Halloween 2016 has come and gone. Even though the orange tinsel and paper ghosts are gone from our classroom, memories of the holiday are still fresh in my students’ minds. I was forbidden from holding a Halloween party by the religious officials at my private Islamic school, but no one batted an eye when English Club held a “Fall Festival” after school on Thursday, November 3rd. Which begs the question: would a Halloween party by any other name be as scary or as fun or as sugary-sweet?
If you ask my students, the answer will be a resounding YES!
No matter what’s in a name, keen observers would note that our Fall Festival had all the trappings of a bona fide Halloween party. There were masks and ghosts and treats, oh my! Decorations sent courtesy of my lovely mother turned our classroom into a spooky space which invited a million-and-a-half selfies over the course of three hours. Students made Jack O’Melons* for the first time (“Just like the movies, Miss!”) and when we finally lit the candles there was a thunderous round of applause. Then an army of hopping toilet paper mummies terrorized the basketball court, blinded and bellowing in unintelligible Javanese.
Through it all, your truly — the fearful leader of the ghouls and gals — pranced around school handing out candy to those brave enough to approach me. My costume was the scariest thing I could imagine: an evil immigration officer. Wearing heavy make-up and my government uniform from last year,** I proclaimed “Your visa status is DENIED” on a sign around my neck. For once I was permitted to grimace for the barrage of selfies that are a part of my life here.
At the end of the day, I would say that Halloween 2016 was a smashing success even if we didn’t technically celebrate holiday. I loved seeing my kids ooh and ahh at their Jack O’Melons and scream encouragement to their tissue-wrapped peers during the mummy race. For me, the best part of all was at the end of the party when I came into the classroom at the end of the party and Dwimas, the president of English Club, asked “Miss! Where’s the candy?” I still had a big box full of treats that needed eating stashed under my desk. When I presented it to the crowd that had gathered and said to “take as much as you want,” they went ham. Seeing them sort through their booty at the end of the scramble felt just like Halloween when I was a child.
Although Halloween has passed for this year, I think my students will remember it for a long time to come.
* Pumpkins in Indonesia are short and have very thick skin. Watermelons are much easier to carve and the red flesh has a nice effect when you light a candle inside.
** Last year I worked at a public high school. Teachers at public schools wear the same civil servant uniforms as immigration officers, parliament officials, and others. This year I teach at a private Islamic high school. We still have uniforms but those uniforms are determined by the private foundation, not the government in Jakarta.