Joining a parade we planned to watch

How a celebration of Halloween in Listowel moved us from spectators to participants

Before we returned to Ireland in late October, I mistakenly assumed that Halloween outside the United States wouldn’t be nearly as big of a deal. We packed Eliza’s pumpkin shirt and her Halloween pants with a pattern of pumpkins and black cats with arched backs, but that was the extent of our Halloween planning. No costumes for either Sean or myself since we didn’t have much space remaining in our carry-on luggage and I figured we’d match the tone of the community around us.

No sooner had we arrived in Listowel than I saw a sign announcing a children’s Halloween parade scheduled to run down our very street. When I mentioned this to Sean, we made plans to step outside to watch the collection of little superheroes, vampires, and skeletons after handing out candy. But as the 6:30 p.m. start time quickly approached, a grand total of zero trick-or-treaters had stopped by and when we peaked out the window we saw multiple kids in festive costumes racing towards the starting point at the local library. At approximately 6:28 p.m., we too threw on our jackets and brought our pumpkin baby in her lamb hat to the start of the parade line.

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Our little pumpkin lamb waiting to walk

Little did I realize there are a whole lot of people in Ireland who care mightily about Halloween—and we brushed elbows with many of them that very night! Many kids dressed in costumes both scary and cute, with many of their parents following suit as well. We weren’t entirely out of place as non-costumed parents though. Eliza looked like a lamb wearing a jack-o-lantern but she somehow pulled it off. I suppose when you’re blessed with cheeks for days you can do that sort of thing.

Grade-school skeletons beat their drums and we joined them along a well-lit street into the town square, where a bonfire and candy awaited us all. By that point, it was getting late and we still had relatives to visit, so we slipped off into the night before any of the ghouls or goblins could catch us.

While I enjoy planning our holiday celebrations, I loved the spontaneity of this particular evening. If dinner had taken even a few minutes longer, or if we had gotten any trick-or-treaters knocking on our front door, perhaps we wouldn’t have had plenty of fun still watching the parade from the sidelines. But with a little luck and a little last-minute game-planning, we were part of the evening’s festivities.

I’m not going to go as far as to compare our experience with Halloween 2018 to the Man in the Arena speech, which I adore, but there is something pretty great about jumping into something instead of standing back to critique. There’s also something about travel that can bring out a more courageous side of you, if you stop worrying how you’ll look and if you’ll do it right.

But in the meantime, we need to start planning next year’s costumes if we’ll be lucky enough to spend another Halloween in Ireland; after all, I also learned that the origins of Halloween trace back to Ireland!

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