I’ve written about it before, but it is worth noting once again: Halloween is not my favorite holiday of the year. As a matter of fact, it probably ranks as one of my least favorite, with maybe April Fool’s Day beating it out for worst-ever. (April Fool’s Day as a middle school teacher was definitely the worst.)
With that noted, I don’t hate everything about Halloween. I love little kids in costumes-toddlers and younger elementary kids in creative outfits are fabulous. This year I saw an adorable bumblebee (who would not let me borrow her wings), a little doctor, a fantastic flamenco dancer, and a couple cute skeletons. And nothing makes me a happier than to see little girls in non-princess costumes. A good friend sent me a picture last week that I must have pulled up on my computer twenty times one afternoon. Her little girl (born when we worked together in Kuala Lumpur) had costume night at dance class. With all the little princesses sitting in a circle, her adorable dancer stood out from the pack of ruffles and tiaras, as a fat, fuzzy, yellow chicken. Don’t get sucked into the world of pink and princess and fluff! Be you. Be a chicken. That’s my kind of girl.
You’d never know my general disinterest in the holiday judging by my schedule this last week: three Halloween parties in seven days (in a country that doesn’t even celebrate it, no less). Partially, I think it is the draw of an American holiday when we are overseas; things that we don’t put much effort into while in the U.S. suddenly take on a new level of interest. (For example, trivia nights were huge in the D.C. bar scene, but I went to exactly one during our two years in the District. Now, we try to get to the embassy trivia night every single month. It doesn’t hurt the prize is often a collection of consumable goodies.)
Party #1 was at the Hard Rock in Caracas. (Yes, Hard Rocks are still a thing! Who knew?) They hosted a costume party with a live band- Hair Force One. Hair Force Once is an 80s cover band that one of our embassy officers plays in, so whenever they are featured at the restaurant, we see a good community turnout. The theme of the evening was 80s, although costumes were all over the map, including several folks who opted out entirely. (Even I am not that Grinchy!) With not a lot of 80s-options in my repertoire, I did do a bit of shopping when we were in Curacao a few weeks ago. (By the way, there are definitely blog posts coming about that. Blame all these Halloween parties for having me to busy to actually write them!) I was surprised to find a Claire’s in the mall there, so picked up some ridiculously neon dangly earrings and a rather large hairbow to match. (As a side note, can we talk about Claire’s for just a moment? Has it always been geared towards the pre-teen crowd or am I just getting old? It has never been high quality, but it does seem that it was in the 14-16 year old range when I was frequenting the mall on weekends in high school, but the one in Curacao felt solidly in the 8-10 year old range. Were those enormous hoop earrings I rocked in 6th grade just not as cool and mature as I thought they were? Claire’s Curacao has made me question many things about my middle school fashion choices.) Add to that a neon star-covered blouse that came from a French boutique (that I totally now plan to wear regularly to work and not as an 80s reference!) and a pair of black pegged jeans and a whole lot of pink blush and blue eye shadow, I was ready to go. (BTW, pegging Lycra-infused skinny jeans is not an easy task! Either I have lost my pegging skills of yore or my pants are made of something entirely different these days. It took multiple attempts to get the peg to take!) The band was great, with the only downside of the evening being that the venue didn’t really have a dance floor and it is awfully hard to sit in your seat during anthems like “Living on a Prayer” and “Sweet Dreams.” I mean, it’s Bon Jovi. I love him so much I braved the crowds in Kuala Lumpur to see him in concert. (I went to the Bon Jovi show with the not-a-princess-but-a-chicken-instead’s mom.)
Part #2 was the one that kept me up nights ahead of time. It was the embassy Halloween party, an event we opened up to the kids of both our American officers and the local staff. On Monday before the party, we had forty kids RSVPed. 40 is doable. By Wednesday morning we had 100 kids on the list. Okay, that’s a lot, but still manageable, although I was starting to worry about my cupcake/cookie count. And at 4PM when trick-or-treating kicked off, that 100 was well-short of the actual attendance! While the event was open to the kids of staff members, I’m pretty sure a whole lot of neighbor kids, nieces, nephews, and maybe even distant cousins made it onto the list!
