Halloween Party Time
On Saturday we had a Halloween Party for nine, Spanish teenagers. It was a big success, which is great, since like most parties it was a lot of work, not to mention quite a bit of expense.
I spent half of last week wandering around Alcalá de Henares for decorations and bits and bobs for Malassie´s “cat” costume.
I also downloaded creepy songs and monsterly sound effects on Spotify and I swiped the bones (sorry) of a story from a site on urban myths and re-wrote it for a scary storytime.
All day Saturday was spent (a) cleaning the house and (b) dirtying the house with spider web, decorations and balloons.
Then I spent an inordinate amount of time with Malassie in the kitchen wrestling with the intimidating phenomenon of the “cupcake”. This was one of the big draws of the party and featured in the invitations. We just had to have Halloween cupcakes and I was a bag of nerves.
I could have saved myself a lot of trouble by buying them ready made but I didn´t like the supposedly Halloween ones in the shops (with their funny faces they looked more like something out of Sesame Street than Nightmare on Elm Street to me). Even the relatively new Taste of America shop couldn´t come up with the goods – their Halloween cupcakes were small and squidgy.
So it was up to Malassie and me. We put green and orange icing on our misshapen cakes and Malassie´s wee, nail-arted fingers were quite deft at making black fondant cats, bones, spiders and witch´s hat cake decorations. (After all, until recently she´s spent her whole life messing about with plasticine). It was our first try at making cakes and they turned out pretty weird indeed but, much to my surprise, everybody loved them.
Hubby made finger foods (almost literally, in the case of some frankfurters with a blob of ketchup as blood and an almond as a nail). He served up “drinks of blood” – orange Fanta turned red with grenadine – and “bat wings,” which were actually chicken. (Of course)!
The best moment was at the end of the scary story. “Dadi” as the Spanish kids were calling him, burst in on them from the terraza in a Scream mask. Particularly scary (to my mind) was that he´d had recourse to nothing other than the filthy broom I use for sweeping up deadheads as a psycho-killer weapon. There was just the tiniest tinge of real fear, however, among the hilarity and noise.
A typical Halloween, then?
Actually, no. What I´ve found interesting this Halloween isn´t that the supposed “American” tradition has become so widespread (though that means I didn´t have to make my own decorations like I did before) but that it´s sitting so comfortably back-to-back with the Spanish Todos los santos, All Saints´ Day.
Indeed, one Spanish acquaintance mentioned there was a holiday this week for “Halloween.” There isn´t – the holiday is the Catholic All Saints on the 1st of November – but she obviously saw no conflict in having the 31st of October stand in for it.
So I began to think that both celebrations were one and the same. Celtic or Catholic, they each have their little bit of gore to scare off any dead men walking. The bakeries here were full of delicious little marzipan fingers called huesos de santo (saints´ relics), filled with a creamy, sugary paste called yema to represent the bone marrow.
And as I pulled the cakes out of the oven, slightly underdone and lightly burnt at the same time, I realised that the cupcake is little more than the Spanish magdalena that half of Spain has for breakfast every morning.
But in the end I decided that there was one crucial difference between Halloween and Todos los Santos.
Halloween is about the fear of the dead and all the creatures of the night but it´s just for fun. Todos los santos is about remembering loved ones and taking flowers to their graves. It´s rooted in the belief, or at the very least the hope, that one day, family members will be reunited again.
It´s deadly serious.
I wonder if Halloween and Todos los Santos can co-exist or if the former will supplant the latter.
And I wonder which of those outcomes is the truly scary one.