Halloween has come and gone and I almost missed it altogether. Most Americans give little thought to what holidays do not make it across the pond. I’ve even had a few ask me what Germans do for Thanksgiving.
In Germany, Halloween exists as an excuse to party but isn’t firmly entrenched in the culture like it is in the US. A nice bonus about Bavaria is the fact that they celebrate All Saints’ Day on November first, allowing Halloween revelers to party late into the night without having to drag themselves to work the next morning with heavy eyelids and a heavier head. But even so it remains a recent immigrant and not an overly welcome one.
Still, it’s not completely reserved for adults: I did see the occasional group of kids running around in costume, but they were going to pre-arranged locations, as most homes do not participate in giving out candy. But for the most part the people I saw in costume were grown-ups, clutching beers, sitting in the local pubs, most of them expat hang-outs.
Halloween in Germany is a half-hearted attempt. It’s a bit sad when you know enough to know the difference.
I haven’t asked for the grand total damage yet, but I know my parents easily invested over a hundred dollars in candy and made at least one late night drive to the store to reload because they hadn’t bought enough. There were certainly pumpkins on the porch and an appropriate movie on the TV (playing to an empty room – or the dog – because they were constantly at the door giving handouts). In their neighborhood it’s great to take walks at night leading up to the holiday, just to see all the jack o’ lanterns twinkling and the decorations ranging from authentically haunted house to cheerfully cheesy. I’m sure they spent some time just sitting on the porch watching the kids run from house to house, saving themselves the trouble of opening the door.
What’s missing is that feeling of mystery and excitement, that leftover enchantment one has as a child when one still half-believed that ghosts are walking the earth and witches fly on broomsticks. If ghosts roam en masse in Germany, it’s on a different night.
I keep my mouth shut for the most part (hard to believe but true). Ignorance is bliss. You can’t miss what you don’t have and most people here don’t know that there’s a difference and that theirs is the pale shadow. Kids are kids and as long as candy is involved they’re thrilled, so what’s the point of telling them that, had they been in California, they’d be hauling home ten times the loot?
Granted, I may also be just a teensie bit resentful that Halloween is attempted here at all. It’s so distinctly Americanized and doesn’t really completely translate over to German culture. Germans are so practical and thrifty that the idea to spend a hundred euros on candy would never make sense or even appeal to them. They have a harder time letting their hair down and following their fancies in dressing up. What you get is a more restrained, more strictly organized event and very little of the magical neighborhood candy chaos we all grew up with.
Celebrate diversity, celebrate differences. Some things should not be universal, it dilutes the magic.