Going Trick or Treating: An American Tradition with a Caribbean Twist

October 31, 2016

When I was a kid, in our suburban New Jersey neighborhood – which could have been any suburb in the States – going trick or treating was everything. We ran home from school to switch our book bags for empty pumpkin buckets and began our evening’s work because make no mistake, this was a job. Our costumes were well thought out and practical; they had to withstand the dropping temperatures of the evening. There was no time to return home for a sweater, besides, every pound of candy was accounted for. If the extra weight of carrying a sweater stood between me and another Snickers bar, the sweater would have to go. The frigid air was part of the fun, part of the reason we ran from one house to the next… that and the fear of arriving late to a house that ran out of candy. Each house got one ring and a waiting time of 7.8 seconds before you gave up and moved on. Ain’t nobody got time for that kind of waiting, it’s Halloween, mother f*cker.


But this will not be the Halloween my kids know.

On our way to our school’s Halloween Frolic last week, Husband said, “This is what Halloween means for our kids.” Bouncy houses, food booths, and organized classroom trick-or-treating is super but I’ve longed to give my kids the old school kind of Halloween that I knew.

We’ve tried to recreate it but it isn’t an easy holiday to celebrate. After all, I can’t very well buy candy for our entire neighborhood and make our neighbors stay home waiting for their doorbell to ring, could I? (Though, I’ve thought about it.) Maybe that’s the price we pay for living a magical life overseas? Maybe part of the process of moving abroad requires remembering our childhood memories and letting them go? Or maybe part of the sweetness that comes with living abroad is infusing the two together.

going trick or treating in Jarabacoa

As it worked out, our yearly trip to Jarabacoa was scheduled for Halloween weekend. At first I was bummed, torn with indecision because a getaway would surely smother any Halloween spirit we had. And then I remembered Jarabacoa with its cool weather; cabin rooms; and lodge-ish, fall look…  wait a minute. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? We got to work. Since the whole place was booked for our expat community, we collected money from people who wanted to pass out candy and decorate their porches and bought what we needed to take with us.

We started with a Halloween story before the kids ran off in search of candy. The weather turned ominous; a terrible storm came down in buckets but everyone motivated anyway. Sometimes it rains for Halloween but the show must go on. The kids worked their way around the 3 different lodges, knocking on each door and shouting “Trick-or-Treat.” Husband and I played spooky noises through our windows and flashed the lights on and off. A friend sat on his porch with a scary old man mask and tried to grab children as they cautiously approached for candy. Cabins were decorated with spider webs and and hanging ghosts and someone even had a bloody leg hanging from their cabin. It was the Halloween of my Dominican dreams.

trick or treaters t trick or treating in Dominican Republic

After dinner, we brought out the projector and the kids sat around watching, “The Great Pumpkin” movie. I heard some of the older girls say they were going to their room to trade candy. Trade candy? Sniff, sniff. My heart was happy. I felt nostalgic for Halloween pasts but content in Halloween present.

The Great Pumpkin

Nothing stays the same.

Sometimes change hurts but sometimes it helps you grow. It helps you reach beyond what you thought was possible.

We didn’t carve pumpkins this year. Instead, we carved pineapples. It was a Caribbean twist on an American tradition, a metaphor of my kids’ lives growing up the way they are. I missed carving a pumpkin but we made piña coladas with the guts of the pineapples because sometimes change breeds delicious things you never expected.

pineapple carving for Halloween


P.S. How my kids are growing up differently (published on HuffPost) and my divided, cheating heart

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(Photo Credits: trick-or-treaters via Matt Olson)


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