We’ve all just about recovered from hosting our annual Halloween party, so time to (briefly) reflect on it. As with last year, a lot of work went into the party, but it was a particularly tough job this year, as there were so many considerations to make regarding the coronavirus. The biggest change to usual was that we wouldn’t have any food at the party. Usually we have a potluck party where everybody brings something that they’ve made and we can all enjoy eating lots of different things. That is a real highlight of the party, especially for the adults, but was obviously out of the question in the current circumstances. Other changes were the need to wear masks, and a necessary cap on numbers. Regardless of all the changes, I think the party was a success, and, most importantly, the kids all had a really fun time!
The theme of this year’s party was Harry Potter, and this was a theme that had been decided in a meeting the previous December. As an idea it was quite good, as it allowed us to introduce an idea of ‘magic’, as well as having plenty of iconic symbols and characters we could devise the décor around. The ins-and-outs of the preparation and the schedule of the day were ironed out much later in a meeting in late July though, where we began thinking about what direction we could take with the party. It was decided that we would have a magic show as part of the entertainment. Luckily, office manager Takeda-san’s wife practices magic in a club, so she and one other member were able to deliver a magic show for us on the day. That would come after the annual performance which we put on at the beginning of the event; a 5-minute segment, which like last year, took hours upon hours to prepare for. That, alongside the decorations took up the bulk of our time in terms of preparation. We started brainstorming ideas for the party towards the end of August, where we decided to build some cardboard castles (one for each of the Hogwarts houses no less!), and—in keeping with our complete lack of skills—print off lots of posters etc from the internet. The castles took some time, but thanks to the kind help of our super-volunteer Monika, we managed to make them quite early in the process. It was a big relief to get them done, as the Halloween party always has a big centerpiece at the front (frontpiece?) of the main hall. Years gone by have seen all sorts of things made, including sailboats and, somewhat disappointingly, a much much better castle than the one we made! Either way, I was very glad to have got it made early on, and was happy with how they looked. We painted each castle the colour of the house (e.g. yellow for Gryffindor, green for Slytherin), then pasted the emblem and name of the house on top. It was quite a good and colourful effect, and the castles looked quite good. On top of that, we made a much bigger ‘main’ castle for the individual houses to circle around. After painting it black, and spraying dashes of gold and silver, we stuck pictures of various characters from the Harry Potter films on to it. The overall effect was good, and it looked good in the hall on the day as well.
Once the castles had been prepared, we set to finding some Harry Potter-related things from the internet, and printing them off to put on to the walls. Maki-san went one step further and printed out massive sized flags of each house, as well as the Hogwarts school crest; those items looked fantastic draped over the front stage. She then managed to make some cardboard cutouts of the character Dobby, which myself and Monika thought were so great that we went on to make cutouts of Harry Potter himself, