I went to an elementary school to meet with some teachers this afternoon. It was right after classes ended and, since it’s Halloween, the halls were filled with kids dressed up in their costumes. I asked one girl, about seven years old in a white wig carrying a bucket of popcorn, “Who are you?” She said, “I’m Orville Redenbacher.” Yes, indeed. Another kid was dressed as Steve Urkel. If I had to take a stab at figuring this out, I’d say their parents are enjoying a vicarious Halloween.
I was in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia for another training this week. Even though I’ve been there before, I don’t usually have time during the day to explore the historical park, but this time I had part of Friday afternoon, so I visited some of the historic buildings in the Lower Town. Each one, more or less, is a museum with exhibits of the park’s many themes: John Brown’s raid, the Civil War, arms manufacturing, and so on. Though the exhibits were a little busy-looking and cluttered for my visual tastes (especially after a week of hard concentration), the one on John Brown’s raid was pretty provocative. One of the videos, without going into too much graphic detail, was frank about the violence of the raid and the counter-raid, as if it was an omen of the great war to come. It raised some interesting questions about violence in the name of righteousness.
It’s too bad this sort of thoughtful reflection appears in a public exhibit about a radical antislavery action, but not in our numerous war museums and memorials. It is as if violence should only give us pause when it is not perpetrated by the state. Or perhaps fear of inflaming Southern sensitivities prompted the National Park Service to be particularly introspective when planning this exhibit.
On lighter note, one evening some of us went on a “ghost tour” of the Lower Town. Despite its rich and exciting past, Lower Town is pretty deserted on Monday evenings. I can see why ghost stories are popular there. I noticed a little extra zeal in the local businesses for Halloween decorations.
Lore says Halloween celebrations are uncommon in Argentina but everybody seemed to know what to do at our party last Saturday. There was plenty of Halloween cotillon (party stuff like costumes and decorations) in various shops. Everybody came in costume. There were even a handful of trick-or-treaters. It was the typical all-night Argentinian affair. Nobody hurries through a fiesta. We got to bed by five o’clock. We were still sick but made it through and had a lot of fun.
The seasonal themes of common holidays feel a bit off in Argentina. Halloween occurs in the spring, so pumpkins don’t make a lot of sense, but jack-o’-lanterns are still part of the program.
I have a teenaged brother-in-law. He and two of his friends were the party DJs. They hooked up his laptop to a sound and light system borrowed from another friend. They happen to have excellent taste in music, though I had to request “Monster Mash” which nobody had ever heard of. It was a little out of place on the playlist of electronica and cuarteto but it seemed to go down well.
We’ve been bringing American candies with us on these holiday trips. For Halloween, we selected Hershey Kisses, Brach’s Candy Corn, and Smarties. I think we’ll bring just chocolates in the future. The Smarties weren’t terribly popular, though I can’t imagine Halloween without them.