Halloween was a controversial event in our house. When your mother is a Chinese American dietitian, things like candy, store-bought costumes and silly games that you have to pay for at the school Halloween festival contradict everything you’re supposed to stand for.
I used to think that the only thing she liked about this holiday, was pumpkin carving—because pumpkin is good for you and you can eat the seeds. Of course, we were rarely allowed to actually carve the pumpkin because then it rots faster and you probably won’t be able to eat it later. No. We had to paint them instead which is so much less cool. When it was time to eat it, my mom would cut off the painted parts and cook the rest. This is a woman who gives out stickers, apples, or teeny boxes of raisins to the trick-or-treaters. People always talked a lot of smack about that at school. “Was that yeeeeer mom?”
The only time I remember going trick-or-treating was when I was about 4 years old. We went only to the houses of neighbors we knew well. And even then, we were only allowed to have one piece of candy per week, and only right before brushing. Candy is bad for you and rots your teeth. It was a really long time before we got through our candy. And after you wait that long, some of the candy gets all dry and chewy and doesn’t taste so good anymore.
Our costumes were always super rascuache. I mean, not even cool-rascuache. Chinese American rascuache is a totally different beast. One year I was a “geisha” (I know, I know…groan!). And my mom and I made a wig with a bun on top out of strips of black construction paper and fast-food chopsticks–an idea found in a library book. The kimono was a mismatched hodge-podge of mi papá’s old bowling shirts, which my mom had safety-pinned together so as not to ruin the shirts in case mi papá succeeded in his weight-watcher program and wanted to wear them again. Even at 7 years old, I was really embarrassed about my cheapy costume. We were the only Asian Am family in a mostly Mexican@ school at that point, not that anyone cared about the difference between Japanese and Chinese peoples… And if I was feeling any discomfort at walking around the school Halloween festival in rascuache “geisha” getup, it was made a little worse when one of the two white girls in my class showed up in a store-bought geisha outfit. Say what?
Now I’m thankful for my mom’s strict rules about spending money and eating candy. The money saved in these ways was used later for things like gymnastics classes and violin lessons—things that were meant to keep me out of trouble. The truth is, I’d probably be the same way if I had kids. I am, afterall, my mother’s daughter. Cindylu has a great series on her bloga with very cool ideas for costumes on a budget, which you should all check out. If only my mom and I had read about these ideas 25 years ago! The candy…well, that’s another story.