When October dawned, the choice of a Halloween costume turned into a hot topic in our house. C knew who she would be, but "What would Pippi wear?" became a matter of great debate.
We knew what her braids should look like (and even how to do them) and we already had a pencil picked out for her freckles. I'd spotted just the right stocking/sock combo and had decided to not worry about her shoes - hard to see in the dark, not on her feet at any party she might go to. But we still weren't sure about the main ingredient, Pippi's dress. C suggested we veer toward the ugly and the large. Her babysitter thought she should wear something whose next stop was under the sink as a cleaning cloth. I had visions of a jumper and sewn-on patchwork.
In the end we compromised. I found a denim dress, large, with cool pockets. C wore one of my big painting shirts under it, sleeves rolled up. To keep the winter out, she topped it all with an old sweater of mine (paper patched), a super spotty scarf and a very warm hat. We took lots of pictures, then we headed out for some candy collection.
Trick-or-treating in Prague? Well may you ask. There is no long-term Halloween tradition in the Czech Republic. You have to head to tourist or expat oriented stores if you're looking for Halloween decorations, and costumes come from places focused on costume balls or theater, not October 31st. But every year, it does seem to get easier to find pumpkins, and there are lots of things to do with kids, from pumpkin carving to partying at the bagel shop.
And there is one neighborhood that rolls out the candy carpet for kids. Nicknamed Little America for its suburban feel, Nebušice in Prague 6 has become a mecca for trick-or-treating children. For the last two years, we have met up with friends, woven through bands of costumed children and gone door to door with C. Next to an international school, Nebušice is a favorite spot for round the world households, and a lot of the families dress up in their native costumes to greet the kids. We've seen tiny children dressed in Korean robes, ladies in Swedish dresses, and my favorite - a British family dressed in colonial capes with a prison stock in their front yard.
I'm out of practice with the whole concept of trick-or-treating, so I am inevitably impressed by the generosity of these families as they open their doors to kids who are mostly not from their neighborhood. I appreciate the way an entire community turns a foreign holiday into a celebration that feels like home, and gives kids a sense of being a part of a big group of English speakers. That's something C usually only gets to experience when we head to the States once a year.
Pippi and J (he went as a well-bundled baby) slept on the car ride home, and we spent the drive talking about our favorite Halloween memories. I remembered the parties we had as children, the suburban trick-or-treating in middle school, the massive costume parades we went to in graduate school. We wondered how Caroline would remember her 5th Halloween as Pippi of the long stockings, the night we drove from Prague to Little America and back again.
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