Celebrating Halloween While Teaching in Spain

Authored by:
Hilary Leslie

Hilary Leslie

“I hate Halloween” sighed one of the 2nd grade teachers as we gazed blankly down a long hallway of screaming children with Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in the background. Halloween had begun at CEIP Cantos Altos.Although Halloween isn’t traditionally celebrated in Spain, it’s becoming more popular with the influence of Americans and with globalization in general. The academic attention spans of my students flew out the window at least a week before Halloween with constant chatter of what they were going to wear and how much candy they planned to eat. You can find costumes and decorations in some stores, but it’s nowhere near the level of U.S. preparations. When I was teaching in Spain, I found individually packaged pumpkins, specifically for Halloween. Spaniards commit to dressing up as scary and bloody as possible. The cutest outfits you can see are black cats and witches, but even then they may be covered in fake blood and slash marks. Decorating commenced the week of Halloween with door decorations, ghosts and witches hanging from the ceiling, and pumpkin carving. In third grade we also tried to make spider webs by cutting folded trash bags in the same style as a snowflake with paper. My first graders colored a bat I drew for them and I kept busy decorating the door to the library. In second grade, the teacher had me demonstrate how to carve a pumpkin. The squeals were priceless as I pulled the top off and held it up so they could see the inside. Everyone wanted me to give them a seed and touch the goo, but we ended the experience with a telling of the 5 Little Pumpkins with the lights off so they could see their new mascot lit up. Throughout the week first grade sang and danced to various Halloween-related songs such as Dem Bones or simply “The Skeleton Dance.” They LOVE it and if you are a language assistant reading this, it’s a great interactive video to have on hand in case you are also studying parts of the body. Other Halloween videos include 5 Little Pumpkins and Peppa Pig Fancy Dress Party. The teachers at my school had an official meeting with the auxiliares to brainstorm ideas for the annual Halloween party. We thought of a number of activities including pumpkin carving and a haunted hallway. Between the two years I taught at Cantos Altos, I organized "Pin the Heart on the Skeleton" and face painting. ​The other activities were throwing balls into pumpkins, a freeze game with “Monster Mash” and “Thriller,” and “Mystery Box” where we used cooked pasta, grapes, jello, and popcorn kernels to represent brains, eyeballs, blood and teeth. I was told from the other room it was a messy success!​ The last few minutes of the day were spent dancing and running around the gym to expend all the children’s pent-up, candy-influenced energy. The exhausted teachers were happy when Halloween Friday was finally over, but were rewarded with a four day weekend!

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