Where I am from (Zimbabwe), Halloween is not a big deal. Kids don’t dress up and go trick or treating. There are no pop-up costume shops. The grocery shops don’t dedicate an aisle to decorations and masks and sweets. I remember asking what Halloween was when I was younger, and my mom said that it was the night when ghosts roamed. I concluded that it was best to stay inside. I never went trick or treating and I never dressed up. My first experience of Halloween was when I came to Ireland.
As soon as October starts, there are pumpkins and skeletons and witches in shop windows. I discovered that dressing up was an important Halloween activity, as were pumpkins, not as much as a food but as a decorative element – they are carved into faces. The warm orange colours tie in nicely with the start of autumn. Autumn is something else that I don’t really have at home, and it definitely wouldn’t be in October, if we had it at all! October is one of the hottest months in Zimbabwe.
Last year, on the first day of October, my roommate put up the Halloween decorations. It is her favourite event of the year. We had a spider-web table cloth and a light-up ghost, a skeleton sweet holder and pumpkin stickers on the windows. Each week we put little skeleton chocolates out for us to share. Halloween ended up being a great ice-breaker for us all – we bonded over our tea and chocolates in our decorated kitchen! At home, we only put up decorations for Christmas, so this was new to me. A few other apartments had decorations up, but we think ours was the best of course.
I dressed up for the first time with two of my roommates. One dressed in a torn white shirt with fake blood splattered all over her. The other painted herself ghostly white and painted “cracks” on her face and arms to look like a broken porcelain doll. They both looked great! I wore a cat mask and painted a shirt to dress as a cat (my favourite animal). People had great costumes – I mainly remember Santa (complete with the boots and beard) and the bride of Frankenstein. The Student Union Bar on campus had a prize for best dressed and it was a tough competition!
What surprised me the most about Halloween last year was that the date passed, but our decorations remained. When Christmas came, we added a few Christmas decorations but the skeletons and ghosts remained. At Easter, we put little eggs in the skeleton sweet holder. We only took them down in May when we had to move out of the apartment. This was a bit familiar to me, as it often takes my family a few weeks to take down the Christmas decorations.
“I think will always associate Halloween with Ireland no matter where I live. After knowing very little about how people enjoy Halloween, I can now say that I have experienced it, and it was a lot of fun!”