constant confusion and interest to me in Sweden. People know so much about American culture here, small details that I would never expect people who had never been to the U.S. to know about, for example that everyone called Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger “the Governator”, or that there’s a comical tv show about my home town (Portlandia) that’s almost completely based on the somewhat-true stereotype of Portland as the hipster-haven of the U.S.. On the other hand, simple things such as what day Halloween is celebrated on or the proper attire for trick-or-treating (i.e., a costume), disappear somewhere along the journey from the other side of the pond.
As shocked as I am by the general disinterest in which day Halloween is celebrated on (the key here seems to be that it is celebrated some time between the 28th and the 1st of November), I really do enjoy these kinds of differences. It reminds me that I’m living in a different country, and that there’s still a lot to learn!