|Zach, Levi and Else finish harvesting their pumpkins' seeds|
Two weeks ago, people in the US and in other parts of the world practiced the tradition of Halloween. Growing up in the Midwest, Halloween was an excuse to have parties in school, dress up and pretend to be someone you're not, go door to door getting candy or simply to celebrate the end of the harvest season. For our family it has also meant going somewhere to pick out pumpkins, carve jack-o-lanterns and roast the pumpkin seeds. I particularly enjoy eating the pumpkin seeds. However, what seems harmless in the US Midwest feels much different in Indonesia.
Here there are witch doctors who have the power to heal, dances designed to enable demon possession and the common belief that volcanoes erupt because the volcano god is angry. Superstitions abound in Indonesia and with good reason. From trustworthy people, we have heard stories of broken bones being healed by witch doctors, people eating light bulbs or climbing down coconut trees head first while possessed and swords adorned with a deceased chieftain's hair flying around a room. Indonesians are quite conscious of the spirit world that is all around us.
As we learn more about Indonesia, we begin to see how strange our own traditions look. Here, Halloween is not associated with the end of the harvest season because crops grow year-round, Jack-o-lanterns seem like an odd use of food and dressing in frightening costumes really is scary.
Recently I assigned my New Testament students the task of answering the question, "What does your life bear witness to?" I explained to them that our lives bear witness to something and I wanted them to start thinking about what their lives bore witness to. I was compelled to apply the same question to my life and the practice of traditions associated with Halloween. Needless to say, I think differently than I used to.
This year we didn't celebrate Halloween, but we did get pumpkins as a way of remembering the Fall season. Without football or colder temperatures it's easy to lose track of the seasons in Indonesia. We journeyed south about 20 minutes to an agricultural area known for its vegetables. After passing a number of roadside vendors, we stopped at one that seemed to have a nice selection of pumpkins. Most of the pumpkins here have green exteriors instead of orange, but they taste the same. After purchasing some pumpkins, we returned home. Later that night we gathered with friends to eat pumpkin pie, carve pumpkins and roast pumpkin seeds.
I'm finding that the longer we live in Indonesia, the more we learn about ourselves. I hope that our lives bear witness to more than the country in which we were born, but to something a bit more eternal. No matter where we are I hope this is always true.
Enjoy Fall for us especially the cool nights and brilliant autumn colors.