“I love you!” one of my college students, “Angie”, enthusiastically shouted while I threw a handful of candy into her bag. “Can I hug you?”
How often does Halloween fun, in this case trick-or-treating to the foreigner’s home, bring on that kind of reaction!
These past two weeks have been devoted to Halloween in my English majors’ second year classrooms. Part of our lesson time together covers holidays and traditions of America, such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. October is the month for Halloween. It’s always the first special Amercian custom that we cover for the new semester so I try to do it up just right.
Because these students will be future elementary and junior high school English teachers, and because the textbooks their students use have a unit on Halloween, it’s important that they get all the information necessary to make sure they are well-qualified to teach such a unit. I’ve gone over several older Chinese elementary and junior high school English texts that refer to Halloween as a Christian holiday. All Hallow’s Eve, followed by All Saints Day, does have some Christian connections but it certainly is not a Christian holiday, or any holiday for that matter. It’s a tradition descended from over 2,000 years ago from the Druids. I certainly wouldn’t be doing my duty as a good Christian, or a veteran teacher, to unleash novice teachers into China’s schools with the idea that Christians celebrate Halloween as a Christian holiday. Ouch!
Thus the two weeks on Halloween.
Our Halloween unit covers the history of the day, how the customs came about, and what Americans (mostly children) do to celebrate this day. In class, the students sample trying on costumes, re-enacting trick-or-treating, and bobbing for apples. They always go crazy over the pumpkin I’ve carved as an example of a jack-o-lantern. Those with digital camera cell phone abilities spend the entire 10-minute break posing with the lit pumpkin, wearing the witches’ hat and masks, and racing about dressed as the sheeted ghost.
Our days this week have been spent getting ready for next week’s Halloween unit test and making masks for visits to my home for trick-or-treating. Students are required to wear their masks, bring a bag and come to my home for their goodies. Each class has a specific time to descend upon my little apartment in small groups.
As the appointed time comes, I can always tell of their arrival. My second story balcony brings many gasps and shouts of “How beautiful!” from those glimpsing it for the first time. The pumpkin glows his greeting while orange paper luminaries with smiling and frowning faces gaze down on them. In the darkness, and the cool October temperatures, there is definitely a feeling of an American Halloween night in the air.
Tromping noisily up the stairs, I finally hear the groups gathering on the landing. They’re whispering in Chinese outside of my door: “Knock on the door!” “Quiet! She’ll know we’re here.” “Is this the right apartment?”
Their shy hesitation can last anywhere from a few seconds to up to several minutes. I, meanwhile, peer through the door’s peek hole from time to time or sit impatiently with a huge basin of candy in my lap.
Of course, I could open the door and invite them in but that spoils the entire experience of the evening. They’re supposed to knock, they’re supposed to raise their masks to their faces and they’re supposed to shout “Trick-or-Treat!”
Although it sometimes takes awhile, there’s eventually one brave soul who leads the way with a knock, the door opens and in they bound with “Trick-or-Treat! Trick-or-Treat! Trick-or-Treat!” filling my small outer room.
I certainly am not the stingy one when it comes to goodies, either. Everyone gets a huge handful of the best wrapped candies I could buy. These students are poor and rarely purchase the truly tasty sweets. Instead, they settle for the mundane cheap ones. But on my Halloween watch, my trick-or-treaters get the best of the best.
It certainly seems to be worth the effort, too. Excited, happy students shout “Thank you!” as they scoot down the stairwell, many already ripping into their candy wrappers to see what lies inside.
As for me, I get shouts of “I love you, Connie!” and hugs from sweet students such as Angie.
That’s certainly enough reward for me.
Two more trick-or-treat nights to go, then it’s the Disney movie “Casper” in the classroom building’s only large power-point lecture hall on Friday night. It’s a long hike up to the 6th floor and the room only holds 120 (I have 180) so I imagine it’ll be a tight fit. I’ve already warned everyone they’ll most likely have to bring chairs from the lower-level classrooms. As you know from the last entry, they’re getting pretty used to dragging chairs around so there shouldn’t be too many groans of inconvenience. Getting them to put the chairs back after the movie . . . . , well, that might be a different story.
Here’s hoping your trick-or-treaters this year were worthy of their goodies. Mine certainly were!
From Luzhou, wishing you a Halloween week’s “Ping An” (peace)