The teacher announced “In tomorrow’s class, everyone will give a talk on what they did for Halloween. I’m eagerly looking forward to listening to all your stories.”
9 year old Rohan froze. This was his very first Halloween, more so in a foreign country. He hailed from India and there was no Halloween there.
That evening, he waited patiently for his dad to return from the office. He looked out of the window as he saw a bunch of kids going Trick or Treating in his neighborhood. They were dressed in costumes. Spider-Man, super man, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel. He didn’t even have a costume!
It was half past 5 PM, when his dad came home. “What happened son? You look gloomy.”
“Dad, I have to go trick or treating. We have to talk about it in our English class. I can’t fake a made up story. The teacher will know.”
“What’s the big deal? Let’s go tonight!”
“I don’t have a costume on!”
“The stores are still open. We could still go get one. What do you want to be?”
“I wanted to be SuperMan. But it’s already taken by somebody. I just saw them. I’ll be Olaf?”
“Sure! Let’s go!”
“But dad, it’s an unnecessary expenditure. We first get a costume and then a bucket to collect candies. Then, we get more candies if people show up!”
Rohan was very well aware that his parents toiled day in and day out to make ends meet. Both of them had full time jobs and a part time jobs. They had extended family in India and were sending funds too. He tried his best to limit the expenses from his end. He had limited toys, he ate mindfully.
He absolutely hated the fact about spending on Halloween items as he considered them to be one-time use.
His thoughts vanished when the car stopped at the store’s parking lot.
“Dad, do we have to do this? Can’t we find some alternatives that are easily available at home? I mean, I know marks matter but..this will cost so much!”
“Don’t worry about the expense, son! Firstly, this is your first time going about in the neighborhood. Ensure you make a good impression. They matter. Secondly, you have never experienced this in India. When we are offered an opportunity, recognize it. I should’ve realized this before son, I’m sorry, it completely escaped my mind.”
“I don’t blame you dad. It’s a children activity!”
And off the father-son duo went, they got what they wanted and returned home.
Rohan wore the costume.
“I am Olaf...I… I.. like hugs!” He stammered
“Warm hugs” his father corrected.
“Don’t be nervous son. Tell me, who are you?”
“Oh wow! A talking snowman!! What do you want?”
“A warm hug, daddy” Rohan reached out for a hug. “Thanks, dad!”
As they went outside, “This house gives chocolates. That does. And thaaaaat one over there does. I saw kids going.”
“Let’s follow suit.”
“Who’s there?” questioned a female voice.
“Roh..” he was about to answer, while his dad cleared the throat.
“I mean, Olaf. The Snowman. From Frozen. I..” Rohan corrected himself.
The door opened, and a lady with a bowl responded.
“Hi Olaf. You like warm hugs and candies don’t you? Hello to you sir! You must be new here.”
“Yes, we live opposite.”
“That is very nice! Here are your candies Olaf”
They went to the second house.
“Yes?” Answered a man with his hands behind his back. He was stern.
“Hello Sir, my name is Olaf and I like warm hugs.” Rohan said with a serious face.
“Oh, so serious? Rather Joker from Batman! Can you spare me a trick or two?”
Rohan stayed still. Tricks? He had never thought of that!! He thought candies were given out merely based on costumes. He never had a trick planned. He considered the tradition rather rude. It’s not even your property to be rude to someone else.
Helpless, he looked up to his dad and turned to go back.
His dad spoke up “Don’t mind me, sir. But this Olaf is pampered and won’t take no for an answer. If you don’t offer a treat, we will cut a plant from your garden and take it home!”
The homeowner laughed and showed some candies. “Come here Olaf, did I scare you?”
“I… I didn’t have a trick.”
“Don’t you worry, I will hand you a cotton ball. Spin off spider webs from it and threaten to put it all over their door if they don’t offer you treats. How does that sound, young man?”
Rohan smiled from the generosity.
They went to the third home with the cotton and some more candies.
No one responded.
“I don’t think anyone is home, Dad” Olaf turned around to go back.
Just then his eyes fell on a bowl of candies beside the door. He pointed towards it and asked his Dad
“Are they all for me?”
“No son, not all. Take a little and go”
“Will they be watching, Dad?”
“This reminds me of a joke mom used to narrate. I’ll narrate it to you - There was a boarding school far, far away. During the lunch break, a boy went to take apples. The note read ‘Take only one. God is watching!” So the boy took one and went to take some candies which were beside the apples. He notices no sign there and writes “Take as many candies as you want, god is busy watching apples”.”
“Hahaha. That was a good joke.” A little girl, younger than Rohan spoke by the window. She had blue eyes and brown hair. “And yes, the candies are for you. Take some. God is still busy with apples.”
Rohan was embarrassed.
“Say thanks” his father said. Rohan just smiled meekly.
“Why don’t you like tricks?” He asked the young girl.
“My parents work night shift and I’m the only one in the house with my sitter. We shouldn’t be opening the door to people.”
“Sounds okay. Thanks for the candies anyway. Have a good night!”
