Halloween Eve: when the fun is not limited to children

Thursday, November 03, 2016 - 16:05:45

(VOVworld) - Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity, life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. Thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic people, Halloween has evolved from a set of customs to ward off roaming ghosts into a community event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating. Today we will talk with Charles Jensen from the US, who is currently an English teacher in Hanoi, to learn how he enjoys Halloween.


Q:  Hello, Charles. I’ve learnt that in October American people celebrate Halloween night with many exciting activities. Can you explain to me why this night is widely celebrated? Is there any religious significance behind it?

A: Halloween is not really religious, it’s just for fun. In the past, obviously there were historical factors that created the Halloween. However there were some churches or religions opposed to it because they thought this day was scary and bad. But in the modern time, everybody is doing it. They seem to embrace it and have fun with it. Halloween to us is just a day to dress up, eat candies and try to scare each other. During this whole month, all the television channels and theatres would show horror films. And a lot of people, young and old, would participate in Halloween activities. When I was young, I dressed up for candies but when I get older, I would dress up to scare people or to take my baby girl around.  

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Kids dressed up in Halloween costumes (Photo: dreamstime.com)
Q: Can you name some of the most popular customs that you do during this event?

A: Usually we go from door to door, saying “trick or treat”. The people at home will then give us candies. Some people went to see horror movies. Some have special traditions for Halloween, like making haunted houses that you have to walk through for candies. We actually ran a haunted house for charity when I was young, which was cool. We also do the carving pumpkins. Every year, my wife and I invited some Vietnamese over to carve pumpkins. And even though my wife is Vietnamese, she is way better than me. The first pumpkin she made was horrible but the second one was a work of genius. I think Vietnamese people are very meticulous and skillful with their hands.

Q: How do you carve the pumpkins?

A: Well, you have to take out all of the pumpkin guts and everything inside, including the seeds. This is the most boring part and you have to spend a long time doing that. And when the pumpkin’s clean out, you can cut the face or whatever you want. Some people are just absolutely amazing with their designs.

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According to Charles, to carve a pumpkin for Halloween, you first have to take out all of the pumpkin guts before cutting the face or whatever you want.(Photo: Shutterstock)

Q: What do you do with the pumpkin guts? Do you just throw them away?

A: No, you can eat the inside of the pumpkin obviously right? Some people cook the seeds or you can make pumpkin pie. My wife usually makes some Vietnamese dishes or soup with the inside or whatever we cut out.

Q: And where will you put the carved pumpkins?

A: We put them outside the house to scare bad spirits. Well, we know it’s fake but we still do it. Like in Vietnam, some people don’t believe in spirits but there are certain traditions you still do.

Q: Back to the trick-or-treat traditions, so you only give candies to children in return for their visit?

A: Usually the kids from the same neighborhoods form into groups to walk together or their parents just walk their kids from house to house. I’m the only child so my parents just walked me like that.

The neighbors then just give the candies to the kids who come up their house and they have to prepare some buckets of candies beforehand. It may depend on how much effort they want to put into it. Some people put a lot of effort, giving the kids all kinds of candies. Some people just simply give them packed bags.  Some people lock the door, turn off the light and hide. When we walk around the neighborhood and see those houses, we just boo them.

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Children ran in a haunted house in Vancover in 2015. (Photo: boredinvancouver.com)

Q: You mentioned that your family ran a haunted house at Halloween. Can you tell me more about it?

A: Actually one of my family’s friends started it and we helped setting it up. Every year, my dad would become the main face and stood in front of the haunted house because he was a really good actor. If the theme of that year was monsters, he dressed up as Dracula in a coffin and talked to the people who waited in line. The year after, we had an Indiana Jones theme and we dressed up like the characters in those movies. The people who went to the house were scared by all the temple monsters. At that time, I was a kid so I was in charge of basic tasks like I had to press the button when people walked in the room and so the light went out. But to me those were the biggest deal in the world. Everyone paid to go into the house and all that money went to charity. So that was really cool and I was really lucky to do that when I was a kid. But that’s no ordinary, some people do that, some don’t.

Q: I bet it would take a lot of effort to make a haunted house like that?

A: We spend the whole month setting up and making the haunted house. People in the neighbourhood just drove by and tried to get the theme of the year.

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US President Barack Obama gave out Halloween treats to children at the White House during the Halloween night 2016. (Photo: Metro.co.uk/Getty)

Q: So Charles, you’ve been in Hanoi for a while but still keep the traditions of celebrating Halloween with your family here. Do you plan to continue it this year?

A: Yes, we will try to do those things here. At least we will do the pumpkin craving and tried to dress up the baby. 

Thank you so much for some interesting stories about Halloween in the US!