Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Fright Night!

Halloween is not traditionally celebrated in the Netherlands, although people are of course becoming more aware of it, largely through American t.v. shows. In general parents tend to pretend that they don't know what it is, largely I suspect because the idea of giving away handfuls of sweets to random kids goes against their inherently Calvanistic (aka tight) attitude. So how blessed they must feel to have foreigners in their midst who are willing to join the fun and have a laugh! hahaha....NOT!
Our boys have been crazy about Halloween since we lived in Singapore; the large ex-pat population of Americans meant there was plenty of activity there. And any reason to dress up in costume is a good one as far as I'm concerned.
Niels - our own Very Angry Bird
This year Carl decided to take matters into his own hands to get kids motivated, and typed out a letter inviting his class to join him in trick-or-treating between 18:30-19:30, in costume, at a prearranged starting point. About 20 kids turned up, in various types of costumes, all dying to get started. Strangely most of the parents seemed to assume I would personally supervise their precious offspring...wrong! If you can't trust your kid to be outside in groups for one hour in the early evening in their own, very safe neighbourhood, my only suggestion is that you supervise them yourself. For the record, we don't exactly live in Amsterdam: this is a very small village.
Carl in his gorilla suit
So after laying some quick ground rules...be polite, don't walk through gardens, be polite, stick together, be polite (did I mention that Dutch kids have no manners? Words like please and thank you don't feature in their vocabulary  I have LITERALLY heard kids in Carl's class say the Dutch equivalent of 'fuck' more often than hello or thank you. Hence the ear-bashing from me about using manners). Then off they went. Unfortunately they had to stick together in one huge noisy group because the other parents were HORRIFIED at the suggestion that their 8-10 year old children walk around in smaller groups unsupervised - see the previous paragraph for my views on that - but apart from that it went wonderfully, and the kids had a blast.
I downloaded a scary sound effect of a creaky door opening following by an evil laugh and set up speakers by the front door. With lights off and jack-o-lanterns flickering on the doorstep it created an eerie, just-scary-enough atmosphere that had the kids shrieking and coming back for more all night. I kept my large pumpkin-shaped soup tureen filled with treats and had fun slowly creaking open the door all night. Our house was unanimously voted the best Halloween address in the neighbourhood!
Personally, I will ensure we do it differently next year having seen some of the parents responses. Carl can invite as many friends as he wants but there will be no letter. The kill-joy attitude by many of the parents was striking...there were dark mutterings about it being 'too exciting' for kids (WTF?), and there were even some who pulled their curtains tightly closed and refused to answer the door to the kids, despite their own children taking part!! What took the cake for me was having one Mum give me the horrified 'oh my god how could you let children go trick & treating' spiel, then when I suggested she accompany her kid herself she turned on her heel, climbed into her car and drove off, leaving her precious offspring standing there!

So yes it was fun, the kids and I had a blast, and a couple of the parents got into the spirit of things and joined in, but it reminded me yet again that I'll never really be Dutch, and when it comes to being parents many of them are a long way from embracing the fun and spontaneity that some other cultures enjoy.