“Queremos Halloween!” Bat-Flynn chanted enthusiastically as he ran through our neighborhood on October 31.
I grew up in St. Louis, where in exchange for your candy on Halloween you had to tell a joke. Picking out your joke–or your joke rotation if you were especially ambitious–was one of the best parts of Halloween, and I remember being shocked and saddened when I moved elsewhere after sixth grade and realized the joke tradition was a local oddity.
Admittedly, Halloween festivities move along a little more quickly when all kids have to do is yell “trick or treat” before feeling another plop in their pumpkin-shaped bucket and taking off for the next house. There’s something to be said for not having to worry about finding yourself stuck behind an enthusiastic three-year-old who’s old enough to insist on having a joke of his own but young enough to not be able to execute it successfully (or quickly).
Mexicans, however, are even more efficient than trick or treating Americans. There’s no allusion of jokes or tricks. ”We want Halloween!” they yell in Spanish. Flynn quickly caught on. (It turns out he’s quite good at picking up new phrases when there’s candy at stake.)
It wasn’t just the terminology that was to the point. In our neighborhood, at least, kids gathered in a pack at the community center, waited for a bell horn, and when it sounded, bolted off running in a pre-determined path around the neighborhood, cleaning out a house’s entire candy stash in a few minutes before moving en masse to the next. I can’t say I liked that aspect of Halloween in Mexico, especially with a tiny elephant in tow who insisted on walking despite the near-constant threat of being trampled by a pack of wild trick or treaters.
But I definitely did like that one of my neighbors rented a churro cart to hand out treats more delicious than candy. And I liked that everyone gathered for a dance party at the clubhouse at the end.
Later, back at home, we were all amazed by Flynn’s haul. Silly me to have thought that we’d be the cool kids on the block with our full-sized candy bars. No, here it seemed custom to hand out cellophane bags packed full with goodies. Some were even professionally put together.
We quickly ate up all the few Snickers and Laffy Taffys, and over the next few days taste tested the craziest of the Mexican candies, tricking one another into licking something that we swore was really, really good. In truth, the verdict about Mexican candy: uniformly awful. Who dreamed up tamarind as an ideal candy flavor? And it just got worse from there. We’re nine days out from Halloween now, and the big bowl of candy is still full. I guess in some ways that’s a win.