Halloween is one of my favorite holidays and last year I didn’t celebrate, choosing instead to watch and observe what happens on All Hallows’ Eve in this predominantly Catholic country.  
Mostly nothing.  

Since horror movies are big here, the majority of Ecuadorians know about Halloween.  There are a few masks and costumes sold in the cheap-crap-from-China shops, and young adults crowd the discotheques for Halloween-themed parties.  But overall, Ecuadorians don’t understand the holiday and are a little shy to celebrate.  It’s also important to know that October 31st is a national holiday in Ecuador honoring the shield, or emblem, of their country.  So, many Ecuadorians think that on this day they should choose to celebrate their own country rather than the traditions of the United States.  Fair enough.

So… this year I asked if I could celebrate Halloween on October 30th instead, and I received the support of my smaller high school to host a Halloween Celebration for all the students.

I started our event with a formal presentation about the history of Halloween.  And yes, I had to do some research on it myself.  What I learned from several sources was that people from all over the world have always believed that during the end of October and the beginning of November, the “curtain” between the “world of the dead” and the “world of the living” is at its thinnest.  Here in Latin America, people took that to mean that during these days their ancestors were near, and it was a good time to honor them during celebrations that came to be known as Día de Los Muertos or here in Ecuador, Día de Los Difuntos celebrated on November 2nd.  But in Europe, people decided that having the “world of the dead” close by, meant that witches, ghosts and goblins from that other world might enter the human world.  And for that reason, they started to dress up in scary costumes and illuminate the night by putting candles in turnips or squash.  Over the centuries, people stopped believing in ghosts and witches, but then neighbors tried to play scary tricks on each other.  To convince tricksters from striking, people started offering candy or food instead.  Eventually, as Europeans migrated to North America, they brought with them these strange customs of costumes, pumpkins and trick-or-treating.  So, as I told my students, our Halloween celebrations honor these ancient traditions…. but really, it’s about the creativity, the fun and the candy.  

After my presentation, the fun began.  I had coached each class, 8th grade and above, on how to develop and host a traditional fall-festival kind of game or activity.  I also encouraged them to bring candy to give out as prizes for their games. During the festival, while they traded time in their “booth” with their classmates, the rest of the students, 5th grade and above, were able to participate in all the activities.  I started things off with a demonstration on How to Carve a Squash.

Bryan, a senior, haunted us all with Halloween Music. 
Doris, a 5th grade teacher, ran my Pin-The-Tail-on-the-Cat Station.

The Seniors created an Apple Bobbing Station and a Monster Ball Toss Game.

The Juniors got into the spirit with their Ghost Bowling Game.  They weren’t supposed to dress up for this festival (since the Rectora and I weren’t exactly sure how parents would react), 
but they just couldn’t help but get into the fun!

The 8th Graders created a Witches’ Hat Ring Toss Game.

The Sophomores created Mystery Boxes to feel the “Brains of Frankenstein”,
“Toad Eyeballs”, or “Mummy Guts”.

The 9th Graders hosted a Balloon Popping Race, and a Cookie Face Race Game, and the 10th Graders created a very dark and very scary
– too scary for school –
Haunted House.

That was a big hit!

And while we were celebrating, some moms from the school showed up to layer a little of Ecuadorian culture into our Halloween Festival.  They cooked all morning in our courtyard, and after the kids cleaned up the party, each student was served a cup of rich, steamy and fruity-sweet Colada Morada, a traditional drink for Día de Los Difuntos.  It was a great way to 
circle our celebration back to Ecuador. 

I was very proud of my students.  They were so creative in designing their games and willing to learn about, and participate in, all the fun around Halloween.  Some of the staff told me they want to have an even bigger celebration next year!