Either Ischia, Italy heeded my call for a festive and traditional Halloween celebration or the country is just becoming totally Americanized. When I walked onto Ischia’s main street on Oct. 31, there were kids dressed up and shouting “scherzetti o dolcetti” (Italian for “trick or treat”) all around me. So, some of the costumes were just orange T-shirts. So what? There was still free candy. And I spotted a devil, a couple of witches, and moms sporting alien antennas and cat’s ears. Granted, it wasn’t nearly as epic as American Halloween and there were no school parades of kids in costume or grand, Halloween-themed parties (except for ours). But it was way more than I expected. Italy surprised me.
I was thrilled to have found the spirit of Halloween in the most unexpected of places. My father knew nothing of Halloween when he moved to the United States in 1960 and until recently the holiday had no meaning here. The kids dressed up and ate what we would call funnel cake for Carnevale (Fat Tuesday) in February or March. Now, Halloween – thanks to popular American movies and TV shows – has arrived in Italy. My nieces dressed like vampires and my son was a dragon who fit right in celebrating his holiday abroad. The smaller world means we have fewer differences between us but that also means we have fewer differences. It could take away from the unique experiences one has when she goes abroad. And if everyone becomes American, how much fun would that be? Not much, in my opinion. But I was more than willing to overlook this yesterday. I was just grateful to have fellow trick or treaters helping to build the excitement for my little guy — and keep him from ripping off his costume, which is what he was doing for about 30 minutes until I bribed him with exactly four M&Ms. Yes, you can judge me now. In my defense, he actually ate no other candy the entire day or evening. Honest.
Of course, I still had to force my Halloween traditions on the in-laws, so we had to have a party. Take note of all the DIY decorations. I haven’t used so many markers and construction paper since the first grade. Baby Boy helped. Here’s how the festa went:
I’m a big fan of Halloween games. My mom sent Baby Boy a witch’s hat ring toss game, which he enjoyed while the adults ate dinner. For years, in the States, my cousins and I played the Mummy Game, where you break up into teams. Each team dresses one of its players like a mummy using toilet paper. The fastest team to create a live mummy wins. Yes, yes, I forced my adult relatives to oblige.
My husband and his nephew – the mummies – would not let me post their silly pictures online. But they were hilarious and you could tell how much fun they had from the looks on their faces (you could see through the TP, trust me). Yes, they are major party poopers Still, Baby Boy stuck with tradition, too, by jumping around and throwing the TP after the game was over. He got things started by de-mummifying his father.
I cooked everything for the party myself. The menu consisted of butternut squash soup (we had to special order the butternut squash and it’s green on the outside and bright orange on the inside but shaped like its American namesake), sausage and peppers, and Caesar salad. To top the soup, I cut pumpkins out of white sandwich bread, brushed olive oil on them, and sprinkled them with Parmigiano cheese before toasting them in the oven. Cupcakes, of course, made for the perfect dessert for this kid-friendly party. And I also made popcorn (a favorite with my nieces and nephew) and homemade honey roasted peanuts again. Delish!
Yes, the cupcakes are 100 percent from scratch, and I drew spider webs on the vanilla ones. Mamma had fun on Halloween, too.