So I had a post nearly ready for you about our experience with Halloween here, but I got sidetracked and before I knew it, it was Christmas. That said, some recent developments made me revisit my Halloween experience. Here is the shortened Halloween story, complete with the recent twist at the end:
We knew leading up to Halloween that it really isn’t celebrated here, but the kids go to an international school which was having a small Halloween celebration. Also, we were invited to two separate Halloween parties being thrown by other family friends, so we had a few opportunities to dress up.
After our costume FAIL at the “Cuisine of the World” celebration at school last year, we had something to prove, so we started thinking about the costumes early. Eamon told me he wanted to be Pablo Picasso – the object of his artistic affection. For his costume I bought him a French striped shirt (the national uniform), a beret, and we framed a Picasso-esque picture that he drew. Done. Owen, on the other hand found a ghoulish costume when he went to the store and despite the shabby manufacturing and scary face mask, Tim bought it for him. This is exactly the kind of costume that every boy wants at some point in time, and the kind that I hate. In any case, they were ready for their school party.
At the end of the Halloween celebration day at school, Eamon was slightly dejected and he told me that nobody “got” his costume, despite the fact that they had just studied Picasso at school. When I asked him what he meant by this, he told me that all the kids asked him why he wasn’t a ghost or goblin. Owen, on the other hand, fit in splendidly with the other kids at school – in fact, half of the kids at school had the same costume that he did.
It wasn’t until the first party that I started to get a sense of what Halloween means in France. Halloween does not mean get a cool costume of your choice and get candy. In France Halloween means chose between a witch, a ghost, or a goblin and, if you’re luckily enough to have friends who are throwing a party, you actually have someplace to wear these costumes.
After Eamon’s experience at school, he chose to give up on Picasso and he acquired a rugby player costume for the two parties. The rugby player costume still wasn’t widely understood as a Halloween costume, but at least he had some respect from the young rugby-obsessed crowd.
Lesson learned: get ghost/ghoul costumes for Halloween next year – avoid all originality.
Now that we’re many months past Halloween I had nearly forgotten about all the costume drama and cultural confusion, until I walked in the store a week ago and saw racks and racks of costumes for Carnival. So it turns out that Carnival is the time to express your free will in the costume department and become whomever you want for a day – including Buzz Lightyear, a doctor or any variety of princess.
As expected, the school was putting on a Carnival celebration of their own, so the kids were asked to dress up as something related to “the sea” which was the Carnival theme this year (much better than “cuisine of the world” from last year). When I asked the boys what they wanted to be for Carnival, Owen immediately said he wanted to be a fisherman, which was lucky for me because we have an entire fisherman outfit on hand. Eamon, on the other hand wanted to be………..wait for it……………………seaweed. I hope you didn’t just ruin your computer by spitting milk into it while you were reading that.
I’ve learned a few things as a parent in the years since I first had kids. The most important thing is that the expectations of kids vs. the abilities of the parents need to be completely discussed to avoid a last-minute meltdown. In this instance, I had to find out what Eamon was imagining in his mind for his costume vs. what I was capable of making, since I knew that I could not find a commercially made seaweed costume. So much for my past ridicule of the shabby goblin costume – I would have happily bought a shabby seaweed costume if I could have found one.
As luck would have it, Eamon’s expectations were about as low as my abilities, so I set to work making the best seaweed costume that I could think of. This involved tieing and mounding puke colored yarn on a hat and around collar for his neck. Top it off with a green fleece and some green jeans and you’ve got an artistic interpretation of seaweed.
After Eamon’s last costume experience at school, I spent a little bit of time preparing him to rebuff any negative feedback he might receive at school, especially since I found out that half the school was going as either a fish or a shark. I really want my kids to be their own people and not follow the crowd, but sometimes it stings to see them get their feelings hurt when they try to be original.
At the end of the Carnival party day, Eamon ran out to me to give me the update. Apparently everyone loved his seaweed costume and, according to him, “The kids ‘got’ it better than they did my Picasso outfit.”
We’ve got a seaweed costume if anyone needs to borrow it.