To prepare, my office sponsored a door decorating contest within the embassy. I was thinking they’d put up some cobwebs and a ghost or two and hand out candy to the kiddos that came door to door. (My office put up some cute Halloween garland and a not-at-all-spooky “boo” sign that my wonderful mother shipped as a surprise holiday package earlier in the month. I thought we were doing okay.)
Nope. I was very wrong.
Door decorating became office-wide decorating with massive amounts of creativity and effort. One office went with a Coco theme, which looked super cool on Tuesday afternoon when I wandered by. They brought in huge piles of fresh flowers to decorate their alter and the entire floor smelled wonderful (although a little bit like a funeral.) BUT, they were not done. Wednesday afternoon as I was putting the finishing touches on plans, (i.e. hanging arrow signs so that the ghosts and goblins didn’t wander off the trick-or-treating path into the marines office or through a server room) I heard music coming from down the hallway, so took a quick wander to see. Coco went full-on-authentic. They HIRED a mariachi band for the afternoon! That’s right, the office hired a band to come in and play as a part of their Halloween decorations. It was amazing and also a huge distraction and I couldn’t walk down the hallway without stopping to listen for a bit. (This definitely threw off my afternoon schedule!)
Not to be outdone, another office (same floor) went with Pirates of the Caribbean as their theme. They moved all sorts of office furniture to turn their space into a giant ship, all-inclusive with a brig, lots of booty, and photo booth for the kids. And their Jack Sparrow was on-point! This band of pirates was a hit with the kids and became a bit of a chokepoint in the trick-or-treating route because no one wanted to leave the wonderland that they had created. Who wouldn’t want just one more picture with pirates and props?
Embassy Caracas had full-buy-in for Halloween this year!
The regular evening thunderstorm rolled in just before 6PM, which meant the bounce house had to come down and served as a perfect way to head people on their way, although it was time to wrap it up anyway since we ran out of popcorn and cotton candy and cupcakes and cookies and Coke by that point. (Also, I’m pretty sure that the accommodating officers who volunteered to man the bounce house will never have children. An hour of that and you’ve got a lifetime of birth control in the bag.) Full of massive amounts of sugar (high quality, shipped-in-from-America-candy), we sent both the American and the Venezuelan kids home to their parents for what I am sure was a fight over eating real dinner and going to bed at a decent hour. If that’s the case, I call it a job well done!
Party #3 was an event in and of itself- an adult version of what happened on Wednesday. Our chargé de affairs (Caracas does not have an ambassador- Google that one if you are interested in the political details) hosted a party at his place on Saturday night- one that had well over 100 people in attendance, all in spectacular costumes. Hair Force One played again (having an officer in the band helps!) but then later in the evening, things took a turn to the more local when a salsa dance group showed up and took things to a whole new level. It was amazing to watch the crowd come alive. Two women wearing little more than feathers and high heels were accompanied by a man whose hips definitely did not lie! (I took this chance to fade my #2 pencil into the background, never a big fan of audience participation.)
While I don’t love dressing up in costumes, I figured if I were going to do it (and I kind of had to) I should follow the in the footsteps of my dear chicken-friend and go full-on ridiculous. No sexy-this or sexy-that or super fancy princess-y getup, as none of that really fits me. Instead, I opted to be a giant banana and a oversized #2 pencil. Both were hilarious. (At least I thought they were hilarious and that’s what really counts.) So if there is any takeaway from Halloween 2018, it has to be this: random yellow objects make the best costumes!
Now, it is time to move onto the ever-present-issue of procuring Thanksgiving turkeys overseas (I don’t really want to admit how much I paid for turkeys each year in Asia!), trying to organize a turkey-day turkey bowl and maybe even a community pie event in the evening. Why do one event when you can do three? In the U.S. people may feel like fall skips right from Halloween to winter Christmas, but in an embassy community, we go hard for all American holidays!