Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Hallo-whattheheckkindofholidayisthis?

Out of respect for my children, their parents, and ultimate human privacy, you will not be able to see pictures of my P1 children dressed as dinosaurs, Super Mario, a lion, Belle, a fairy, a creepy shiny costumed man, a penguin and a pumpkin.

Instead, I will describe to you how to throw your very own Taiwanese Halloween.

1: Ignore it. Most Taiwanese families do, anyway, and it's only propagated for two reasons: Taiwanese parents send their kids to English schools, and Taiwanese people love to buy shit. Any excuse to have a thing of some holiday related novelty is enough reason to have a family outing to Carrefour to pick out a costume.

2. If you can't ignore it, go over the top for no particular reason. As did the Taiwanese staff at our school, you too can spend hours making Halloween decorations out of paper, plastic, yarn and paint! My class made ghosts out of Kleenex, spiders out of handprints, and pumpkins out of paper shapes. Then, stick them everywhere. Hang black plastic over doorways, please, because everyone loves bags in the face.

3. Play as much Halloween music as you can, as long as it isn't scary. This leaves you with about three suitable songs, one of them being "Trick or Treat" - a song version of the chant set to the tune of "It's Raining, It's Pouring." If I never, ever have to hear that song again, I will be at peace. They played it on repeat for three hours this morning over the loudspeaker.

4. Go trick-or-treating, but only at school, and while at school, only go to one classroom, thus making the actual treating time more efficient. Less candy, less fun, but also less time wasted.

5. Waste lots of time having every single student in the multipurpose room - let's say - 100! - tell the other students what they are for Halloween. In Chinese. While the Trick-or-Treat song is playing so loudly you can't actually hear the 4 year olds tell everyone ta shi shei.

Okay, okay. I wrote that blast pre-afternoon nap. This portion of the blog is post-homemade bean and rice burrito dinner. I'm a bit more retrospective and little less critical now. A few more quick points:

Halloween is simply not a holiday. It is a photo opportunity. Parents hung around for hours today just to see their kid take 10 seconds to walk across the stage in their costume, most of which were store bought (and many of which were the same, bought at the same store.) Some of them were homemade brilliance. One little girl showed up in a vest and skirt entirely made of bubble wrap and paper flowers (guessing mama doesn't have a day job) and there were some very decadent pumpkins, or nan gua, as I heard announced so many times. The kids stick their fingers up in a peace sign (the Asian pose we all make fun of at home, oh yeah, so real!) - snapshot! - done. The kids don't do anything. 

But field trips are like this, too. Let's go to a museum. Let's take a billion photos at the museum. Back on the bus. Let's go to the supermarket. Take a billion photos with the fruit. Back on the bus. There's this odd "The photo is more important than the experience." thing going on. Why do you want a picture of something you didn't actually do?

Tomorrow is my "anniversary" of three months in Taiwan. Time flies when you're buying consumer goods, writing obscene amounts of report cards, and taking your umpteenth photo.

But I still love my scooter.


  1. :) Glad to see you still love your scooter

  2. Good morning, I'm a student from your mother's computer class. I have heard that most people don't celebrate Halloween. Parents think that if you get candy from strangers, they would most likely be poisoned thus they won't allow their children to roam around, hunting for candy. Isn't it fun to see all the children dress up in costumes since they're so tiny! I enjoyed seeing the little kids in those tiny costumes during Halloween. And yes, I also heard that people over there love to take pictures. Pictures are like, their "thing" over there. I hope you have fun during Christmas though since they really celebrate that! Have fun in Taiwan!

  3. Hello, It is Selenge again from your mom's computer class. Actually I read your article and thought about my country. In my country we also, do not really celebrate Halloween that much. But when I came here, I became used to celebrate Halloween like going with my friends for trick or treating and get a lot of candies. It is a lot of fun to go trick or treating. Everything is not the same as other countries, but it is ok.

  4. Hi Caitlin! I love taking pictures! But not on vacation, and not at every moment. Taking pictures everywhere just drives me crazy. It's like, do we really need that many pictures? Jeez. And the worst part about it is that my mom likes taking lots and lots of pictures too. Then she uses the excuse that we don't go on vacation all the time, which is true. But I realize that pictures are all worth it in the end.

    ~ Nori =)

  5. Hi Caitlin! It seems that both of our Halloweens were different then usual. I went to Disneyland with my friend and we got to go all around Disneyland by ourselves and we were really hyper, especially on Halloween. Having to sustain all the energy we had from 8 Am-Midnight for three days is not an easy task but it was the most fun I have ever had at Disneyland, and I go there a lot. I didn't take a lot of pictures because we were occupied with going on rides but usually I take a lot. When I went to Chicago I took about 1200 pictures, mostly of buildings. I usually just thought that Halloween was celebrated around the world, with people dressing up and getting free candy, so it was interesting to hear that different cultures have different customs for this particular holiday. I can't wait to read your next blog!

  6. I totally agree that Halloween is more of a photo opportunity then a holiday. Nowadays, photography is used more as a hobby or something to do when your bored. Society has totally forgotten that it should be used to capture memories and experiences to remember in the future.

    -9th grade student, Peter

  7. Hi! I'm Helen from your mom's class. It seems fun to make decorations even though most families in Taiwan ignore Halloween. I really wanted to see the little kids wearing costumes. I remember that when I was little my parents would have their camera out all the time and start taking pictures of my sister and I. I hope to read your next blog soon!

  8. I also agree that Halloween is just a photo opportunity. But I'm glad that you still found a way to celebrate Halloween with all of your students even if most people in Taiwan don't celebrate it. It sounds like your Halloween was very tiring but still fun.