They went to another house that had the front porch lights on - before they could knock a lady opened and smiled - “Ah! estás aquí por el cráneo”?
“Pardon?” the father said.
“Sorry. In Mexico, we give calaverita” she said, handing out a small sugar and chocolate coated skull in a packet.
“Oh wow! Did you make this yourself?”
“Si” the lady nodded in response.
“Thank you! That is amazing!”
Rohan was elated! He was gradually getting a hang of why the kids loved Trick ‘r treating!
As they returned - “Son, be a little cautious of this skull. Since it’s homemade, there could be contamination.”
“That’s a very good point, Dad! I didn’t think of it. It’s also very easy to lure children into a stranger’s house. I can, maybe shed light into these during my presentation on Monday.”
“You betcha! You’re doing a great job, son! I love how confident you’re gradually getting my dear, Olaf!”
“Thanks for coming with me dad! I really appreciate you accompanying me. I can’t wonder how it will be with other kids. I think I’m also terrified of that fact that some suspicious house in the neighborhood can mean harm.”
“Umm… excuse me? Do you mind some company?” - their talks were cut short by a voice.
It was the girl that laughed at their joke. She was now dressed in a blonde wig and had applied red lipstick. “My mother returned early from her work and said I could go trick or treating.”
“Sure, join us! My name is Ranjith and this is my son Rohan. This is our first Halloween here.”
“Nice to meet you, my name is Elise. For Halloween, I’ve dressed as Cinderella. Where are you from initially?”
“I’m sorry we didn’t recognize you. We’re from India.”
“India is a beautiful country. They have many festivals and food. Don’t you have Halloween as one of your festivals?”
“Not really. What is the real, actual significance of Halloween?” Rohan asked.
“Well, we believe that the dead return to Earth at this time of the year and they need to be appeased with food and or money. They would miss these pleasures when dead. So we pretend to be them. The door opens between the reals, you could say.”
“Oh my god! That’s seen as a bad omen in India. We actually have a day called Mahalaya Amavasya, where the sons of a family do a ritual so that three generations of deceased ancestors find peace.”
“Wow! That’s intriguing! That’s the perks of living in a multicultural neighborhood. Aunt Sally gives little Calaveritas and Sir George likes to see what tricks we have up our sleeve. It’s fun.”
“Well, we’ve been to both the places. So, we’re done with Trick or Treating then? Is that all?”
“Yes, by the looks of it. Are you willing to give out candies too?”
“Certainly!! How do you invite people?”
“You can decorate your house, or leave the lights on or offer free candies in a bowl. I can notify the other kids to stop by tomorrow evening then? Maybe after that, we could carve pumpkins. Have you done that before, Rohan?”
“No..it’d be my first time. What’s the reason behind that?”
“Well, there once lived a man named Jack who tricked the demons for his gain. After his death, he wasn’t welcomed in Heaven nor Hell. So he roams Earth. To scare him away, we make demonic faces on the pumpkin.”
“Oh wow! I have got some really great content for my assignment. Thank you Elise. I think most of my classmates will narrate their experience but only I might go into the reasoning aspect of it.”
“That’s nice. Which school do you go?”
“Chapman High. What about you?”
“Elise, how is the safety here? It’s nearly 8 PM and you’ve just started Trick ‘r Treating all by yourself. Do you want us to accompany you?” Exclaimed Ranjith.
“Oh, the municipality has set the timeline of 5:00 PM to 9:30 PM. So, I’m well within the time frame. Also, this is a pretty safe, family-friendly neighborhood. Everyone knows each other pretty much. By this time tomorrow, you’ll be acquainted too. Don’t worry!”
“That sounds nice. I didn’t know that there was a time for it.” Rohan said.
“Anyway, Rohan and I are to head back home for supper. So we’ll take your leave, Elise?”
“Certainly. I’ll see you tomorrow evening then. Bye.”
As they headed home, Rohan placed the treats and the cotton ball on the dining table and rushed to his room. He took off the costume, changed to his night clothes and opened a notebook. He started jotting down in detail, so as to not miss anything. He did so in a matter of 20 minutes and asked his father to cross verify.
He rehearsed his speech in front of his mother Radha. She lauded it.
As he got ready for bed that night - “Dad, I’m so grateful to you for facilitating my participation in Trick ‘r Treating. This means so much to me than my grades. I’m definitely going to cherish all of this, Dad.”
His dad smiled in response and kissed him on the forehead.
The next day, after school, Rohan came running towards his father.
“Careful son. You might fall down.” Cautioned Ranjith.
“Dad! Dad! I have something to show you!!” Chirped Rohan as he bent down and opened his backpack. He took out a package that seemed like a mug.
“Dad, there was actually a prize for the person who spoke well. To my surprise, we won first place, Dad. I’m going to open this in front of you!”
“We won? We?”
“Yes, dad. This was no way a single sided effort. You were by my side from picking the costume to going houses. You even covered up when I didn’t have a trick. I couldn’t be happier Dad. You deserve equal credit.” Rohan said as he embraced his Dad.
The inflatable Halloween decorations outside the houses, danced merrily in the winds as the father and son walked home.