Wednesday, November 02, 2005


[Note to readers: The following essay was written on October 26, 2005. Why is this important? I'll tell you in a few days.]

Spain doesn’t celebrate Halloween, and I find that very sad. Why? Because Halloween isn’t just my favorite holiday, but it’s also my only opportunity each year for socially-acceptable cross-dressing.

For those of you who are not familiar with Halloween, let me provide a little background. Halloween falls on October 31st, and is much-loved in the US by children and childish adults alike.

During the weeks leading-up to Halloween, trees lose their leaves. Apples come into season. People decorate their homes in a Vincent Price motif. And on one very special night, entire families gather around the television to watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”--or at least, they did during the pre-VCR/DVD/TiVO days when I was growing up.

But the best thing about Halloween is “trick or treating.” On Halloween night, children dress in costumes--ranging from scary to silly--and go from house to house ringing doorbells. When the door opens, the children shout, “Trick or treat!”...the homeowner puts a piece of candy in each child’s sack...and then they move on to the next house. By night’s end, the children have accumulated enough candy to last until...well...until November, at least.

I, by the way, trick or treated until I was 22 years old--at which point I decided to stop. Why? Because I noticed that many homeowners were greeting me with a basket of candy in one hand and a canister of pepper spray in the other.

Anyway...Spain, as I said, doesn’t celebrate Halloween. But that hasn’t stopped me from being prepared during each of the five Halloweens that I’ve spent here. I always stock-up on candy *just in case* some enlightened, iconoclastic Spanish youth in full Spiderman or Carmen Miranda regalia should decide to turn the status quo on its ear and ring my doorbell with pillowcase in hand. But alas, my doorbell falls silent each October 31st and I am forced to quell my depression by shovelling a wicker basket full of Conguitos into my mouth throughout the following two weeks.

But this year, my friends, things are going to be different. My Halloween isolation is coming to an end. Why? Because my three year old daughter’s birthday falls on October 29th and we’ve invited her friends and classmates over for a birthday/Halloween bash.

I’ve been preparing for weeks. I spent 50€ on a shopping cart full of plastic skulls, spiders, bats, witches, black cats and other props needed to convert my living room into an Ozzy Ozborne music video. I have an ample supply of make-up on-hand with which to paint the kids’ faces. Sitting beside my front door is a beefy scarecrow sporting a hockey mask and sickle. I’ve even assembled all the ingredients needed to make carmel apples and orange-colored Rice Crispies Treats.

There’s only one thing that I’m missing: Clark Bars!

Despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t find any Clark Bars in Spain! Sure, they’re disgusting. Sure, every American kid is disappointed when he empties his sack at night’s end and discovers that his Halloween booty is 75% Clark Bars. But can one properly celebrate Halloween without them?

If the US Ambassador is reading this, I’d like his opinion on the matter. And no, I cannot wait until he has finished watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”


At 3:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your niece, Mia, watched "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" for the first time last week. She sat there for the entire thirty minutes mesmerized! The DeTraglia tradition is being carried on!

It's always weird having Halloween without you here. Who's going to go out after dark and carve all the pumpkins on peoples doorsteps that haven't been carved yet? Does Spain know that they have "The Great Pumpkin Carver" living in their country?


At 12:15 PM, Blogger Almendro said...

I too suffer from Halloween-induced nostalgia but...
Conguitos? Every time I have the "racism does not exist in Spain" argument with a Spaniard, Conguitos are the first piece of evidence I reach for.

At 6:46 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Your daughter is displaying good taste at a young age, although I'm aware of no creature that's immune to the charms of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" And now she can look forward to CB's Thanksgiving and Christmas special. As for the mysterious pumpkin-carving fairy, he has not made an appearance in Spain yet. I think he has retired, actually. His reign of terror against Pennsylvania's uncarved pumpkins was the product of a simpler, gentler time. These days, he might get shot.

Ms. Almendro:
The Conguito packaging is--shall we say--likely to elicit different responses from different consumers. But there's no denying one thing...Conguitos themselves are nature's most perfect food. They are mind-numbingly good. I eat about 19 kilos per week. And I'll do it again next week. And the next. And the next. And the next. How can a candy without coconut be so damn good?!

But I must say...the white chocolate version sucks.

At 12:30 AM, Blogger Lisa said...

What a coincidence, my friend from Barcelona is coming home for Christmas and I was just about to write to you and ask you the name of the candy bar you've so highly recommended. I'm going to put in a big hint for Conquitos.

Life without Halloween would be sad, in deed. I thinks its gotten to be so much more commercialized here in the U.S. in the last couple of years though, to my chagrin. But its still my favorite holiday and Charlie Brown IS the highlight. Just wish it weren't getting so cutesy...I've always liked the darker side of it.

At 12:49 AM, Blogger Culinary Fool said...

I noticed your daughter's b-day picture the other day and was torn. You see my birthday is the 27th and when you're 3 it's fun to celebrate your birthday and Halloween together. But over the years I've gotten very tired of people planning costume parties on the same night I'd like to celebrate my birthday - sometimes I'd like to actually see the faces of those I'm dining with! :-)

People always take extra care for those whose birhdays fall close to Christmas - at least in my family we do for my nephew whose birthday is Dec 24, but no one thinks to seperate Halloween from a birthday celebration! Poor me!

Okay, I'm done whining now. Your daughter is adorable (both in and out of costume, you are scary (both in and out of costume) and now I'm waiting for the follow up post to find out the significance of the posting versus writing date!

~ B

At 3:56 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Hey Lisa: Your first experience with Conguitos? This will be a landmark event in your life. Imagine Goobers (assuming they still make them), only better. That's Conguitos. Chocolate covered peanuts in an "eye-catching" wrapper. Think I'll go get some right now!

Hey CuFool: I know what you mean. My birthday is May 13th, which is on or near Mother's Day. When I was growing up, people would always mix the two together. My birthday presents would be things like potholders, hair-rollers and gift certificates for facials at the local spa. I must admit that these experiences were traumatizing. I'll try to be more careful with my own daughter. Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to watch "Days of Our Lives."


At 7:17 AM, Anonymous Jo said...

Just what the heck are conguitos? If you give me a heads up next year, I'll check out sending some Clark bars your way if you could perhaps send me some decent turrones. Funny thing is, I don't remember ever getting Clark bars. I'm not even certain what they are, but isn't the wrapper red with white writing? Aren't they akin to a Butterfinger? It's so sad getting old and mentally decrepit.


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