Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween in Sweden

Yesterday was Halloween. It was even a Red Day on the calendar. Not really because of the Halloween celebration as most Americans know it, but because of All Saints Day. In a ridiculously secular country like Sweden, it makes perfect sense that the day be seen as a public holiday. You know, to go to church.

Swedes claim that they don’t celebrate Halloween. But that is changing. Not the claims, but the celebrating part. As I wandered around town yesterday in a fit of classic Swedish book buying (Bränt Barn by Stig Dagerman and Utvandrarna by Vilhelm Moberg) there was a large Ghost hanging between the buildings on Drottninggatan. There was a line at least 100 people deep waiting to get into the one big costume shop in Stockholm, and there were Halloween signs being advertised in shops throughout town. Halloween is coming to Sweden.

Traditionally, All Saints Day is meant to be a day to celebrate the dead and to decorate the graves of family members. A day of remembrance really. This is the third one I’ve been around for and I still haven’t been able to get myself out to Skogskyrkogården to see the display. Apparently it is impressive.

Instead, I chose to celebrate Halloween by dressing up like a zebra. Obviously. Essentially this entailed me wearing white pants, a white shirt and covering myself with strips of black duct tape. To top it all off, I also have come into ownership of a zebra print bandanna, which I wore with a strange sense of satisfaction.

It is quite the effort to cover oneself in black duct tape. I went through two rolls of the stuff, managed to remove a patch of hair from my belly, and wrap the tape so tight that I was unable to remove my shirt. My future does not lie in costume design.

Especially considering the number of times I had to explain that I was, in fact, a zebra and not a prisoner. Or a mental patient. Prisoners and mental patients do not have patterned stripes meant to confuse and camouflage them from their prey. Zebras, and I, do. Duh.

Because I was heading over to my cousins for the Halloween party, I had to take some public transportation. And by had to, I mean I am too cheap to pay for a taxi. So away I went, dressed like a zebra wearing a jacket. This being Sweden, people stared but said nothing. So I sat alone, people avoiding me as if I had the H1N1 virus, until four guys climbed in. They gravitated towards me. Probably because they were also in costume. A soldier, a heavy metal rocker, a soccer player, and a douche bag. Either that or he got lost on his way to Stureplan.

Suddenly, I felt at ease. My stripes were doing their job. No one knew who to stare openly at. Should they admire the hair of the ‘80s heavy metal rocker? Should they salute the Swedish soldier? Or should they bask in the glory of the zebra? Most chose to look away awkwardly while trying to steal alternating glances of all five of us. It’s the Swedish way.

After several stops and countless awkward glances, I arrived at my destination. I bounded off the train like a zebra in the savannah, looking over my shoulder, with my alcohol and bag of candy clambering at my side as I fled from the surprised Stockholmers behind me. That’s not true. Although it did cross my mind.

Welcome to Sweden. And Halloween in Stockholm.

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  1. Another hilarious blog post. I can only imagine your fellow bus riders when they saw you. Love it!! -S.

  2. Damn! i missed a great show.

  3. Your costume does sound truly horrifying, so I'd say you kept to the spirit of Halloween. Well done.

  4. I am delighted to hear that we can do Halloween stuff still in Sweden. I care about that a lot more than Thanksgiving.

  5. It's interesting to see how many holidays these days are created or directly related to companies.
    Christmas is Coca Cola, Disney and Halloween is Buttrick's and so on.
    But I guess it shows that capitalism is alive and well in Sweden or well I'm not sure if created needs is related to capitalism? Oh well who cares, now I need to go out and buy a pumpkin, costume... and so forth.. ;)

  6. I wish so much you had a picture!
    The best, though, would have been to see the faces of the people on the subway!

  7. @anonymous – I’m pretty sure I brightened their evenings. Or at least confused them

    @Tod – well, it was quite the show when the other four guys stepped on. Zebras aren’t exactly exciting costumes.

    @E – it was horrifying. Zebras are frightening creatures.

    @Eva – its true, its catching on so you should be good to go I think.

    @Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! – youre killing me.. pictures exist. I just don’t have them in my possession.

    @Anonymous – Lets not forget Valentines Day!

    @mamma – youre going to have to talk to the cousin for pictures.

  8. Zebras. Right. That's what I meant.

  9. I love that you thought a black and white striped outfit would look more like a zebra than a prisoner. :)

    Last year my husband had to buy beer dressed up like Paulie Bleeker from "Juno" know with the short track shorts on and knee high socks.

    I think he almost made a carload of teenagers pee on themselves.

  10. I think I would've thought "prisoner" too, but been a bit confused by the bandana... damn, I wish I'd been on the tube for this though ;) But...I was out lighting candles. On graves.

