I lived in Houston, TX for nigh on 20-years and on Halloween, the doorbell would not stop ringing. Little kids by the dozen all dressed up roaming the streets with their parents collecting candy. When my boys were little, I would accompany them around all the local streets and I really enjoyed seeing how Texans celebrated Halloween. Decorations, candy, make up, fancy dress, they do it right. Some of the yard decorations were simply spectacular too.
I will be honest and say that some years being the cranky sod I am, by the 50th ring of the doorbell and 100th listening to ‘TRICK OR TREAT,” I had sometimes had enough. There were times when I opened the door and said “Trick”. The kids looked confused by this as no one had explained that while the general consensus was to offer a treat, one or two weirdos like me thought it funny to instead ask for the trick. Not one was prepared for this and, of course, they got their treat anyway.
I also thought it somewhat bizarre that such a religiously conservative state as Texas where ‘birth control’ remains a sin, God is mightily feared and very rich men preach hell ‘n’ damnation to thousands every sunday – often in a televised evangelical love fest of making the man in the pulpit significantly richer, would allow Halloween to happen at all. Many a time, I watched young evangelical backside scamper off across my yard as fast as their young legs would take them when I proclaimed that I was a Wiccan and surely Halloween is a pagan and Wiccan celebration. Bit of an interesting quandary I always thought.
However, here I am now in the Czech Republic where I have been almost a decade and Halloween just hasn’t caught on. There is some minimal evidence of it happening in stores, clubs and restaurants but not much. Our doorbell never rang at all last night and a quick look up and down our street showed no kids, no fancy dress and no decorations whatsoever. I really rather missed it.
Instead, in the Czech Republic something much scarier happens a little later. Yes, in the run up to Christmas (December 5th), we will be visited by innumerable groups of adults dressed up as St. Nicholas (dressed as a Bishop), an angel and a devil. The devil’s name is Cert (pronounced Chert) and he is much feared by all small children here. The event is called Mikulas (pronounced sort of as Mickularshe).They will quiz the children about how good they have been during the year and ask the child to perform some song or rhyme before presenting a small gift (usually pre-bought by the parents). The fear is that either that gift will be coal from the Devil or even worse – that the Devil will drag them off to hell. All year long little kids here are threatened with Cert for bad manners or behaviour…. Cert is much feared!
So this year, other than my new book coming out, Halloween was a bust. Instead, we patiently await the visit of Mikulas, Cert and Andel…..