October 28th, 2009



I had an unexpected phone call at work this morning from a radio personality that had gotten my name from one of our neighbors who works for a broadcasting company in Malmö. The man who called me works for Sverige's Radio and had been told that I was a "Halloween expert". Haa! I guess being an American in Sweden qualifies me as a Halloween expert, if anyone is! He asked me several questions about Halloween: when it was, what you were supposed to do, did you have to dress up, what were the rules for trick-or-treating, etc. I answered him as best I could, and then he asked if he could call back and officially record the same basic conversation as an interview which would be played on the radio tomorrow morning. Uh...I stammered, "in Swedish?!" ...But yes, of course, he said, and then tried to make me less nervous by confirming that he had understood everything I said, as our whole conversation had taken place in Swedish.

Since I was at work, I told him to please wait and call me at home later, which he did. When he called, I went into the bedroom and shut the door, since the kids were home, and gave him the basic information about Halloween that he seemed to think it was important for Swedes to know:

When was it? October 31st. ONLY. I told him that you could have Halloween parties all month long, and decorate as far in advance as you wanted to but that Halloween itself is only October 31st and that is the only day you are supposed to allow trick-or-treating. (I prudently DIDN'T mention the fact that I have been forced to compromise my own principles and break all the laws of Halloween regulations myself this year: we're not going to be home on Halloween, and since we're the ones who organize the trick-or-treating in our Swedish neighborhood, my daughter was determined that we would have to have it Friday evening instead. *sigh*).

I told him that you didn't have to only dress up as scary things like witches and vampires, even though those sorts of spooks and monsters are what is typically associated with Halloween and scary themes apply to all the trappings. BUT dress up is completely up to you; you can be whatever you want, there are no limits, except what your imagination sets.

He asked about pumpkins and I explained what you do with them, though we didn't go into great detail. I told him what the "trick" part of trick-or-treating could be if kids are answered so when they knock on a door, begging for candy: sing a little song, recite a little rhyme, do a somersault, stand on their heads. He asked about egging and the kind of awful pranks that can happen, at least in the States and I tried to explain that those were not really acceptable behavior, especially for kids and that it wasn't in the real "spirit" of Halloween to behave so.

What were the alternatives one could offer if there was no candy in the house when kids came knocking on Halloween? he asked. I told him today's children probably wouldn't be so thrilled to be offered fruit as a substitute, but that perhaps a coin or a cookie would be acceptable. I said most people have SOME candy on hand, and at least in the States, most people keep some handy, if they plan to open the door at all.

I miss Halloween in the States. I miss hayrides and corn mazes and the general feeling of mischief and fun that is everywhere in the air. I miss seeing all the costumes and opening the door to the kids with their pumpkin bags and expectant faces. We have decorated our foyer and entrance with cobwebs and pumpkins and glow-in-the-dark ghosts, and there are 42 houses in the neighborhood, most of whom have kids the ages of my children or under, so our trick-or-treating here is always a success and several of the parents have thanked us for organizing it.

Because Sweden doesn't have a trick-or-treating tradition, we organize it slightly differently here. It's not just a free-for-all through the entire village. We print up and send out letters of explanation at least a week in advance, warning people and saying that if they want to participate, they can put the enclosed pumpkin cut-out on their door or mailbox and then the kids will know it is okay to knock on their door. The kids are told not to knock on the doors of houses that don't have one of our pumpkin papers on it. All the kids gather at our house and then are allowed to roam through our neighborhood ONLY. It's a contained area and everyone knows one another, and several parents walk around the streets with the children. It only lasts about an hour or so, and the kids always come back happy and excited, just like they ought to, when it's Halloween.

Anyway, the interview couldn't have lasted more than 5-10 minutes and my Swedish was probably worse than usual, due to my nervousness. My kids, who had their ears pressed up against the door when I opened it after I hung up, told me that I had said liksom way too much, which means I was basically peppering my responses with "like" the whole time, like a stereotypical Valley Girl. Oh well.

The interview is supposed to air tomorrow morning on P4 around 6-6:15 a.m., WAY too early for me to be up listening for it, but it will also be posted on their website by 9 a.m. for anyone interested!