In October of 1961, having been in the states for about 8 months, we found out about the delicious custom of Halloween.
At first there was the confusion of why we would be dressing up: “Is it like carnaval? Is there a parade we get to ride in ?” (“Pardon me….. but your Caribbean roots are showing.”)
It was exactly like a Jerry Seinfeld routine: “everyone we know is doing what?? GIVING AWAY CANDY?” “What do we have to do?” …. “Umm… Okay, we can wear that!” “What do we have to say?” Trick or treat?? Foreign, bizarre words. Equally bizarre concept. But there was the FREE CANDY. We practiced saying the magic words, which came out more like: “Treeco Tree.”
My sister, Miriam was going to go with a new exile friend. But the girl and her dad arrived at our home precisely at 6:00 PM completely in costume…on October 30th! No, really. We (I’m including all exiles here) just DID NOT GET IT. There were embarrassed tears, but they got it together for the next night, when she and the poor dad returned ready for the festive begging. Poor thing. I think we must have mocked her mercilessly.
Even now, I remember this first Halloween in the states. I remember it every year as I’m sewing or gluing costumes or carving pumpkins. I try to remember the feelings of the refugee child learning the customs of the land and trying so desperately to assimilate. The carving pumpkin thing we never did growing up. It was later, when we created homes of our own and wanted to add our own traditions to the Cuban mix.
My home, last night was bustling with pre-Halloween activity. But I still can’t shake my Cuban roots. We carved pumpkins. (Well, the kids did. )
To me it really felt like an occasion for homemade churros and hot chocolate and I said so. When I suggested this, they all just kind of nodded their heads and agreed. Their experience has been that when mom makes one of these bizarre food suggestions, it’s usually a win-win situation.