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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Happy Hallo-what?

Halloween—a raging inferno of wacky costumes, candy exploitation and overall trickery that all Grinnellians know and love. Or do they? Halloween is a customary American holiday. On Grinnell’s campus, the average international student’s experiences of Halloween range from absolutely none to the original experience of Halloween when skulls are made from sugar and citizens believe in ghosts.

Fatemeh Elahi ’12, an international student from Iran, is among those who had never heard of Halloween for the majority of their lives. She discovered it on her first day of senior year of high school, which coincidentally happened to be Halloween. “I saw them dressing all weirdly,” Elahi said. “I didn’t know Americans dressed like that. I didn’t know about Halloween at all.”

While Elahi had never heard of Halloween, Pavlo Nikolaidis ’13, from Greece, was familiar with the October celebration and knew of only one holiday in Greece that was remotely similar to Halloween—Apokries, a carnival where Greeks wear costumes in celebration of the approaching of Lent. Saturday will be Nikolaidis’ first Halloween in the United States and he plans to participate in typical American fashion. “I’ll be going around, exploiting people for candy,” Nikolaidis said. “I plan to go as Tinker Bell.”

South of the border, Mexicans have a completely different take on Halloween—or rather, the original take on which ours is a take-off. “The American version of the Halloween is spun off the actual Mexican tradition,” Pablo Enriquez-Dunkel ’12, from Merida, Yucatan said. “We still operate on it.”

Enriquez-Dunkel reflected on his past years celebrating Dia de Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. It is the day where the dead come back to visit loved ones and their families prepare for their arrival. “In my town’s version, we set up altars—one for children, one for adults. The children’s altar is usually colorful, with toys, pictures of dead children,” said Enriquez-Dunkel. “You’ll put a picture of the kid, candy, toys, stuff the kid might have liked.” Instead of the American collection of commercial candies, skulls are created from pure sugar with decorations of even more sugar in different colors.

Despite his native country’s history in celebrating the dead, Enriquez-Dunkel is intrigued by the American take on honoring the dead. “The American version of the Halloween is spun off the actual tradition. We still operate on it. [But] it’s one of my favorite holidays actually,” Enriquez-Dunkel said. “I love how people put so much effort into dressing up.”

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