The rumors are true. Europeans don’t celebrate Halloween.
Unfortunately, Halloween is my favorite holiday. I normally go all out for it, usually with a minimum of two costumes for different events, some of which I have planned weeks or months in advance. It’s perhaps the only reason I still miss working in an office.
This year, I severely neglected Halloween, because I was a little busy traveling, writing, and trying not to get deported. By the time I got back to Prague and got my visa, I had one week to figure out what to wear and what to do for Halloween.
I did some recon at a local pop-up Halloween shop early in the week. Trying to get a costume in Prague feels shadier than trying to buy drugs illegally. The shops are hidden in buildings behind parking lots and in basements with only a small sign to guide you. Inside, they’re a labyrinth of hallways lined with packaged costumes. It’s a lot like a New York Chinatown store. And just a few days before Halloween weekend kicked off, there were only 3 or 4 people in the store. This should have been a clue.
I decided I wasn’t going to buy or rent a costume, because they were pretty expensive, and I would definitely be in the minority anyway. So I wasn’t going to wear a giant Victorian ghost dress in public. I decided to do what I do best, make my own costume.
So with just a few hours before I was supposed to go out, I walked almost five miles, went to two malls, every second hand store that was open, and two more Halloween stores in search of the right accessories. In a few hours, I put together a pretty decent last minute get-up as a striped-shirt, eye mask-wearing robber.
In hindsight, this was actually a perfect costume for Prague Halloween, because as I rode the train four stops to Old Town and walked three blocks, I realized I was the only person in the entire city that was wearing a costume. But without the eye mask on, I could pass for someone in regular clothes.
Thankfully, when my sexy arresting officer met up with me, wearing a full police uniform complete with hat, badge, and handcuffs, I felt a lot less self-conscious. So we headed into town, sure that later in the night, more people in costume would come out and play. We went to three clubs – all advertising “Halloween parties” – but by and large, outside of the staff, we were one of the only people in costume everywhere we went. And that just made me feel bad for the staff, because they were obviously forced to dress up despite having absolutely no interest in this holiday.
As you can imagine, we got a lot of attention. The party photographer at Duplex made a beeline for us and so did other club goers who must have thought we were part of the club’s hired entertainers. A lot of tourist creeps followed us around in the street and one of them even asked us to take a picture kissing. Russians are really intense, apparently. We politely declined. Maybe not too politely. I wouldn’t know; I don’t speak Russian.
But overall, we had a really good time. We met other expats from Budapest (who were also not in costume) and danced the night away. And though the clubs felt like they would any other night of the year in, I’m glad we stuck to our guns and got dressed up anyway. I was positively giddy with our last minute costumes. And although I can’t hang like these insane people who stay out until 6 am, I’m glad I got to experience Halloween in Prague.
Now I’m going to spend the next 365 days spreading the good word about the wonders of dressing up, like the Mormon of All Hollow’s Eve: “Hello my name is Elder Gnome, and I would like to share with you this book of Halloween.” Because I can get on board with lackluster service, no AC on warm summer days, slices of cheese on pizza, and air drying clothes, but this atrocious disregard for Halloween must be corrected. The Czechs need to get in zombie formation.