November 2, 2009

Local customs

I wasn't sure whether people did Halloween here, so I wasn't really sure what we should do - get Liam all excited, only to discover that none of our neighbors is expecting trick-or-treaters? Keep it quiet, and then feel like the boringest parents ever when all the other kids at Kindergarten have costumes? There weren't a lot of pumpkins in the grocery stores, so when we saw a good-looking one we grabbed it. Liam did not want to help scoop out the inside, but he was pretty excited to draw a face on the pumpkin and pop out the little pieces after I cut them.

We've dressed Liam up for Halloween before, first in a little pirate costume we bought (and then used as pajamas for months - arr, sleepy pirate), and the next year I made him a hooded sweater with ears and a tail and called it a puppy costume, and he wore that for a long time too. In early October I was trying to think of something I could make in time, and I had a short list together: we have doctor dress-up stuff, or I could buy a black hoodie and fuzzy white fabric and make a skunk costume, or maybe I could make a spider costume? On a whim, I asked Liam what he wanted to dress up as, and he immediately said "a Christmas tree!" It's a great idea, easy to make from stuff we have, visually clear, and potentially confusing for the kids at Kindergarten who weren't expecting Christmas to start for a while yet.

We put our pumpkin outside with a candle in it, opened our front gate, set out a few more candles (since we can't figure out how to make our porch light stay on), and lo and behold, we got trick-or-treaters! They were mostly groups of little kids with a couple of adults, and they'd crowd up our steps and shout "Suesses, sonst gib'ts Saures" (basically "treat or trick"), then happily bounce off with their candy to the next house. Once I knew there were kids going around our neighborhood in costumes, I took Liam out, and it turned out that we'd done exactly the right thing in putting our pumpkin and candles outside: every other house in our neighborhood was either buttoned up tight or had put out a pumpkin and candles as an invitation. People were really nice, and though Liam was initially a little shy about knocking on people's doors and then talking to them, once he got the idea that they would give him candy, he was all for it.

Even though we've been here a full year, there are always new surprises, things we expect but don't happen, or things that are so obvious to the locals that they aren't mentioned, and then we're left to scramble. We've been surprised by Reunification Day (at the beginning of October) two years in a row now, because everyone knows about that (so nobody needs to remind you it's coming up). We've gotten better at improvising on unexpected holidays (when every shop in town is closed), but I still feel the American calendar more strongly than the German calendar. Anyone want to come over for Thanksgiving?

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