Friday, October 31, 2008

Pumpor natt

Jennifer You know, I really can't believe that they don't do Halloween here. What do you do at Halloween? You dress up, eat candy, and, if you're an adult, perhaps you have a party at which you drink beverages that cause you to loosen your inhibitions. As far as I can tell, Swedes excel at all three of these things. Europeans, though, know it more as the day before All Saint's Day, when "... we go around to graveyards in the freezing cold and and rain and then go home and talk about dead people all day. Not so fun," explained Polish student Z. American-style Halloween has been creeping into Sweden somewhat, to the dismay of the youngish parents ("One more thing to do, and more things to buy..." groaned one of them to me) and traditionalists. Swedish student N. said that within the past couple years, there have actually been protests against stores displaying Halloween items, from people who feel that All Saint's Day is solemn and sacred and should not be associated with children running around having fun.

Well, I like Halloween a lot, and I knew I'd be grumpy if I didn't do anything to celebrate, so I decided to risk a little cultural imperialism and host a pumpkin carving party at work last night. Pumpkins are available in supermarkets (at roughly 60 SEK for a big one); I had one, Joe got one, and three others (Swedish staff artist L., and student B. and her boyfriend, and new Danish student E.) showed up with squashes. German student M. was sorry that she didn't bring one, but confessed that she had mis-heard the word "pumpkins" as "pump-guns," and had been quite alarmed at my suggestion that everyone should bring their pump-guns to work, and we would drink some beers and light up the pump-guns to scare away the evil spirits.

Plenty of other Swedes stuck around after work to observe, and take the excuse to raid the departmental beer stash and help with the big bowl of godis that we brought. I had neglected to think of music, so I appointed student V. (who has the best computer speakers) as DJ for the evening. (He was able to play music all evening from his mobile phone. The nerd in me was deeply impressed.) I don't think I've ever had to actually teach anyone how to carve a jack-o-lantern. Joe and I did a tag-team demonstration of techniques, and everybody got up to their elbows in pumpkin guts pretty quickly. They all did a fine job of carving, I think, especially for first-timers. B.'s boyfriend squinted at mine. "I just now figured out that yours is Bootsy Collins," he said. We lit them all up and lined them up on the table, and everyone ooohed and aaahed at the effect. "It's like having a camp fire right in the room!" said N.

N. was also celebrating some good work-related news, and the beer was being consumed at a rapid rate. A liter of white wine was also drained. L. left to get more beer, and came back with a bottle of champagne, and then some rum that a friend had brought him from Thailand, and... well, let's just say people relaxed into the evening pretty well. It was still a Thursday, though, so we wrapped it up around 22:00, and cleaned up the bottles and pumpkin guts and candy wrappers in short order. The jack-o-lanterns were stashed in the lab cold room.

Next morning, the lanterns were retrieved for morning fika, and then again for afternoon fika, and thereby helped to cheer up an unrelentingly dark and dreary Friday. Joe put ours on the steps up to our apartment, where they still are sitting, still are sitting, hopefully keeping the evil spirits away for another year. And a welcome sight they were, when I came home an hour later, trudging through the snow... but that's another story. Happy Halloween!

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