Halloween Overseas

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I think a lot about the fact that the United States of America is a huge melting pot. It is full of different cultures and different types of people, and sometimes it seems like we don’t have much in common.

However, living overseas for most of the last decade has made me realize that we have more in common than we think.

One of those things is Halloween.

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People from the US ask me “What is Halloween like in other places?” and I have to laugh a little. Most Americans don’t seem to realize that the tradition of Halloween comes from the good old US of A.

Yes, there were some traditions from Europe that we borrowed to integrate into the holiday. However, pretty much every part of Halloween is uniquely American.

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Carving Pumpkins: a pumpkin is a native American plant. It used to make me so sad when I was living in Korea and my friends would say “Are you going to carve pumpkins?” After all, how could I? They don’t sell pumpkins in Korea. Why would they?

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Trick-Or-Treating: This tradition was started by candy companies in the 1950’s. When I used to tell kids in other countries about it, they flat-out called me a liar. It is unheard of in other countries that a child could go up to a stranger’s door, say “Trick or Treat,” and get candy.

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Costumes: Okay, sometimes people in other countries dress up. British people sometimes dress up for bachelor parties, for example. However, it is nothing like it is in America. I remember the other teachers back at Avalon English being aghast at the thought of grown-ass adults dressing up as unicorns and stuff. I just laughed. Of course we do! And it’s awesome!

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Guam doesn’t really do Halloween any more than Korea did. They are technically a US territory, but the holidays are different. This is a shame, and I lament it every year.

See, Halloween isn’t just one of the coolest uniquely American things; it is also my favorite holiday.

I know, that’s weird for an adult. But the thing is, Halloween is for everyone. You might say: “All holidays are for everyone.” If you have a family, it makes sense that you think that way. However, some of us know that it’s not true.

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Example: Christmas. 

I hate Christmas. Let me tell you why:

If you don’t have a family, at first, you might try to go to other people’s family gatherings.

Then they do presents, and no one got you anything, and it’s awkward.

You realize that you are intruding. They invited you, but they don’t really want you there. You feel like shit, and you learn to never do that again.

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So then the next year, you do a Christmas “for people who don’t have families.”

You get a whole bunch of lonely orphans together, and you can just imagine how cheerless that ends up being. You all sit around and think about your family being dead, or on drugs, or estranged. And big surprise, it sucks.

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So after a few years you just spend it alone. You try not to cry, but at some point you know you will.

Maybe you go to a bar and get drunk. Maybe you microwave a dinner and sit there alone eating it. But it sucks. It is just devastatingly painful.

I spent nearly 20 years alone until I was adopted by the Layman family. You simply can’t imagine the pain of 20 years alone on Christmas. It hurts so much that even after being adopted, I still can’t stand Christmas.

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I know that people with families won’t understand this. They will argue that they really do want you to come be with their family, or that you should go volunteer or be with friends. They don’t understand that it’s not just being psychically alone. It’s having attention drawn to the fact that you are alone in the world. That is just a horrible feeling.

So screw Christmas and all the other family holidays. They are mostly foreign holidays anyway.

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Halloween is not like that. Halloween is for everyone! And it’s American!

Ergo, even though I am on Guam where no one celebrates, I will be dressing up and celebrating just like I did in Korea. People can stare and think I am nuts. That’s fine.

This is the best holiday in the whole world. It’s better than the Color Festival, Buddha’s Birthday, and any other holiday that has been dreamed up elsewhere in the world. I never feel more patriotic than I do on Halloween.
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It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a family or not.

You can buy a big bowl of candy and hand it out to the kids. You can go to a Halloween concert or party. You can throw a party. It’s an excuse to see friends, dress up, and buy dry ice. What more could you want out of a holiday?

Besides, visually, it’s just so pretty. Some people don’t like the aesthetics of a holiday that confronts death. However, as someone who has seen a lot of death in my life, I find it more comforting than anything.

So to all of my fabulous readers: Happy Halloween!!!

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Halloween in Korea

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Holidays are a funny thing. We think of them as being universal, but they really aren’t. Most of our holidays are unique to our country and our culture.

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Halloween is a wonderful holiday and I have always loved it, but telling Korean kids (and even my co-workers from England and Australia about it) absolutely made me sound nuts.

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My students completely refused to believe that you could knock on a strangers door and get candy. They flat out called me a liar. To them, you would never talk to a stranger. You would never go to a strangers house. And even your parents are not likely to give you candy because they are a very health-conscious culture.

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So there I was, trying to defend grown adults wearing costumes, taking candy from strangers, and putting up skulls all over your house.

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It made me realize that yes, Halloween does sound crazy from the outside. We’re just so used to some things that we consider normal, and so to us, those things don’t seem bizarre at all. And yet, when you take those things out of context, they can actually seem really strange to others.

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I found myself defending my culture a lot. Not in a bad way, exactly, but just in the way that you would expect. Children are curious and they ask a lot of hard questions because they don’t really have social boundaries like adults.

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Their questions, however difficult, demanded answers. I did my best to be a good ambassador for my country and my culture, and I hope I proved equal to the task.

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A tip for teachers: Going as a witch is fine. But if you teach small children, do not go for a scary costume. My zombie costume wasn’t even that good, and I still made a few little girls cry.

Freaky fun in October

If you want to test-drive your Halloween costume, try wearing it out to a Goth club.

