I grew up in Maleny, Australia on the side of a mountain, in a very beautiful but rather isolated area. Trick or treating was just not feasible. I knew little of Halloween apart from that it was “big in America” and was aware that kids dressed up and went door to door. I think when I moved to Brisbane as a young adult, I may have gone to one or two Halloween parties but was never really “into it”. We lived in Australia while the children were young but I don’t remember really observing it beyond maybe some cute crafts or something at daycare.
When I first moved to the Netherlands in the early 2000’s, I don’t remember Halloween being observed. However the last few years, as our children have grown, it’s become a part of our annual family calendar here in The Hague and seems to (becoming) quite popular. This could possibly be because of a commercial push (Action had an entire Halloween catalogue, Xenos always has a Halloween section and even Hema gives it a push) but it seems Halloween is becoming more widely adopted in the Netherlands as this 2015 Nu.nl article describes (in Dutch). They certainly already have the pumpkin supply part sorted, with lots of different varieties available at this time of year.
When we moved back from Australia to the Netherlands in 2011, I was actually quite “anti-Halloween”. If you’ve read previous blog posts such as my 2013 post about Kinderpostzegels, I hate people knocking on my door. I didn’t like or understand the creepy Halloween costumes, and the “evil” scary side of it all. With very young children, I was worried it would frighten them and wanted to protect them from this. Beyond that, I thought “it’s not a Dutch or Australian thing” and just didn’t want to take part. However, now I have totally changed my mind. (also about the Kinderpostzegels by the way but that’s another story!)
So here’s why I now celebrate Halloween:
1. My kids want to
The girls are now 7 & 9 years old and this year and last, looked forward to Halloween literally for months. It’s something they talk about with their friends at school, though I keep meaning to check whether it’s actually something discussed in the Dutch school curriculum. Both girls, of their own initiative, planned their own costumes, practiced face paint and counted down the days this year. “Don’t you find it too scary?” I asked them, to be answered with a resounding “NO!” from my youngest. She is a Minecraft fan and quite happily rattles off sentences which include words like “flesh eating zombies” or something like that. She’s also slightly obsessed with vampires are the moment. On one hand, it (briefly) worries me. However taking into account that she otherwise seems a perfectly happy, healthy little girl, I’m going to not worry and just go with it. My eldest was actually slightly more hesitant and is a bit more emotional in general, but even she was keen to dress up as a witch. I could overanalyse it all but in general, I think it’s a fairly healthy outlet for them to explore and play out some of their fears and fantasies. And for whatever reason, they simply find it fun. I do think that next year, I will take some time to research a bit more about the history and story behind Halloween and discuss this with them as well.
2. My husband wants to
When you marry someone from another culture, it’s kind of hard to get the same perspectives and enthusiasm for various annual celebrations. My Dutch husband grew up with Sinterklaas, Sint Martin and Koningsdag for example, that bring back fond memories for him and which he’d now like to recreate for his children. He didn’t grow up celebrating Halloween but he finds joy in celebrating it with his daughters. It’s actually him that decorates the house, organises the snoepjes/candy/sweets (whatever you want to call them!) and delights in trick or treating with the girls. So if he wants to, who am I to stand in the way? And it’s even more fun when we make it a whole family thing. Next year, I’m going to try to make him actually wear a costume though instead of just scary gloves & a hood. Any suggestions on what I could transform an almost 2 metre tall Dutch man into? (even if just for Halloween)!
3. I have several friends who celebrate
Living in an international community in The Hague/Delft means that I have friends of several nationalities and quite a few American friends. They grew up with Halloween and I absolutely love the effort they put into organising costumes, food, decorations and parties. I am consciously raising Global Citizens and if I can celebrate with friends who come from cultures that embrace a certain celebration that my family and I can be part of – I’m in! Each year, Delft Mama organises an awesome Halloween party and I’m also getting to know some American friends in my neighbourhood who totally rock Halloween! Not only that, I now have a few Dutch friends that have wholeheartedly adopted the tradition as well, so it’s becoming something we look forward to doing together each year.
4. It brings our neighbourhood community together
This is my absolute favourite part. Two years ago, we bought a house in De Bras neighbourhood, which lies in a lovely area between Delft & The Hague. Turns out, it’s one that really “gets into” Halloween! We have a great neighbourhood association who organise a “tent” each year with drinks, snacks and essentially a location for people to come together. I loved running into friends there tonight and simply enjoying the atmosphere (even though I was too busy taking photos to actually grab some mulled wine!) Then, we spent about an hour and a half walking around the neighbourhood and it’s so much fun discovering surprises in each street. The neighbourhood association came up with a system where you can put a flyer in your window if you’re taking part in the trick or treat, but it’s usually pretty obvious by the decorations and lights outside the houses participating. We trick or treated from about 6pm-7.30pm and I heard kids out there until about 8/8.30pm. Things have pretty much wound down and as I type this the neighbourhood is quiet again by 9pm. We decorate our house and buy a bowl of sweets and meet friends at our place, then walk with the kids for a while, then my husband came home earlier to hand out sweets (and scare kids by jumping out!). Some of our neighbours really go all out and though I’ve only taken part twice now, it has been a great opportunity to talk to new people I haven’t met before as well as say hello to other neighbours.
5. I need to have some more fun
I have always been a fairly serious and conservative person, and currently juggle work, study and parenting. As I get older (I’ve passed the big 40 now!) I’m learning that life can be and should be FUN! My girls have been awesome teachers in this respect, and I’m getting better at just letting go and having some fun (even if I do over analyse it later in a blog post!). I must admit I didn’t make a huge effort with my outfit this year, and “dressing up” for the past few years has pretty much revolved around my favourite medieval dresses I’ve worn several times now to the Abbey Medieval Festival.
I did buy an awesome mask this year though and teamed this with a cool necklace I haven’t worn for ages and a black dress I hadn’t yet found an occasion to wear. Despite the fact I didn’t really have any idea what exactly I was dressed as, it didn’t seem to bother anyone and I had fun! What should I dress as next year?
It was also fun to walk around the neighbourhood in the dark, it’s starting to get quite cold at night but how cool do these autumn leaves look at night!
So that is a very detailed analysis of why I now celebrate Halloween! Do you? Why/Why not?