Some of my favorite experiences from our first stint living overseas in Mexico City were learning about the local holidays/cultural traditions, while also figuring out how to celebrate our US holidays from afar. Halloween was less of a priority for me at the time sans-children, so I was happy to adopt the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations that transform Mexico each October. Beautiful, floral altars adorned with skulls made from sugar emerge in homes, businesses, parks, and cemeteries to celebrate the lives of loved ones who have passed on.
The holiday took on a special meaning for me soon after we left Mexico, when my mom passed away on Nov 4, 2011. Her last trip abroad was to visit Mexico City during the Dia de los Muertos frenzy in 2009, so I’ve been setting up an ofrenda (altar) in her honor ever since. You can see the full process on my old Mexico blog @ http://www.midwesternerinmexico.com/2012/10/23/dia-de-los-muertos-homemade-sugar-skulls-an-ofrenda-for-marcia.
This October was our first combo of Halloween overseas + having a kiddo who was excited about both the costume and candy aspects. Halloween isn’t celebrated here in Tanzania, and there aren’t any DDLM-esque celebrations that I’ve learned of thus far… But luckily, the embassy/expat community didn’t disappoint in creating plenty of activities for everyone to get their fix of spooky + sugar.
We kicked things off Friday evening with a grownup party on some friends’ roof deck, one of the benefits of living along the equator in October.
Saturday morning, I helped decorate at one of the embassy leadership residences, which has enough doors on buildings around the yard to support 7 or 8 trick-or-treating stops! Paige joined the festivities that evening, and the kids sprinted around from door to door stuffing their bags with candy two pieces at a time until the stash was gone. Conveniently, a barrage of bats came to hang out in the trees just as the sun set… With Halloween music playing & bats swooping around overhead, it felt like a scene right out of central casting. 😉
Sunday’s late afternoon Halloween party @ the Yacht Club tested the limits of Paige’s alligator costume… While the furry jumpsuit was perfect for fall in Virginia, I wouldn’t say it would be my first choice for 92F weather along the ocean. We managed to capture one photo before ditching the hat & mittens, and then did a couple craft projects, grabbed some candy, and retreated to the air conditioned glory of our house for dinner.
Speaking of air-conditioned glory, I was personally looking forward to Monday’s trick-or-treating event at the U.S. Embassy because of just that – a chance to celebrate Halloween in the chilly splendor of an office building. The Community Liaison Office organized a lovely afternoon of games, crafts, snacks, spooky stories, movie, and trick-or-treating around the offices. After all, where else besides an Embassy Public Affairs Office are you going to find decor as spooky as this??
I think we’ve extracted as much value as we can from the alligator outfit after two years of wear. The only remaining question: is Paige old enough yet to track her candy and realize how much I’m siphoning off her bucket each night?
I had planned to skip creating an ofrenda this year since our huge shipment of household effects still hasn’t arrived, which includes most of the accoutrements that I use to decorate… But after seeing all my Mexican friends’ Dia de los Muertos posts on Facebook + missing my mama this week, I decided to piece together what I could. Then I gave our Tanzanian household staff a quick overview of the concept, so they wouldn’t just think I was crazy for covering a table with my scarf, a plastic dog, M&Ms, salt, dead flowers, and wine. 😉
I’m looking forward to seeing what Tanzanian traditions we might pick up over the coming years… But in the meantime, I will be on the hunt locally for ingredients to make my Cranberry Daiquiris. Because turkeys & stuffing come and go, but no Thanksgiving is complete without a festive cranberry adult beverage.