Dulce o truco? – adapted from a post first published 2006

How times change. When I lived in the UK, I was usually completely unaware that it was Halloween until the first knock on the door, and so would either have to pretend not to be at home, or gingerly hand over unsatisfying gifts like apples. This gesture would absolve me from a trick, but as it did not quite comply with their definition of a treat, you could see the sugar-fuelled reproach in their  stares.

Once in a while I would remember the significance of the date and buy a bag of mini-Mars Bars at the corner shop on the way home from work. Instead of ‘once in a while’, it’s probably more honest to say ‘once’.

Fast forward a few years later and I’m amused to find myself chaperoning a ghoulish group of tots around the neighbourhood, in their quest for Halloween handouts.

I even learned something new last night – trick or treat in Spanish is “dulce o truco”. Our ragged little brigade of imps and demons was well prepared for receiving “dulces” but to my slight disappointment did not have any “trucos” up their sinister little sleeves.

Some houses obliged, while others simply said “no tengo” without any fear of retaliation from the creepy contingent. I can report that my son came home with a satisfying haul of goodies.

Not all Dominicans are that keen on Halloween. Some see it as an over-commercialised tradition that has been imposed from outside, which threatens to displace home-grown culture. Others are vaguely aware of its pagan roots, and through convoluted logic, conclude that it is a form of devil-worship. For both these reasons, some (but not all) schools choose to skirt the subject.

My son has been to four schools in the last eight years. The first replaced Halloween with a ‘dress-up day’ where the children were asked to come in dressed up as their favourite literary character. The costumes were not to be bought, but home-made. In this way, the school manages to ignore Halloween, strike a blow for creativity, promote the love of reading, and snub consumer culture and over-commercialisation in general, while satisfying the children’s desire to dress up. Sadly, not all parents go along with the guidelines, and shop-bought superheroes and other commercial creations invariably end up making an appearance.

The second school did have some sort of celebration, fusing the harvest festival with Halloween, but did not make a huge song and dance of it either. The third school had no active commemoration, although I’m not sure what the reasoning was. The current school celebrated Halloween for the first three years but this year it was re-branded as a fall festival. There may have been objections from teachers and/or parents.

In contrast, many businesses love it, and are happy to festoon their premises with pumpkins, witches, goblins and spiders webs many weeks in advance.

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