Candy? Check. Pumpkin? Check. I’m all ready for Halloween. As a new immigrant to Canada 30-odd years ago, determined to “become Canadian,” I embraced this new and exotic celebration but didn’t always get it quite right.
Soon after arriving I was invited to attend a Halloween party. What fun! I looked in my closet to see what I could use as the basis for a costume and my eyes immediately fell on my traditional English duffel coat. Perfect. I would be Paddington Bear. But what I’d overlooked was that this classic British children’s story was almost unknown this side of the pond. I spent most of the evening explaining who I was to everyone I met.
You really would’ve thought I’d learn from this experience. But no, a few years later I did it again, this time dressing up as Noddy. “Are you an elf?” the children who came to the door asked. I was crushed. What kind of deprived upbringing had these poor Canadian children had?
When we moved to Azerbaijan, I was determined to share this important part of North American culture with the local students who visited me once a week to practice their conversational English. All went well as I described the dressing up, candy and pumpkins. My mistake was to try and explain some of the ancient beliefs behind the celebration. As I started to talk about spirits rising and walking the earth I could see them eyeing each other nervously and shifting in their seats. What kind of voodoo was this crazy Kanadka promoting?
Despite my best efforts it seems I really haven’t MASTERED Halloween. How well have you adapted to celebrations in your new country?