Nelson Dabanga’s First Halloween in Denver

Each year, we have a fresh group of students eager to experience American holidays to help them build their knowledge around the English language. Our student Nelson Dabanga got to sink his teeth into candy and experience Halloween for his very first time this year, so he wanted to share his experience with our online community to shed some light on the traditions of the spooky American phenomenon:

Next to Christmas, Halloween is the second biggest holiday celebrated in the USA. Some consider it the most appreciated American holiday because it’s one of few that doesn’t involve expensive gift-giving. As a first-timer to this American celebration, I’ve been wondering; Where does this strange celebration come from? How is it celebrated? Why should we try it?

Originally celebrated as a Celtic holiday, October 31st was recognized as the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Back then, it was believed that this transition of seasons opened a bridge from the world we live into the world of the dead. Nowadays, Halloween is a part of the American culture and is celebrated in most Western countries every year in a very exciting way. Originally, Halloween was celebrated as an approach to cope with one of our biggest fears (death), and a reminder that our state of being mortal should be celebrated.

How is it celebrated? Why is it interesting to take part in a Halloween party?

Halloween is all about costumes, masks and accessories that make us appear scary or different from what we normally are. Although the holiday celebrations have changed since they began, it’s common to see costumes of mummies, zombies and ghosts haunting every corner. For once, we can let our imaginations run wild enough to be physically different from what we are the rest of the year.

More than a ritual or tradition, Halloween is quite the experience! It’s a spooky season of sharing fun, exciting moments with family and friends. Last weekend was a great opportunity for many BridgeEnglish Denver students to experiment with their first Halloween. Even though Halloween is more common for European students, most of the Latin American students here had never heard of such a day. Because it was a first for nearly everyone, the whole school was excited to see all the different costumes people put together.

In a way, our costumes were indicators of our understanding the dead and of the holiday as a whole. For many teachers and students, Halloween means being scary and wearing frightening masks and clothes. It was so interesting to see different ghosts and scary faces because they’re the most common costumes that showcase our fear of death. For others, Halloween is for being different and unique: being something they’ve only ever dreamt of being. For those students and teachers, it means dressing up like heroes such as superman, a samurai or a famous pop singer. The funniest (and a little confusing) costumes at the school were worn by our advisors, Alyssa and Colleen, who dressed up as our advisor, Tim. It was a bit confusing for us to see Tim working at the front desk and in his office at the same time!

Another Halloween tradition is carving a pumpkin into a Jack-O-Lantern. Around Halloween, you’ll see Jack-O-Lanterns everywhere. They’re called that because after you clean out the insides and carve a scary face on the front, you light a candle inside it.  The pumpkin carving contest was one of the most exciting moments of our Halloween party because we discovered the hidden artistic talents of the students and teachers. It was so surprising to see how the students who had never been to a Halloween party before can carve pumpkins just as good as Nick the Superman, who’s been to a lot of Halloween parties.

Overall, it was a perfect reason for all of Bridge’s students to spend time together listening to music, and having a good time. Some of the Latin American students describe Halloween as “an exciting carnival” where everybody is relaxed, friendly and hungry for candy. Bridge’s Halloween party helped students understand what Halloween was about and how to celebrate it. The party was so much fun, some of us went out the same night to continue celebrating and some even plan to do it again next year even though they will be in other countries.

It was a great cultural experience for the whole school, but especially for those who had never heard of (or celebrated) Halloween before. It may not be a tradition that’s easy to understand, but for any newcomer it’s got to be one of the most fun American holiday traditions to learn about and understand during their time in the United States.

Are you ready for a unique American experience for yourself? Enhance your English skills  and immerse yourself in Denver’s beautiful american culture with our General English Program.