One of the greatest difficulties of expatriate life in a place where there aren’t a lot of expatriates (one of our favorite Chengdu statistics is we live in a city in 11 million people with a population of 11,000 foreigners) is when holiday season comes along and no one celebrates the holiday.
Expats make do, they ship appropriate costumes, food, chotchkies, decorations from abroad, spending way too much money on a hulk muscle costume or bite size snickers with pumpkins on them (I lugged a plastic pumpkin basket and a bag of 200 dum dums from America this October), but it’s worth it for a small taste of normalcy.
Parents in the Chengdu community organized official trick or treating in two neighborhoods. The US Consulate and a local bar organized two different pumpkin festivals and the two expat drinking holes in town had Halloween parties for the adults. Halloween was sufficiently celebrated by anyone who had the urge.
There’s still something to be said about the buzz of a holiday season. When it’s in the air, on the radio, haunted houses are advertised on billboards and there’s miles of candy in the displays at the corner store. When Mom made sloppy joes, Dad asked kids for a trick before he gave a treat and we had to turn our lights off when we ran out of candy. Although I haven’t, as an adult ever had to pass out candy myself, I still miss it. I’m sure you’ll get similar grips when Thanksgiving and Christmas run around.
We did well in celebrating, although Chengdu resources for white person sized Halloween costumes are lacking. I went with two of my colleagues to costume street. I’ve come to love Chinese style shopping where entire streets are dedicated to one thing, as in, music instrument street, plumber’s corner, and mala peppercorn market.
Costume street in Chengdu doesn’t go much beyond China for its inspiration (we learned later for more Halloween appropriate costumes the market near the north train station is where its at). Want to dress up as a Chinese warrior? How bout a Chinese emperor? Have we got the costumes for you! Everything else was pretty dismal. It made for a fun outing though and we managed to scrounge up costumes. We were pirates.
After parading about as pirates and scaring a good number of Chengdu-ren (I started adding “ar” to all of my limited Chinese words) we made a nice autumnal meal on Sunday, Halloween night.
Gaining inspiration from from two of my favorite internet sources we made bread (that rose, finally), carved a very small pumpkin with a very un-serrated knife, made roast fennel encrusted pork with pears and red onions and pumpkin, lentil and goat cheese salad. Paired with some great friends and some good wine and the fact that it was Halloween without trick-or-treaters didn’t even cross our minds.