• More on Halloween in Panama

    My kids at Multiplaza Mall for Halloween.

    As I mentioned in my last article about Halloween, the only place to take your kids for trick or treating here, is Mulitplaza Mall. Multiplaza doesn’t do a very good job of advertising though. At Google, I searched for Multiplaza and Halloween to find out what day and time the festivities would be going on this year, and all I found was their Facebook page with very little information. I did find the date and time, which turned out to be today, Sunday the 28th, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. We attended the Multiplaza part last year and found that this year they’d really skimped. Last year there were chairs for parents to sit and watch their children participate in the costume contest and there were a lot of vendors surrounding the stage, offering free food and beverage samples. I’m sure the previous week’s protests may have had something to do with the lackluster planning put into this year’s event. Most companies’ employees didn’t even work Friday, so I can’t imagine many of them were getting together to discuss Sunday’s Halloween plans.

    My wife, Marlene, with our son, Matteo.

    The kids showed up dressed in all sorts of fun costumes. Marvel superheroes, especially the Avengers, were the most popular of all. I saw Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Spiderman, and DC heroes Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. I think I heard that the theme this year was recycled costumes. One kid dressed up as a knight with helmet and shield made out of tin foil. One boy donned a robot costume that appeared to be made out of blue painted styrofoam. Our sons participated in the costume contest, but the lengthy event wore us out and we didn’t stay until the end. We were at the mall nearly three hours and they still weren’t finished with the costume and the shows that went along with it. The shows were great. Dancers, magicians, and of course the star and Multiplaza mascot, Koko, were on hand to entertain the kids, all of which rushed the stage and cheered them on like rock stars. 

    Koko and his backup dancers

    Several stores, like Paul Frank, brought their own mascots out to meet the kids, and a couple of stores were providing face painting services for the little ones. About halfway through the show, the kids got bored and begged me to take them trick or treating. I’ve always hated doing this in the mall. I hated it back in the States too. In South Florida it had become popular to take your kids to the mall. I understand the safety issue, but I just feel like it’s a cop out. I want my kids to get out and go door to door the way I did as a kid. Plus, in the mall, you always pass those bullshit stores where employees are handing out store coupons instead of candy. Seriously? When I find a store coupon in my kid’s candy bag, you can bet that I’ll never shop in that store again. That’s such a sneaky tactic. 

    So, in Panama, as I mentioned in my last Halloween post, there’s almost no option other than the mall. If you were to choose a neighborhood and try to go door to door, first of all you wouldn’t make it past the metal bars that block the front doors of many Panamanian homes, and when you did reach someone’s door, they would be shocked. There’s no way they’d have candy. Not unless you were in a mostly American neighborhood, and even then, it’s doubtful that anyone would be giving out candy, unless it was planned beforehand. 

    In Multiplaza, we went up and down each aisle of the mall. I’d say that maybe a quarter of the stores were giving out candy, if that much. I was saddened that even the American owned companies weren’t giving out candy. A few store employees were excited to participate. At a store called Pink, which is kind of like Claire’s in the U.S., the three young ladies behind the counter gave our kids candy, stickers, hand stamps, balloons, and a few other things. However, at most stores, they shook their heads as soon as the kids walked in. Other parents seemed to be as frustrated as I was. One lady passed me and said, “This isn’t the United States.” I’m still not sure whether she was being a smart ass or saw my frustration and was agreeing with me. I think she was saying it in a nice way. 

    I appreciate that Multiplaza does this each year, but I think I’m going to write them a letter. If they’re going to put on a Halloween show and get parents to drag their kids out each year, after paying to buy them costumes, I think they should make it mandatory that the stores participate. The costume contest is mostly just several hours of kids standing around bored waiting to find out if they won, and the trick or treating is a joke. The kids looked so disappointed walking from store to store and hearing the employees tell them they didn’t have candy. I pride myself on being one of the non “ugly Americans,” which I plan to post on on a later date. I don’t get angry often, or even complain often. I know I’m in a foreign country and I love Panama. The Halloween event at Multiplaza brings them a ton of money. I’m sure a few people shop while there at the event, and the food court must make a killing. So ramp it up a little, Multiplaza. Make the stores participate, or at least give them some sort of incentive to participate. 

    A friend of mine told me that back in her home state, her church (I think she said it was her church) would host a Halloween event, where parents would park their cars all the way around the parking lot, in a big circle. Parents would hang out at the trunks of their cars or the tailgates of their trucks. Many of them would barbecue on small grills and play music. Kids would go trick or treating from one car to the next. That sounds like a lot of fun. Maybe I can try to put something like that together for next year. 

    Things like Halloween are the things that worry me a little about raising my kids in a foreign country. They’re learning so much about Panamanian culture and history and heritage, but they’re losing out on that American part of their lives. They can celebrate all of the Panamanian independence days (and there are a lot of them), but it’s hard to go all out on the 4th of July. I need to put more emphasis on the American holidays and make sure I don’t let those things slip from their lives.  Maybe, as more Americans move to Panama, we can rally together and make sure we keep our holidays alive, as we learn to celebrate the Panamanian ones as well.

    I just wanted to say thanks to all of the stores that participated in today’s Halloween event. It really means a lot to the kids. That one store in every fifteen that gives them a piece of candy, makes them smile. Tonight, when I was putting my kids to bed, one of my four year old sons, Nicolas “Niko,” gave me a hug and said, “Today was awesome, daddy. I got a lot of candy.” That melted my heart. To them it was the best day ever.  I just wish I could show them what the real Halloween is like. 

    Thanks for reading,

    Chris

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