Gotcha! Celebrating Halloween in Indonesia

Last year on October 31, I pulled on thick leggings and jeans, slid on a tight black dress with matching bug ears, and pulled on a puffy, down-feather coat. It was snowing outside.

This year on October 31, I sat in front of my AC unit, melting in the relentless equatorial heat. I rummaged through my small closet and decided on a red plaid shirt and USA flag bandana. With my hair in two braids, maybe I could pass as a cowgirl?

Halloween is not widely celebrated in Indonesia. Yet many of my students have (unsurprisingly) seen it depicted in movies: a limited portrayal of ghosts, vampires, headless horseman, and goblins. They laughed at the Halloween photos of me dressed as a beetle, genie, and cat. Those outfits were far to “cute” for such a scary holiday!

I invited my school’s English Club to join in on the festivities. The week before Halloween, a group of students came to my house to decorate. We made over two dozen paper ghosts, a handful of paper skulls, cardboard spiders (which have made me jump at night), and a hauntingly realistic spider web of black and red string. My foyer is the spookiest in the neighborhood!

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Students from SMA Negeri 7 Bandar Lampung
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Watermelon jack-o-lanterns

On Halloween day, 10 students followed me home from school. We kicked off the party with watermelon carving (there are no pumpkins here). Each student had a small watermelon, knife, spoon, and bowl. They hastily began scooping out the watery flesh, filling the shallow bowls far too quickly. Soon water was spilling over the sides and soaking my front porch. The neighborhood ants were having a field day!

After scarfing down some watermelon to make room for more in the bowls, our green jack-o-lanterns were finally hallow. Students used sharpies to draw jagged faces on the rind and carefully cut out lopsided eyes, square noses, and toothless smiles. They proudly posed with their spooky creations for photos and videos. I think the red undertones of watermelon are even spookier than the classic orange of pumpkins. And, unlike pumpkins, were could eat the watermelon flesh and drink its juice right away!

Following the watermelon carving, students decorated their own paper masks. They chose from templates of rabbits, dogs, cats, and foxes. Some were freakishly realistic. Others sported fun pops of pink, neon blue, and yellow. We cut thin holes of the sides of the masks and used string to tie them around our faces.

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Don’t have a costume? No worries! All you need is paper, markers, and some imagination.

In the meantime, students played the “Guess How Much Candy is in the Jar” game (correct answer: 70 pieces!), swapped ghost stories, and completed a Halloween-themed word search.

Before wrapping up, we voted for our favorite jack-o-lanterns and masks, and the winners went home with a 2017 calendar of USA landmarks. Each student also left with a handful of candy and a USA flag decal in lieu of trick-or-treating.

All in all, celebrating Halloween in Indonesia was a blast! It didn’t feel quite the same without pumpkin pie, corny costumes, and rows of decorated houses, but my students and I still got in the spirit!

Next up: Thanksgiving!

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Say “trick-or-treat!”

 

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