Sunday, November 2, 2014

Halloween in the Netherlands

While the increasingly cold weather is not one of my favorite things, I do love fall.  And I love it for several reasons.  The foliage, breaking out the jeans and cozy sweaters after a long, hot summer, apple pie, soups and the start of fire season (the last 5 years of which we didn't have or need a fireplace and now we have one but it doesn't work).  But what I really love is the start of the holiday season, starting with Halloween.

I've always loved the holidays but living in our neighborhood in Attleboro, made me love them even more.  It's a neighborhood that doesn't do anything half assed - we go big or we go home.  From neighborhood Easter egg hunts to luminaries at Christmas and everything in between, our neighborhood does the holidays right.  And it's a big piece of what I miss from home each year.

One of our favorite memories from home is trick or treating in our neighborhood.  Now to trick or treat in our neighborhood meant buying a minimum of 500 pieces of candy, no exaggeration.  Given we only have about 75 houses and not all of them have children... well, you do the math.  A lot of kids are driven in to our neighborhood from neighboring towns.  It's part annoying (all the cars when the kids are walking around our safe neighborhood) and it's part heart warming to know that other parents think our neighborhood is both safe and fun for their children - not to mention all the great candy!

Anyways, we've always loved Halloween in our neighborhood and it was hard to move to Spain where it's not really celebrated.  The boys' school put on a really great Halloween party every year but it wasn't the same as going door to door to trick or treat.  There is just something really special as a kid when you get to dress up and go door to door collecting candy.  To be someone or something else, just for a day - whether it's a princess or a pirate or something really scary!  To let your imagination run wild.

Liam didn't really remember trick or treating in the US so it wasn't a big deal for him to just have a party.  And since he loves to dress up on a regular basis anyways, it was just an excuse to go out in public in one of his many costumes ;)  For Aidan, it took the fun out of Halloween.  He loved going to the party, but he lost the interest in dressing up for the holiday.  It made me sad to see him both growing up and growing out of such a fun part of childhood.

However.. while Halloween does not have a big presence in Europe, it's getting bigger.  Which is really funny because Halloween actually started in Europe, went to the US and then now is making a comeback here in Europe.  Some countries have always celebrated like England and Ireland.  But in others, it's a relatively new thing.  It's becoming more popular in the Netherlands apparently than it was in previous years.  This being our first year, I can't vouch for how it was before but given I was able to find some things in stores but not the huge amount that I would find in the US says something to me about it's slowly increasing popularity.

And here in our little neighborhood of Naarderbos (part of the town of Naarden), we are having trick or treat for the first time.  The timing couldn't be better with us just having moved here.  While the boys know that neither Spain nor the Netherlands is the US, it's always nice when we get a little piece of home along the way.  And when it's something that puts a smile on their faces, even better.

So we were sooooo excited to get the flyer in our mail from a neighbor offering to organize Halloween here.  I immediately replied and was also excited to find that the neighbor was an American who has been here for about 8 years.  I don't know much about her yet, but it's nice to know there is someone from "home" right down the street.

Anyways, we bought a few small decorations (in hindsight, apparently not nearly enough but more on that later) and the kids chose costumes.  Liam, a devil, and Aidan, a vampire.  In the end, Aidan decided to go with a more combo kind of costume - Camp Wekeela sweatshirt, Scream mask, nunchucks from a ninja turtle costume.  A mish mash of sorts.  But it's Halloween and his choice - he's 10 and can decide these things on his own.  Liam was beyond excited, counting down the days and then hours and minutes til it was time to go out (and yet he was the first one done for the night).

The kids each invited a friend over (who happened to be brothers) and when the sun set at 5:30, we were off and running just like in the US.  Well, sort of.  Since this was the first time the holiday was being celebrated in our neighborhood, not all houses were participating.  So we had a list of those that were and we were told that there would be orange balloons at each house that was joining the festivities.  We took off through our neighborhood with glow sticks and bags in hand, ready to enjoy our first trick or treating in 5 years.  The excitement was hard to contain!
Scott, Stanley and Liam

The 4 amigos, ready to go!

At first we didn't see many kids.  We went to a few houses and I have to say, for the first Halloween, some of these houses went all out with the decorating.  It truly put us to shame and we need to up our game for next year.  I don't know if it's habit or because pretty much everyone celebrates at home but beyond standard "fall" decorating of pumpkins, corn stalks and the like, we don't do much at home for decorating for Halloween (Christmas is another story).  Some people certainly do but I can't say it's the standard.  So I really wasn't expecting such great decorations and was totally blown away!

My favorite was a simple house though - no elaborate decorations.  In fact, it was a bit dark even though they had balloons at the end of their driveway.  The boys rang the doorbell but not much happened.  Then a fluorescent green head came out of no where (he must have been lying on the floor as the door was see through glass) in front of the kids.  You probably heard their screams in the US.  It was awesome and truly in the spirit of Halloween.  I laughed so hard that I almost peed myself.

The kids loved running down the streets and collecting candy from the neighbors.  As it got a little later more and more kids came out.  For only 36 houses (out of probably 200), there were a lot of kids out! And they were all having such a great time!!!

By just before 7, my kids were done.  They were ready to head home and check out their loot and play with their friends.  All in all it was a great success and we can't wait to do it again next year.  Though we'll make sure to stock up on decorations when we are home this summer (after all we did see the Halloween store was open when we were home in July!)!!


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