By Ronald H. Toland Jr.November 8, 2010
Ahhhh, Halloween has come and gone another year, and as Americans, we all know the tradition surrounding it. But what about our host nation counterparts--what do they know about this thing we call 'Halloween''
Traditionally, unless a local national is involved with an American citizen, they would usually not know of this event. But in recent years, with the German media and marketing hype of Halloween on the rise, that has all changed.
And one German/American family is doing their part to educate a local community about it.
In his sophomore effort, one 22-year old decided to bring the traditional American haunted house thrill to his community of Lengfeld, a suburb of WAfA1/4rzberg.
"I wanted to introduce and integrate the idea to the community because it brings people together to have fun," said event organizer, Favian Leavitt, a local volunteer fireman-of half American and half German decent.
"Not only does it bring people together to have some fun, it also educates our community about traditional American traditions and its culture which has been in existence for a long time,"
He said that to bring and educate this annual fun to his community is a thrill for him too.
"Basically integrating and educating our community is fun for me too and it is fun for the kids and families," he said.
However, Leavitt said that the thrill of Halloween and a haunted house is not the only reason for the event.
"We are all volunteer firefighters and our younger firefighters here are putting this on," he said. "We want the fire department to be in the kids' minds later on so we can recruit them when they are of age."
Leavitt explained that as volunteer firefighters, they not only train themselves, but also recruit and train the youngsters (from 10-years and up) to become firefighters, as well as conduct other activities like theatre plays and the haunted house.
"Our younger fighters are the ones who put this together and are operating it," said the junior Leavitt. "This not only is fun for them, but integrates the kids early on to the idea of being volunteer firefighters and keeps the fire burning in their minds about becoming volunteer firefighters when they are old enough," he said.
And his colleagues could not agree more.
"It is a good thing for Lengfeld and for the children-keeping the fire department in the minds of the children, when we can recruit them when they are 10," said Thorsten Artmann, volunteer firefighter who helped the others coordinate the event. "Plus it has become really trendy and present in the past few years in German culture, so that adds to the fun for the children."
"It is exciting for the kids-it is great for them," said Felix Knauer who also works alongside Leavitt. "It is the biggest thing in the Lengfeld community-nothing like this compares."
Leavitt noted that there were all together 254 attendees--which is a big increase from last year and thanked everyone who helped out and contributed, including his parents.
"It is great for community relations, to encourage involvement of the youth of the community, to keep the tradition of Halloween going and to introduce it to some Germans who do not understand it," said Sam Leavitt, father of Favian.
"I think that it strengthens relations across cultures and communities, because it shows how Americans celebrate this event--which the Germans or most Europeans call Hallows Eve--and because Nov. 1 is a holiday for the Germans, unlike in America," said the senior Leavitt. "It builds a better understanding of the two cultures and the two societies-how they recognize the same thing, but in a different way."
As well, he explained that the tradition has been missed in the community.
"Since 1945, there used to be a large American force and population here where the Germans enjoyed trick-or-treating on the American base; but now that base is shut down and this just keeps that influence that the Americans made still in the Germans minds-which is a good thing," said Leavitt.
He explained that the Germans are starting to 'warm-up' to Halloween as a festivity, because they are festive people-like with Fasching. As well, they also have a celebration around this time of year when they "put to bed or put to the grave summer and go into the winter period" he said.
"This just fits right in and goes along with that same type of festive spirit--plus it is just fun for everyone-great family entertainment, involvement, great for the volunteer fire department and the stimulation of the youths' interest in that, as well as the bringing of the community together to bond," he said.
And his wife agreed.
"I believe that when the children are learning what other cultures are like, that can only be a plus-this keeps the American spirit alive in the community," said Christiane Leavitt.
She explained that the Germans are sad that the Americans have left the community, where her son (Favian) use to attend Halloween activities on base and because of that, he wanted to revive the spirit, and is now doing it at the fire brigade.
However, she said that this is not a heathen event, but helps educate the Germans about what Halloween is about and said that it is a time to bring people together when darkness falls much earlier, which can be a sad time.
"When people come together under these types of conditions to celebrate, it is always fun, especially when the children are involved," she said. "It gives them and the children from the fire brigade something to work for and achieve, plus keeps them off the street and involved in something productive," she said.
Community families who came out for the scream said the event was worth-while and agreed that community interaction and integration is important.
"Mingling together and having a sense of community involvement is fun for adults as well as the children," said Dirk Beuschel who brought his family out. "The people of the town are coming together and having fun together-you meet the people you like, you know them, you meet new people...this is a place where everybody can come."
Other local community members who attended and those who also braved the house said as well, it is a fun and good idea to bring the children and families of the community together, and that this should be a tradition of their own now for years to come.