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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