Halloween is my daughter’s favourite holiday. She always says that. Not Christmas, not New Year’s Eve, not anything else: it’s Halloween!
The whole trick or treating phenomena is relatively new to the UK (to most countries, to be fair), with obvious American culture influences disseminated through the internet and movies. That’s the part I enjoy the most about this ‘small’ connected world, when it spreads fun and joy; when it brings people who wouldn’t normally meet together. As I explained before, I owe a lot of my sanity to people I have never met in person but who share their heartfelt stories, real or fictional.
Growing up my favourite holiday was Christmas. It was a time of family rejoicing, of getting together and celebrating. My maternal grandparents made sure to have an amazing party set-up for all family and friends every year. No invitation was needed and, sure enough, lots of people turned up, even if it was just for half an hour or so to say hello to everybody and have one of my grandma’s delicious treats.
Coming from a Portuguese family, this celebration happened on Christmas Eve. It started at around 7pm, with people coming and going all through the evening. I say going but, even the people who came with all intention of it being a quick visit before going somewhere else, almost invariably ended up staying at least for Grandma’s lovely Christmas dinner, which always included a beautiful selection of traditional Portuguese cod, turkey, gammon and whatever else she fancied that year. And I’m not even going to try listing the desserts!
Grandma spent weeks preparing for it, starting with the biscuits and shells that could be stored for longer and moving on according to a very detailed plan. It was a labour of love, as with everything she did. She was a proud housewife and her skills at that were phenomenal. The love just burst out of everything she did and every single person could feel it. Her Christmas decorations were a sight to behold: a giant tree, the lights, the tinsel; everything was carefully placed.
Granddad was the perfect host, with his round belly and welcoming smile. He was also very proud of his family and the party and would go to any lengths to make everybody feel comfortable. He spared no expenses.
After dinner there was still music and chatting until midnight, when we’d make a toast with champagne and celebrate the people we loved.
When I was around 10, my grandma started showing signs of Alzheimer. It was gradual and Christmas time became a painful reminder of it, with Grandma crying, frustrated because she couldn’t remember her recipes and she couldn’t make things work. That was tough on everybody, especially Granddad. He loved her so much and when she stopped recognising him you could see how much it hurt him.
Both my mom and my aunt tried to replicate the magic of Grandma’s parties rather unsuccessfully, so they stopped. I still had the paternal grandparents’ party at the farm every other year but they were never as magical. Don’t take me wrong, I still loved them and especially being with my cousins but it wasn’t the same.
For barely husband Christmas never meant much. His family always treated it as just a day off and wouldn’t celebrate. It’s a day that represents nothing and carries no childhood memories and we haven’t had a family celebration in at least 6 years. We are always out somewhere and that saddens me. He’ll do anything not to be home while I would love to stay home, cook a beautiful dinner and maybe have some family and a couple of friends around. He won’t have it and I know he will moan incessantly about it if we do.
Back to Halloween, he’s not really bothered. He sees Raven loves it and is not really annoyed about answering the door to give candy away to the kids that knock, as long as he himself doesn’t have to actually buy the sweets or go out with Raven: that’s my job. And it’s a job that I love: it’s fun, it’s lighthearted and makes my daughter happy. She tells everybody how cool her mom is to dress up every year to follow her around so she doesn’t go by herself.
I usually just throw some dark clothes on and put on scary make-up. This year, I don’t know what exactly came over me: I decided to dress up in a cow onesie. It was, by far, the silliest outfit I could choose. Raven laughed so hard it was heart-warming. Husband pulled a face of ‘Really?’
“I am a cow!” I said shrugging. He seemed a bit shocked by my statement.
“You’re saying it, not me,” he replied.
I know of lately he actually thinks that and I did intend the pun as a message.
Raven and I had a wonderful time, skipping around the streets and laughing. It was our time, our fun, our bonding.
And I think I might have just found a new favourite holiday.