I never considered Halloween my favorite holiday. I never considered autumn my favorite season. But not-so surprisingly, missing out on these familiar realities, had me feeling some type of way. While there is not much I can do about the lack of changing leaves and sweater weather, I can prioritize Halloween.
As I have learned from my students, Halloween is not really a big deal here. It happens, but it is not a whole season of celebration, and it is certainly not ~spooky~. Yes, there is trick-or-treating and costumes, but that’s about it. One teacher told me that Halloween only arrived in the Canary Islands about 15 years ago, building on the customs seen in the U.S. (which we took from Ireland/Great Britain) centuries ago.
The Canarians do observe a holiday known as Finoas in which people eat chestnuts and pay respect to the dead, but this holiday is a little antiquated, and the younger generations know little of its origins. However, I did have many students tell me they partake in egg-throwing on Halloween, and I was an ever-so-gracious recipient of the tradition this year 🙂
So what did I do to get that Fall feeling? I made Halloween (or a version of it) happen. Pumpkins are not easy to find in the Canary Islands. Pumpkin Spiced lattes? Forget about it. The pumpkins aka “calabaza” here are what Americans call gourds. My roommate, Julia, and I considered what our success rate would be if we tried to carve gourds until a friend told us about a grocery store that was selling the “rounder pumpkins.” By a stroke of luck, we found candles in our house that were the perfect size to put in our tiny ashen pumpkins. I actually don’t think I’ve carved a Jack O’ Lantern in years, and it was exciting to watch Julia partake in an unfamiliar American custom. Because of my eagerness to share my country’s traditions, I tapped into my own child-like admiration for the simple things.
Not wanting to let any bit of Fall escape, I roasted the pumpkin seeds with a bit of olive oil and salt, and I used the pumpkin innards to bake a pumpkin cake with cream cheese icing. Believe me when I say, that the only pumpkin flavored treat in all of the Canary Islands can be found in our kitchen.
While I had trouble convincing my new friends to deck out in complete Halloween costumes, Julia painted some spooky makeup on our faces, and we celebrated the night with a bit of Sangria (typical Spanish) and some pong (typical American). It was not the Halloween I am used to, but it was a wonderful Halloween nonetheless. I can’t wait for Thanksgiving.