UDLAP Note: In this essay, Stephanie Stott shows how Halloween celebrations change through time. She explains how it is as a child, then as a young adult. She reflects upon the changes of childhood traditions to not-so-common parties, and how the feeling of the whole festivity transforms through different stages of life. Here in Mexico we share the same Halloween vibe, although it is mostly during our childhood. Even though it has the same name, it is not the same. This holiday is not as organized as in the US. Everyone celebrates it as they want (or understand). You can see little kids on the streets of Mexico going trick-or-treating–or as we called it, pedir calaverita–for more than three days! Halloween here is not just a one-day holiday, it can transform into a weekend or a whole week celebration. As kids, we like to go trick-or-treating and later, eating candy. We also love Halloween decorations and all things spooky. But as an adult it is less about the candies and more about the parties. Halloween parties in Mexico are dress-up parties as well, but they don’t have the same meaning, as most of us don’t take the effort to make an elaborate costume. It is just a perfect excuse to party. You could call it cliché, but Mexicans never lose a chance to party.

 

Author Stephanie Stott–or here, Wednesday Addams (photo courtesy the author).

There’s only one day in America when it’s socially acceptable to dress up as a banana and beg for candy—October 31st.

Though I never dressed up as a piece of fruit (and always opted for a princess, witch, or queen of hearts), I was prepared to knock on strangers’ doors and demand they fork over a Kit-Kat. For most kids growing up in the United States, Halloween is a cherished holiday laden with sugar, face-paint, and fairy wings. As a 21-year-old, the excitement from this particular festivity has evaporated substantially. But, considering I’ve celebrated this event since I was a baby, I have plenty of memories to reminisce about.

In order to have a successful Halloween, you have to acquire the essentials: a show-stopping costume, heart-pounding decorations, and delicious candy. Weeks before Halloween descended on our town, my mother and I would hop in the car and cruise to Walmart, heading for the discount costumes. Being the third child in a set of triplets, I’ve endured some rather ridiculous ensembles (my first Halloween, my mother dressed my siblings and I as three peas in a pod). But Halloween is a form of expressing oneself, and as most American kids do, I demanded to dress up however I wished. I was Cinderella one year, a zombie princess the next. That’s the heart of Halloween, the fun of it—concocting your own costumes, no matter how strange or unsightly. 

Not wanting to spend too much on candy, my mother normally went to Dollar Tree—where all items retail at $1.00. She always returned with M&Ms and Hershey’s kisses—and tucked them away in a cupboard, so my father couldn’t snack on them before the big day.

Next, our front yard got a makeover…a rather ghoulish one. My mother and I threaded cobwebs in the trees as my father strung spiders from the branches. We staked foam tombstones in the ground and placed a plastic skeleton over the front door. One year, we assembled a fake scarecrow, stuffing his legs with newspaper and hay and using my father’s old clothing for his costume. At first, my father wasn’t impressed, but as we sat the prop on our front porch, he eventually warmed up to the idea. 

Our front yard seemed rather mish-mashed during the day. But at night, under the glow of artificial lighting, it looked quite terrifying—which, of course, was the goal. 

At last, October 31st rolled around. My siblings and I ate a quick dinner, saving room for as much candy as we could. Then, we raced out the front door, pumpkin-shaped baskets in hand. Though we were excited, we were guided by two rules: always remain with a parent, and never eat unwrapped candy. 

But rules are the furthest thing from a kid’s mind on Halloween. My siblings and I bravely marched up to our neighbors, some old friends, some practically strangers. We knocked on their doors and said the magic words that will get any adult, no matter how grumpy, to deposit a goodie in your bag: “trick or treat?”

And though parading around town in witch hats and frilly costumes was amazing, the true fun came once it was time to go home. We flooded the kitchen counter with our riches, shaking out our baskets until every last piece was accounted for. We sorted our treasure into sections: Hershey’s, Dove, and Twix dominated the “keep” pile, while our father gladly ate whatever we shoved into the “toss” pile (Twizzlers, Smarties, and Tootsie Rolls). 

As an adult, I look upon those memories fondly. Though most Halloweens were hot and muggy—and would have been more enjoyable with a breeze or two—they were always a success. 

Now that I’m 21, well past the age of Cinderella slippers and cowgirl costumes, I’ve moved on. I’ve traded trick or treating for more age-appropriate activities. Last year marked my first official Halloween party—a hallmark for all young adults. Dressed as Wednesday Addams, I pulled a cap over my hair, braided a black wig, and hit St. Petersburg’s streets with my best friend. 

Wind funneled around the corners, buffeting our dresses, pinwheeling my braids. Still, we arrived, clutching our purses to our sides and laughing as we took in the scene. We expected the party to be inside with a strobe light dance floor. Instead, the celebration was happening outside the building. 

Four DJs were hard at work around the venue, bobbing about to…silence. In fact, everyone was dancing in the quiet. A few people passed by us on the sidewalk, watching Freddy Krueger, the Kool-Aid Man, and a few Ghostbusters break it down without a beat. From the confused looks on their faces, they had no clue what to make of the display.

It took me a moment to realize the clunky 90s-looking headphones strapped to their skulls produced music—for their ears alone. With a touch of a dial on the left side, the partygoers switched between four different music stations: rap, old school rock, 80s classics, current favorites. The party’s name—Silent Disco—suddenly made a lot more sense.

Five hours later, the music faded away. The DJs packed up their spinning records, we took off our headsets, and made the trek back to the parking lot. I couldn’t help but dissect this Halloween and compare it to the other specimens of years past. I went from knocking on doors and scarfing down candy to attending the city’s most unique All Hallow’s Eve party. 

That last experience was certainly…different. One to look upon with joy. But there’s something about the true Halloween. The one with the eerie decor, the chocolate—the one from my childhood, that I will always appreciate the most.