Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween in Carrasco, Uruguay!

Today is Halloween, and here in Uruguay we were not really sure what to expect.

At first, we just assumed that Halloween was basically an American thing so it wouldn't really be happening here, or if it did happen here it would be very limited.

Then we started seeing Halloween stuff at stores.  Mainly, just at grocery stores.  The bigger the grocery store, the bigger the Halloween section, buuuut it's still almost nothing.  So, the giant superstore (called, of course, Geant) had a few islands in the middle of the store with about 5 or 6 very cheap costumes in assorted sizes, some fake fangs maybe, and a couple islands with what appeared to be Halloween candy.  Regular grocery stores carry less than that.  Everywhere else, it seems as if Halloween doesn't exist.

I haven't noticed any pumpkins or jack-o-lanterns.  I was thinking about that, though, and I wonder if it may have to do with the difference of seasons.  In the United States, Halloween occurs in the fall, right after summer, when things (like pumpkins) are being harvested.  Here in Uruguay, this is spring.  Instead of a nice warm summer for growing pumpkins, we've just come through winter, which (as far as I know) is not suitable for growing pumpkins.  So, I think if they wanted to carve pumpkins here, the pumpkins would have to be imported from somewhere in the northern hemisphere, or at least somewhere closer to the equator below the equator.  Imports are expensive here--most imports are taxed at about 60%--so particularly with pumpkins (which are heavy, so the freight charges would be more)--they would be expensive to get to Uruguay for Halloween.  Maybe they could at least have pumpkin shaped plastic stuff, though?  I haven't really noticed any.

Halloween decorations in general have been almost nowhere, and when we have seen them (I think maybe at a grocery store sometime) they are always minimal and isolated to a tiny spot (such as one sign that says HALLOWEEN! or something).  I have not seen any decorated houses.

But then we heard that they celebrate Halloween here similarly to how it is celebrated in the United States.  Huh.  What would that mean?  Do kids dress up in costumes for school?  Could they actually go trick-or-treating?  Security is a little intense here--every house in our area is gated, most houses have well marked security systems, lots of houses have multiple barky guard dogs, some houses have on-site security guards...anyway, it's not like kids could just come up and ring your doorbell to go trick-or-treating.  Or, they could, but they would be doing it out at the street, not right at your door.  When we were living in Centro (in downtown Montevideo) the situation was similar.  There, people had apartments instead of houses, but the apartments typically have guards or at least a doorman, so I don't know how that would work for trick-or-treaters.  Do they trick-or-treat just by ringing doorbells down at the street?  (Is it cheating if you ring 20 people at once and say "trick-or-treat" to all of them at the same time??)  So the logistics were really unclear to us.

We were looking at the little Halloween islands at Geant earlier this week and I asked a lady (in my best Spanish, lacking Halloween vocabulary) if kids go to houses for candy in this country.  She grinned and said they do.  So we decided to buy candy just in case.

The choices for Halloween candy were:
- large pastel-colored marshmallows in a twisty shape (not individually packaged)
- large pastel-colored marshmallows in a flower shape (not individually packaged)
- candies that look like they might be fruit flavored and chewy (individually wrapped!)
- suckers (individually wrapped!)

There were TONS of marshmallows!  We felt a little funny about giving kids unwrapped treats, so we grabbed a bag of maybe-fruit-chew candies and then also a bag of the suckers.  Jeff was like, "Oh, no, Em, if we get these aren't they going to not like the candy from our house?  What about the fun-size good candies like Snickers?"  and I said, "Uhhhh, this is all they have.  They don't have fun-size Snickers or Twix or any of that stuff!  Look around, this is all there is.  So...if they only have this, do you think they'll just like it anyway, because that's all anyone has to give them?"  We decided it would have to do.  The maybe-fruit-chew candies came packaged with a special collector edition cup shaped like a werewolf, but we also could have chosen one with a skull cup or one of a couple other options.

Would we have anyone to give our Halloween candy to?

Then I started feeling a little bad that Paisley is not having much of a Halloween experience this year, even though it is a year where she could really understand a little bit about it and enjoy participating.  I taught her how to say "Trick or Treat" (and she says it, if you ask her for each word).  I decided to look for a simple costume at a grocery store--last minute--in case we could take her somewhere nearby to trick-or-treat at a couple houses.  (I ended up just finding a little witch hat. "GREEN!")  Tonight we painted with some Halloween colors.

I started to wonder if maybe Halloween was celebrated as Day of the Dead or All Souls Day or something else, in the next couple days.

Then, early this evening we had our first group of trick-or-treaters!  There were four kids.  One of the kids was probably about 3 years old and he was wrapped up as a mummy.  His eyes had dark make-up on them, and his costume looked quite good.  The other kids had kind of lame costumes, like the typical grocery store collection: a vampire cape or witch hat here or there.  I don't remember the specifics because they were not very memorable.

I wondered what they would say.  Do they say "trick-or-treat" here?  Probably not, since it isn't Spanish.

Nothing.  They said nothing at all.

So, I gave them each a few suckers.  The parents nearby called out "Gracias!" and I said "Gracias!" right back to them.  Then I immediately felt kind of dumb because what was I thanking them for, coming to get candy?  It was one of those silly things like when someone tells you to have a good trip and without thinking about it you say, "You too!" even though of course that doesn't make any sense.

So they were candied-up, and they left.

We had one more set of trick-or-treaters a couple hours later, as I was in the middle of putting Paisley to bed.  Instead, I took her down to pass out candy with me.  That time, it was a little Spiderman (in a full costume including mask) and a bloody ghost, with their dad.  Also silent.  So I gave them each a few suckers.  I should have given them a whole bag of candy each, because that was the end of our trick-or-treaters.  

I didn't take Paisley anywhere with her little witch hat, because I never did figure out what we were supposed to say, or if much of anywhere would even be expecting us.

Happy Halloween!

(Hopefully soon I will start to take pictures to go along with posts.)

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