For kids, I think Halloween is one of the hardest holidays to miss when you no longer live in the USA. If you think about it, what makes Halloween fun is the costumes, your friends and then all the strangers who give you candy. Costumes are not easy to find here. We only found them in one store (the dollar store) so the few kids that were dressed up (gringos) were almost all the same thing. Decorations are also hard to find (again, the dollar store). And you can’t really trick or treat here, you’d just confuse your neighbors or piss off the secret service (more on that later).
The other thing about Halloween is that it’s somewhat frowned upon here. Zoe asked if she could take in some small toys and candy to her classmates at school on Friday. The directora said no. She said Zoe could bring in anything about Jesus but nothing about Halloween. In addition, our cook Marta told us that a local hotel had Halloween decorations up and received a call from the mayor saying that no Halloween music (whatever that is) would be permitted. Must be all that black magic, y’know.
Since I knew Halloween might be difficult emotionally, I asked the girls if they wanted to completely ignore the day (and stay off social media!) or have a party. Their answers were 50-50. If you know my kids you’ll know who said what.
So we had a party. We invited another gringo family over and we made traditional American foods (chili, hamburgers, mac and cheese) and we tried to recreate Halloween as best we could within these 4 walls. The decorations were a challenge in this box of a house with nothing but white. We managed to piece something together enough for it to look festive. It’s not up to my usual standards but the bar has been lowered. We are in Panama, after all. What can you expect when your only Hobby Lobby is the dollar store.
We bobbed for apples, we ate cookies from a string (no donuts here), we played musical chairs and we trick or treated upstairs in the bedrooms and bathroom. A few of Haley’s Panamanian friends dropped by in the middle of it so they joined the party. They seemed especially enthusiastic about the trick or treating. I can imagine the conversation back at their homes: “And then we went upstairs and the adults hid in the bedrooms and we knocked on the doors and they all gave us candy.” Say what??? Gringos Locos!
Dan surprised us all with his Spiderman costume and he surprised the neighbors when we went on a walk to the park. He tried to enter the building where the ex President of Panama usually sits around in during festivities (she’s from Pedasi and the only woman President in the history of Panama). Her secret service people were NOT happy about Spidey and his costume. They stopped him at the door and pointed outside. No language needed. Spidey got the point. In a block and a half he had three people who took a picture with him. I guess a 6 foot tall Spiderman in Panama is quite rare.
What made Halloween even more strange is that Pedasi was having a big party on the same day for a completely different reason. The Senorita of Pedasi had her coronation Friday night and Saturday was the parade of carts. You can envision small grass hut things being pulled by bulls followed by people dancing to drums, most of whom were drinking (the people, probably not the bulls, but you never know). It was all very sweet and very Panamanian. The parade was followed by a running of the bulls down the street, which sounds like fun until you find out last year a guy died when he got in the way. No es bueno.
And of course you don’t have a parade without a disco. So while Panamanians are all partying outside a block away, we are partying inside to limbo music and musical chairs. I guess a party is a party. One of the boys who came to our party said it was the best Halloween party he’d been to. I’ll take it.