Trick-or-Treating In China

Growing up in a culture where spending comes naturally to us, I have taken many things for granted. It’s extremely easy to run off to Target to buy new clothes or run to the supermarket to buy baking supplies. While living in China, I have learned that you always have to search a little bit harder to find what you are looking for or just learn to live without it. Powdered sugar that we have been using for our birthday cakes can only be found in Kunming, which is a five hour drive from our village. Finding hair products that work well with my Swedish blonde hair are slim to none. And finding jeans to fit these curvy hips? Forget it. As The Rolling Stones said, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.” In the end, I always find exactly what I need, even if it means making slight adjustments to my daily routine.

My homemade cat costume took at least two full hours to make and all I can show for it is a curly tail and ears that actually looked like black devil horns. Luckily, the face paint did the trick. I remember the time when I absolutely needed to be a bobby-sock girl for Halloween, which meant my mom had to slave away on a poodle skirt weeks before the actual event. The black felt skirt twirled perfectly as I spun around to show my friends my pink poodle with the rhinestone collar. Years before my need to harness a character from the 1950’s, I was bound and determined to be the world. Yes, you read correctly. The entire world. The outfit took my dad hours to intricately cut out all of the countries, which made his youngest daughter extremely happy. This year I tried to harness my parents costume making talents when designing my simple cat costume out of wire, nylons, and cardboard. Since Halloween isn’t celebrated in China, there aren’t any costume shops where one can grab a last minute feather boa or princess crown. Everything has to be made with what is around you. Our imaginations were stretched and many closets were raided to make something out of nothing.

China still hasn’t received the memo yet on trick-or-treating, so there were only two groups of children out, roaming the streets, searching for candy, and scaring the locals. We paraded up and down the two main streets of Dali in our homemade costumes. If I didn’t stand out enough before with my blonde hair, the cat whiskers and curly wire tail really did the trick. People were taking hundreds of photos of us as we passed by. Many of the businesses weren’t ready for young children dressed as goblins, crazy doctors, and vampires to demand candy from them. At the end of the night, the trick-or-treat bags were filled with packets of sugar, oranges, and apples, which was quite opposite from the Snickers, M&Ms, and other goodies they were expecting. Even though our Halloween night wasn’t exactly the same as the previous years, we still had quite an enjoyable time. We had exactly what we needed: great homemade costumes, good company, and tummies that ached from all of our laughter.