It’s been well over a week since Halloween, and the buildup to Christmas has begun. It seems as if holiday candy appeared in every store on November 1st.
However, I must share a bit about Halloween in Europe before I accept that Christmas (and winter!) is swiftly approaching.
Many restaurants and bars in Bratislava were decked out in Halloween decorations and were advertising Halloween parties and special Halloween drinks. Jesse and I dined at a Mexican restaurant named “El Diablo” and sat by the window.
We were excited to eat nachos and quesadillas while watching the tourists stream by. During the course of our meal, over a dozen children stopped to stare in awe at El Diablo’s window decorations.
They had a paper skeleton and fake spiderwebs:
They also had this sinister looking bat:
Again and again, children froze in their tracks to gawk at the decorations. It was like a magnetic attraction.
I could hear bits and pieces of conversations through the glass. One girl pointed and shrieked with delight, “Eine Fledermaus!” (A bat!)
I was happy to recognize this German word. I only studied German for a few weeks in fifth grade, so my vocabulary is extremely limited.
There seems to be quite an interest in celebrating Halloween in the American way. As evidenced by the joy and excitement generated by a skeleton, a bat, and some fake spiderwebs, I think kids in Europe would be thrilled to recognize Halloween. (Although an American holiday that is mostly about gorging oneself on sugary candy may not be the best thing to import–Europe might end up with a childhood obesity epidemic as well.)
On Monday, October 31st, Jesse and I were relaxing on a bench in Hlavné square, betraying ourselves as tourists because my camera was resting on my lap. We were one bench down from our pal Napoleon.
Across the square, we saw a cameraman and female reporter approaching. I had a sinking feeling that she was going to want to interview us. Sure enough, she came over, greeted us in Slovak, and quickly switched to English. “Where are you from?” she asked, thrusting a red microphone at me.
“From Ohio in the United States,” I stuttered.
“Oh, perfect! Could you tell me about how you celebrate Halloween in your country? What do you think of how we celebrate All Saints Day on November 1st?”
I. Freaked. Out.
I wish I could go back and re-do the interview, and respond a little more eloquently and with a little more grace. I got so nervous that I had to take a few deep, shaky breaths just to be able to formulate sentences. Being approached by a reporter in Europe really caught me off guard. I am not afraid of public speaking, and I did quite a few drama performances in high school and college, but something about the red microphone completely destroyed my composure.
I guess I was not only being put on the spot to explain my culture to potentially thousands of viewers, but also to give my opinion about their culture. Not the easiest position to be in!
All Saints Day is a rather somber holiday in Hungary and Central Europe. Families go to the cemetery together and put flowers on the graves of loved ones. No candy or silly costumes involved. I tried to explain to the reporter that Halloween was just for fun, but that the European acknowledgement of All Saints Day was a good way to honor family members.
Jesse chimed in a bit to help me out, and he remained calm. I think the journalist realized that I was flustered and after a few minutes she thanked us and wandered off with her cameraman.
So, if there was any footage where I was semi-coherent, Jesse and I may have been on the Slovakian evening news.