“I’m supergirl!” Alessandra screams as she runs around in a pink superhero costume, complete with a cape and headband. Johanna, my best friend, and I laugh; the noises echoing throughout the halls of her house. It’s Tuesday, October 31st, and we had just finished hiding candy around her house so her seven year old sister could experience a taste of the Halloween traditions she was missing out on.
“I moved to Switzerland from Connecticut in August. In America, Halloween is such a big deal and I was so disappointed to find out that people here don’t really do anything. I wanted to make it special for my little sister,” says Johanna.
I’ve been living in Switzerland since I was 10 years old, but I’m originally American. I have vivid memories of dressing up as various Disney princesses and running through my neighborhood with my friends, parents trailing behind, knocking on doors, screaming, “Trick or Treat!”, and ending the night with a stomach full of candy. My school even took part in the festivities- each class would have a Halloween party and all the students would dress up in their costumes for a costume parade around the school. However, since living in Switzerland, I’ve lost these traditions. Halloween feels like just another day in Switzerland, so I was curious about Johanna’s Halloween experiences as a high schooler.
“Last year, my friends and I started planning our costumes around the end of September, since the costumes go out really quickly,” she explains. “The girls in my group decided to be fairies, and the boys borrowed our clothes to dress up as girls.”
As Johanna was talking, Alessandra was digging through the couch cushions, only stopping once she had found the treasure she was searching for: a fun-size Snickers bar. “My favorite!” she yelled, before escaping through the sliding doors to the patio to continue the search.
“Anyway,” Johanna continues, while laughing. “The week before Halloween, my friends all got together at my house to decorate it for Halloween, carve pumpkins, and eat candy.”
She picks her phone up from the kitchen table and scrolls to the pictures from a year ago. I see pictures of her friends hanging up orange streamers and putting pumpkin and black cat stickers on the windows. A tall boy in basketball shorts is wearing a witch’s hat and dancing around a room to Halloween music.
She scrolls down a little further, and shows me pictures of the main event: Halloween Night.
“First, we’d go trick or treating in my neighborhood. We’d go house to house, and my neighbors would laugh, since we’d be all dressed up, but we’re not little kids anymore. We’d still get a ton of candy. There were six of us and after we get all the candy we put it together and counted it. We got over 370 pieces!”
We keep scrolling through her photos. They transition from being outside trick or treating to being inside at a house party. She shows me the best costumes from the night.
“There were a lot of devils… Look at this guy! He was in a green bodysuit with a mask. The guy in the taco costume was so funny.”
Alessandra runs back inside, candy spilling out of the top of her pumpkin-shaped bucket. “Did I get it all?” She asks, gleefully.
“Check in the guest room,” Johanna points down the stairs.
Once her little sister is gone, Johanna asks me, “What are we doing for Halloween this year?”
I don’t want to disappoint her, but I have to break the news that people don’t do much in Switzerland, and, if anything, it’s incomparable to the American experience. Although, I think she’s gathered this, as we have a bag of Jolly Ranchers for potential trick-or-treaters, but no one has rang her doorbell.
A few days later, on Saturday, our group of friends gathered for a party at a friend’s house. To Johanna’s dismay, no one was decked out in Halloween costumes or attire. We didn’t leave the house to knock on our friend’s neighbor’s doors, and there wasn’t much candy at the party. However, per Johanna’s request, we set up a black light and wore glow in the dark bracelets and drew on our faces with glow in the dark markers, so they would glow under the light. We also watched horror movies until we fell asleep.
The next morning, I asked Johanna how this Halloween compared to the previous one, expecting her to sigh, and wonder how she’ll make it through another year of watching her friends back in America have fun and post about their costumes and parties on Instagram and Snapchat, while she sits at home or goes to a low-key party.
Instead, she replies, “Honestly, like my whole move and experience living abroad, it’s not bad, just different.”
By: Katie Schupp (’18)