When I grew up, Halloween wasn’t a thing in West Germany. Back in the 90s, some teenagers and students celebrated Halloween in East Germany, but they were less than a minority. They were more like a small tribe of young people who believed that the unification and development of Eastern Germany were going too slow. Admittedly, at the turn of the Millennium, when living in East Germany, you only earned 80% of the salary a person living in West Germany would make for the same job. You had to work 40 hours a week, while your colleague living in West Germany would work only 38 hours. In East Germany,many houses were still not rebuilt after WWII or were unusable due to deferred maintenance. Thus, our first Halloween was in our first winter in Alaska.
A weird invitation
“Knock, knock.” I heard the messing door knock and looked out of the window over the driveway. It was partly in ice fog, but the fog was not too dense to see that there was no car. “Knock, knock.” I saw a shadow of a loose dog and then some tracks in the about half foot deep snow in the front yard. “Darn, we never thought of cleaning the way to the front door I thought” when I walked out of the dining room to open the door.
“Good evening, I am Lindsay, your neighbor from above” a tall curly brunette woman wearing Alaska jeans, Sorel boots, a wool turtleneck sweater, light Buffalo plaid jacket, wool mittens and a beanie. Some of the her curls were slightly covered with small ice crystals – a sign that her hair wasn’t quite dry yet when she had left her house. “Nice to meet you. I am Nicole. What can I help you with?” I responded while picking up our tomcat. He was about to start a fight with one of the three huge dogs that had dared to put a paw onto the floor of the entrance hall.
When I looked up again, Lindsay hold her dog on the collar. “We and the Schlossers are doing a Halloween party tomorrow and we would love for you to join us. We start out at our house at 8 pm with a party for the kids until 10 pm, and then we go down the trail to the Schlossers’ place for some hot drinks and chatting. The kids will sleepover at our house. My mother-in-law will be with them.” “Thank you very much for the invitation. We will be there. What’s the dress code? What can we bring?” “Just wear warm clothes and shoes and bring your own mugs and a flash light. We will mark the trail from our house down to the Schlossers’ with candles, but that is more for our friends and colleagues from town to not loose the way in the dark. Are you ok with this?” “Sure, no problem” I replied now realizing who the Schlossers were and that the trail would pass the property we were renting.
On Halloween at about 5 pm, it started to get dark. We saw spooky flash lights along the trail that let down from Lindsay’s house. They came closer and then followed our driveway. Lindsay’s husband and their kids were dropping brown lunch paper bags along side the of our driveway to the Schlossers’. From the Schlossers’ side we also saw light beams flashing thru the 100 feet (30 m) high black spruce trees. They looked like flags searching for bombers in old WWII movies. “They sure have better flash lights than we do” I thought.
We were still a bit puzzled by the dress-code recommendation, but decided to follow it. However, we went for layers because we wanted to be able to take something off when needed. Why the heck did she recommend warm clothes? Don’t they have a furnace? It’s a log house, but the spaces between the logs should be filled with insulation. The only things that made sense were the flash lights and the mugs.
The real Alaskan Halloween party
When we arrived at the party, kids in all kinds of costumes were jumping all over the place. They were just wearing the costumes, while all adults looked like they got a timeout standing in the small kitchen. They all were like they are ready for a long-distance dog mushing. At ten, all adults put their shoes on, bunny boots, Sorels, and alike. So did we.
It was a clear night and the North Star was bright in the sky. The air temperature was -13 F (oC). We walked down the trail that we had walked up in the dark of the black spruce forest earlier that night. However, now the brown paper bags all were illuminated by candles. They gave enough light to not stumble in the dim of our European flash light. We passed the house, we lived in, followed our driveway and then the candle-illuminated trail.
“May be I was wrong about the Schlossers” I said to my husband when I saw that the trail lights went pass the house that I thought to be their’s. The trail led further down to the bottom of the valley to a small clearing with a large wildly flickering bonfire. Guests were standing around the fire drinking hot cider and hot wine. They were chatting about outdoor life, guns and rifles, snow machines, four-wheelers, dogs, and their time in the military. “They” means both women and men, and my hubby was among them.
Being not an outdoor gal, I was bored by the conversation. Even worse, I was scared being out there in the middle of nowhere, in the dark and cold, standing in half a foot of snow, in the hunting territory of wolverines, and wolves. Thank goodness, bears already should hibernate. I hoped they knew that!
I watched the about ten dogs that were playing around the area. I watched the guests moving closer to the fire as it burned down and moving away from it when someone just put some dead wood from the forest into the fire. “What a great application of the inverse square law of radiation!” I thought and just went for another mug of cider to warm my hands thru the shearling mittens. finally, the mugs and dress-code made sense.
At about 2 am, the aurora came out and danced in the sky. It looked like a spectacular ballet of green ghosts. With a sudden, I started to enjoy the evening. It was such a great show of the fire sparkling against the black spruce and white snow background, and the green aurora curtains in the dark navy star-sprinkled sky. I was thankful for the invitation and that no satellite passed while I was watching the scene.
Do you remember your first Halloween? What was it? Trick or treating? Did you wear a costume? Did you enjoy your first Halloween? Let me know by email. I love to hear from you.
Focus Alaska is a weekly series here on High Latitude Style featuring Alaska curiosa, lifestyle, wildlife, street style, weather, and insider travel tips. When you enjoyed this post, you may also like Wax Big Foot or Alaska’s Hairiest Man or House Hunting.
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Photos: G. Kramm
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