I’m American but now I live in Europe with my family. We built our house in hubby’s hometown and our three kiddos were born here (they are 6, 3 and 1, and please, hold your applause). I really do love so many things about our little slice of pastoral paradise, but when October rolls around I always get a little bit homesick.
It’s funny because I’m from Los Angeles and people here have a hard time believing I prefer Europe. But what I’m homesick for is not the beaches or the mountains or the food or the music or the arts (all of which are awesome, don’t get me wrong), but that little holiday Americans love. Oh Halloween.
It’s just that people here don’t really get it, and that’s fine. I don’t think everyone should celebrate Halloween, there’s no reason to import American culture to the point that you can find plastic jack-o-lanterns in any village shop in Central Europe. It’s not about that, but more about the fact that I’m nostalgic for the magic of Halloween, especially now that I have kids myself. But my kids don’t really get Halloween, never having done it in America. They still love it, though! What’s not to love?
But it’s hard to be a 4-person Halloween party when the next day is a very sombre day of mourning and reflection, and also a national holiday. So, I have to keep our Halloween enthusiasm contained a bit. And anyway, I’ve got so much going on that often everyone is a pirate because really nothing is easier than a white shirt, cuffed jeans and a striped bandana, right? The baby gets a parrot stuffed animal and we’re golden. Plus, frantic midnight hot gluing a ladybug costume is not really my thing, especially when the kid won’t even wear it for more than 2 minutes!
Despite my yearning for the Halloweens of my youth, I really can appreciate the many things my kids experience here that I never had as a kid.
Seasonally appropriate example: decorative gourds grown in my own huge garden. So these are brightly colored, oddly shaped squash that grow like weeds in the back of our backyard. Mostly orange and yellow with bands of green hues ranging from pale mint to dark emerald, and covered with bumps and ridges, these gourds are so pretty and somehow just beg to be touched, because the texture is so appealing.
My kids love anything we grow in the garden anyway (another thing I love about our life here, call me a Crunchy Mom, I don’t even care), but the squash in particular is amazing.
Last year, I bought a few from the local fruit stand and my then-5-year-old daughter immediately stole one from its spot on the dining table centrepiece and put it in her room. First, she put some headbands on it and accessorized it with hairclips and other random junk. Then she put doll clothes on it. And later she even made a bed for the little squash out of a handkerchief and some doll blankets, but then later she moved the whole thing into her bed and slept with it for like, a week straight. Your kids do weird things too, right?
This year we planted the seeds of last year’s surprisingly beloved decorative squash and recently harvested eighteen gorgeous gourds. The kids were so excited! A lot of them got googly eyes glued on them and were donated to my daughters’ kindergarten harvest festival, but a few are going to stay with us to remind me (in particular) that it’s okay if I can’t recreate the traditions from my past., because together my children and I are making new traditions that they will cherish one day. So we don’t carve jack-o-lanterns, but instead play dress-up with the decorative gourds. Why not?