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.