Mia – October 23, 2017
I’m not very crafty, but my kids love decorating our home for Halloween. So, every year, I come up with a simple project that will amuse Jake, Astrid and Alex and beckon enough trick-or-treaters to the house to ensure I’m not stuck with a pile of leftover candy on November 1.
This year, I didn’t have to search for an idea. The inspiration came one evening last month, when we returned home to a panicked bat swooping and strafing crazily until my husband managed to broom it out the front door.
“How about making bats this year?” I asked the kids, as we arranged pumpkins and gourds on the mantle one day after school.
“Can we make them as scary as that big one that got into our house?” asked Alex, wide-eyed at the memory.
“Even scarier,” I told him. “We can make a bunch to hang in the tree in the front yard. And we’ll save one or two to bring to Farfar.
Farfar is our favorite new friend at The Danish Home. We met him through Ingrid, another new friend and the great-great-great-granddaughter of Olivia Rose, a founder of The Danish Home. Ingrid serves with me on the committee charged with planning 125th anniversary events for the home. Farfar is the grandfather of Ingrid’s roommate, Lindsay, and he loves visitors. I love his happy nature, his lilting Danish accent and the many stories he shares with my kids about growing up in Denmark.
“Do you think Farfar will want bats in his room—even if they’re not real?” asked Astrid, as we gathered around the kitchen table to create our craft-foam version of the critters. She made it perfectly clear—screamingly clear—that she never wants to see another bat in our house after the first invasion.
Never one to miss an opportunity to share bits of Danish wisdom and whimsy with my threesome, I explained that Farfar’s native country is very protective of its flagermus. Like several other European countries, Denmark took measures to safeguard its dwindling bat population decades ago by making it illegal to kill them or even remove them from a private home where they’ve roosted.
Despite its friendly relationship with its flagermus, Denmark can get a little creepy when baby bats take to the late-summer skies and bombard windows and houses. Or when a colony of 200 bats decides to take up residence in a home, which happened a few years ago in suburban Aarhus.
Surprisingly, bats don’t play a big part in Denmark’s Halloween observations, perhaps because the Danes have only recently begun to celebrate this spooky holiday. However, enthusiasm for Allehelgens aften (All Hallow’s Eve) is growing.
Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens observes the autumn holiday on a grand scale over several days, and pumpkin production has increased dramatically in the past decade to keep up with growing demand for jack-o-lanterns and public displays of the mighty orange squash. Dressing in costume to trick or treat—Slik eller Ballade—remains more of a pre-Lenten tradition, although that, too, is becoming a popular Halloween activity.
Two trick-or-treating holidays a year? Alex, Astrid and Jake think Danish kids have all the luck.
I encouraged them to dress in their costumes—a Cubs player (Jake), Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” (Astrid) and a pirate (Alex)—the day we visited Farfar. He surprised them with treats, and the kids attached their bats to his window with suction cups. He also explained to us that the night before Halloween used to be referred to as All-Hallows Even, eventually abbreviated to Hallowe’en, and that in the early-to-mid 20th century the abbreviation was again changed to Halloween. Farfar’s font of knowledge amazes me!
If you visit The Danish Home on Halloween, when they’ll be having a spooky-fun Halloween party, be sure to look for our bats on Farfar’s window. He loves them!