The yearly tsunami of candy is over for the year. Candy and princess costumes and a holiday without much meaning is how it seems now to me. But, as a child and older, the masks and dark and unknown scared the breath out of me. So, imagine the children new to this country and the overwhelming visuals and sounds of their first Halloween.
Watching the refugee families that my friend group helps was like watching a National Geographic Special. Our primary family has been in the country for six months, the 7-year-old goes to school, they have shopped and had doctor appointments and gone to Mosque and been to see the mountains. But this strange holiday was scary and too full of “new” to process easily.
Put this on top of the layer of fear from being Muslim in a country that welcomed them a few months ago because they had been a help to the American troops in Afghanistan, but suddenly they hear that they could be deported. Friends who watch television and follow the politics of the season had enlightened them. We had asked the family numerous times to join us at one of our houses for a light supper and conversation. After the rounds of “hate speak” they had heard, the women wanted to make sure the husbands were with the family when they visited us. That means we needed to do a Saturday or an evening. Then we begged them to come for Halloween and the two oldest girls could learn to go door-to – door with us in a safe neighborhood where parents walked with children.
The father, Abdul, kept calling Halloween evening to try to make excuses, but our leader was tenacious and just as it was getting dark, they pulled up in his new (old) van and they entered the land of what must look to them as science fiction. We were set up on the front porch with candy out in big bowls for the trick or treaters and the four women mentors, one husband and a small dog. Two of our group took the girls up the street with bags to learn how to trick or treat.Sugar and chocolate is a great incentive. Donna, who was an elementary teach, told the girls how to scream and be scared when they were and they all screamed their way to a new experience.
While they were gathering chocolate, we tried to explain to Abdul about All Souls Day and All Saints Day and bribing the ghosts to stay away. He then translated to his wife–I wish I knew what he really said. When the girls came back they handed out candy and with English skills being important, they repeated the names of the costumes or colors as we told them. They could see that the kids were just like they were, except dressed up. Lots of the younger kids who came up to the porch could not keep a mask on and that helped too to see the little faces. Our girls eyes were wide and shiny and they kept coming to us and hugging us with excitement. With our cultures appearing to be so different, the culture of being human was not.
Good parents worry about their children. In this case, the layers of fear and the unknown had to be peeled away one layer at a time. But, that one evening peeled several layers away at once. The adults trust us a bit more, the children think we hung the moon and the elders were thrilled to have such a special experience.