My daughter turned four in 2002 and as Halloween approached, I thought it was high time for her to make her trick-or-treating debut. Halloween is a major event in Ireland, where I come from, and my family had always gone all out for the occasion. The problem was, nobody seemed to celebrate it in Sweden. Any Swedes I mentioned Halloween to had just a vague idea of what it was about and that it was an American thing.
Determined that my daughter should embrace her cultural heritage (Halloween actually originated in Ireland) and that I should have a complete collection of parenting memories, including the joy of costume making, I was not be to deterred by a little detail like Halloween being a non-event in Sweden.
The day before Halloween, I walked round to all the nearest neighbours on our road, explained the concept of trick-or-treating and asked if they wouldn’t mind getting with the program. I even provided sweets for them to hand out. They were all very obliging except one household, who didn’t have much time for anything American, and thought it clashed badly with All Saints Day, a surprisingly well observed occasion in Sweden in a country not known for church-attendance.
All went well – we decorated to the max at home, my daughter loved dressing up and trick-or-treating and we all enjoyed her stash of sweets. The whole event was ceremoniously captured in Kodak and sent off to the photo shop for development, copies and later, letter post to the family.
Two years later, we even had a kids Halloween party and invited in all her friends. By this stage, the neighbours were really on-board and had stocked up with sweets themselves.
Within just a few years, Halloween became firmly established in Sweden – a result of globalisation and retailers spotting opportunities and every Swedish supermarket worth its salt now has had a full range of pumpkins and Halloween merchandise. We stock up for Halloween callers at home every year and depending on the changing demographics of our road, have a lot of trick-or-treaters or a serious sugar-high evening.
And just when you think that as a result of internationalisation, frames of reference are now the same everywhere in the Western World, you can be really surprised. On a girls night out in Stockholm recently, I found myself having to explain who the Kardashians were, to not just one, but a whole group of women, after I happened to reference them in a comment and was met by a sea of blank faces. Obviously it speaks volumes for these women that they didn’t know who the Kardashians were and it’s oddly comforting to know that there is a corner of the Western world that has escaped exposure. Or could it be that they have manged to avoid all exposure to trashy magazines by never queuing in supermarkets and going to classier hairdressers?
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