  11. So this was my second halloween in the US.
    I didn't feel like dressing up and taking my one year old trick or treating and it was friggin' cold and windy anyway.
    I did however buy a huge bag of candy for other trick and treaters..

    ONE. Fucking one kid came by.. now I'm sitting here with a bowl full of candy that I refuse to eat because they are dreadfully disgusting and taste like wax.

    I miss swedish candy. ._.

    Anon does not forgive.

  12. Awww, you ripped some hair off your tummy? Poor baby. Tell you what, go get your groin waxed and then come give us the comparison.

  13. @E – I know. Its easy to get confused.

    @Mama – well I put them in a pattern and put them on at an angle. Clearly a zebra. Prisoners have horizontal stripes.

    Although I think your husbands costume wins.

    @terander – Well at least lighting candles on graves seems a lot nicer than dresing up as a zebra.

    @mamaya – oooh... thats rough. But I think that just means that next year youll need to buy good candy (may I suggest life savers gummies) so you can eat the leftovers.

    @Stacy – well... I suppose we all have choices. I pick and choose which hair to remove. Like my belly hair when dressing up as a zebra.

  14. You have to admit, the idea is comedy gold.

  15. I don't really enjoy dressing up, however aussies really love it. They will dress up any occasion they can, doesn't matter if its not Halloween. Last weekend: house party with a 'Tarantino' theme. The one before, another one somewhere else with a 'tribal' one. Oh well..its all about adapting to new cultures right?
    On the other hand, a zebra is a great idea. I admire you for it:)

  16. @stacy - admitted. painful, but admitted.

    @TNT - some people really get into the costume thing. I tend to keep it to a maximum of twice per year and I think I already reached my max.

  17. It's especially easy for me right now. I've been on a steady diet of fun sized candy bars for the last three days. It's a wonder I'm not in a sugar-induced coma. Anyway...zebras...shudder.

  18. I think sugar comas are an integral part of halloween.

  19. Indeed. And that's why Halloween is evil.

  20. One time your "old man" and I dressed up as Hawaiian hula "girls" with grass skirts and coconut bras and we had to stop at liquor store on the way to the party to get "refreshments" (I waited in the car!). I think everyone in the store just about dropped their jaws when "old man" walked in like that. (it was bout 15 years ago so he wasn't quite as "old" then)
    Pretty funny!

  21. PS
    that was here in the US of course, don't think we would have dared to do that in Sweden!

  22. Oh...the "old man" definately takes the trophy!

    Although my husband actually won a guilded plastic skeleton...the equivalent of a Halloween Oscar, really...for best costume when we arrived at the party after said beer run...but I still think a coconut bra would've taken the shorty shorts.

  23. @E - and glorious

    @mamma - I have vague memories of the old man in a hula skirt. I think I suppressed those memories.

    @mama - men in skirts or short shorts are always funny.

  24. Yes, well...I unintentionally lost two pounds on my candy bar diet. So I'll agree. Besides, I still like the word "glorious" too much to disagree.

  25. who needs the atkins diet? you have scientific proof that a candy bar diet can help you lose weight.

  26. Ick. Don't compare my *glorious* diet to atkins. That's just insulting.

  27. Oh...sorry...that didn't make sense. I was agreeing with you. That's what I get for multi-tasking. ;)

  28. Having experienced your "zebra"costume first hand, I would like to add that all that black tape gave off a weird smell of rubber...which only added to the over all effect of your costume! /Bengt

  29. @E - come on now. your diet is clearly awesome.

    @Anonymous/Vampire B - zebras, as a general rule, smell funny. I was just getting into character.

  30. a little part of my soul died on my first Halloween in sweden, appropriate, but sad.
    i love halloween, its my favourite holiday, i dont celebrate christmas. so its ALL I HATE!!!

    sweden. you have taken away the only holiday that i celebrate with white people. thanks

  31. its gaining steam here though. just stick it out like 10 or 15 more years and it will probably be worth celebrating. no problem right?

  32. Oh my, what a glorious moment to get to correct a native speaker of English, woohoo! ;)
    Firstly, it's prey, as in victim of predation, not pray, as in saying a prayer. Secondly, a zebra doesn't prey on anything other than perhaps grass. They are victims of prey, they are predator's prey, and they camouflage themselves as an attempt not to become prey.
    (How many times can you say the word prey before it sounds utterly ridiculous?)
    Anyway, carry on, just wanted to sort up a few things ;)


  33. Ooh, good catch on the prey vs. pray. I fixed that. so many years after the fact.

    Although the zebra thing was meant as a joke, camouflaging itself from the grass. Albeit, not a very good joke...