Dancing
Dancing

 

October is here again. I think it’s my favorite month. There’s the haunted houses, the pumpkin carving, the trick-or-treating, and lots of people trying to look scary. But my favorite part about Halloween is that I don’t stand out as much when I go out on the town. That’s right, in October I can wear a vinyl dress and people say “nice costume” instead of “freak!” It’s nice that there is a time of year when my style is appreciated.

 

Looking up at the entrance to Transylvania
Looking up at the entrance to Transylvania

 

If you’re not Goth by nature, that’s okay. You can still dress up in honor of Halloween and enjoy some of the creepy clubs around town. We really won’t mind you dropping in and checking it out. We like fresh blood.

 

Alex and I on the back patio of the club
Alex and I on the back patio of the club

 

 

With that in mind; come check out Transylvania, a Goth club in downtown Phoenix. We have naked statues. We have obscene paintings in black-light-reactant paint. We have killer music, a great dance floor, and enough creepy kids to get you in the spirit for another wonderful October.

 

Group shot on the patio
Group shot on the patio

 

 

Just cruise down Central until you see the club on the west side of the road. It’s just north of Fillmore. Parking is available across the street. Please wait to cross until the light turns green so you don’t get mowed down by the light rail. Better yet- just take the light rail there and don’t worry about the parking.

 

Behins the bar at Transylvnia
Behins the bar at Transylvnia

 

 

If you’re not sure about your costume and it needs a test run, Transylvania is a great place to do it. The club opens at 9:30pm every Friday night. Leave your underage friends at home though. This club is 21 and over.

Happy Halloween!

This Halloween, don’t settle for the party at your freind’s house with dry ice in bowls. Check out the fun at The Alwun House Costume Ball.

 

Mardi Gras Mask
Mardi Gras Mask

 

 

Today is the day! If you haven’t found anything to do tonight yet, my last minute suggestion would be a costume ball at The Alwun House. This is the sort of event where you can just pop over to Mardi Gras Costume Shop in Scottsdale, and grad a mask on a stick. You know; the ones that you hold up in front of your face, like in an old movie? It’s classy, and you don’t have to get an entire costume. Then head to The Alwun House for a night of burlesque dancers, art, and costumes.

 

It’s a sinfully good time. Everyone in attendance must be at least 21 years old, because there is a bar on the premises. If you’re a bit older than 21- don’t worry! This venue brings out ghouls of all ages. You’ll find a spot somewhere in one of the lovely courtyards where you can fit right in. Just because you didn’t make plans yet, doesn’t mean you have to stay home and hand out candy. Grab a mask and head to The Alwun House tonight!

 

Be warned: Some of the art is edgy, so be prepared. Not for the faint of heart.

 

Alwun House Basement
Alwun House Basement

(Sic)monic

Get ready for Halloween fun at the (Sic)monic show in Tempe this Friday.

(Sic)monic
(Sic)monic

 

 

Halloween is coming, and there are lots of great things to do! One of the fun things going on Halloween day is a (Sic)monic concert at The Sets in Tempe. (Sic)monic is a local hard rock band, with a following of creepy kids who will be dressing up and getting down this Halloween. The show starts late, so you’ll have plenty of time to hand out candy or take the kids trick-or-treating beforehand. Come check these guys out with other local favorites and support your local music scene.

There will also be a costume contest, so don’t forget to dress up!

Recent Article
Recent Article

Haunted Houses

The House During the Day
The House During the Day

 

Haunted Houses are one of the best parts of October. The most popular (or at least the most advertised) is Arizona Scream Park at 8823 E. McDowell Road in Scottsdale. As far as haunted houses go, it’s pretty great. The actors are well-paid and genuinely trying to scare you. However, the price is outrageous. Plan to spend $5 to park, then between $16 and $75 on tickets, depending on how much fun you want to have. The VIP ticket includes a monster escort.

 

If you want to get scared for FREE, there is Morbid Manor Charity House in Glendale.

 

Being scared is okay in a movie, but it’s really a lot more fun when something is coming at you and you can run away. That’s exciting! So check out a Haunted House this year and remember how much fun it is to get your blood pumping.

 

AZ Scream Park
AZ Scream Park

Best Pumpkins in Town

Pumpkin Patch in Higley
Pumpkin Patch in Higley

One of the best parts about Halloween is the pumpkins. Even if you don’t like Pumpkin Pie or Pumpkin Seeds, everyone loves carving jack-o-lanterns. You can get a pumpkin anywhere, of course. They sell them in stores and at roadside stands like the one pictured above in Higley, Arizona.

 

But for the best Pumpkin Patch you will ever see, you have to go to Ray Schnepf’s Farm.

 

Schnepf Farm

24810 Rittenhouse Road

Queen Creek

(480) 987-3333

 

Every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday they are open for anyone to come and explore the Pumpkin Patch. In addition, they have a celebrity corn maze (last year it was supposed to be of Steve Nash). The place is spooky at night too, so check it out on Halloween for the hay ride out to the “haunted” corn maze.

 

Schnepf Farms is near and dear to most Native Arizonians, who were taken as kids to select the Very Best Pumpkin. It’s still the best Pumpkin Patch in the valley, so if you like carving jack-o-lanterns, you have to make your stop there for the Best Pumpkin Ever.

 

Oh, and this year’s maze was announced today. Read about it and see a sky-high view in the Arizona Republic Article today in the Valley and State Section. You will have to get a copy of the paper though, as they failed to put it on their Web site. It’s of Muhamad Ali.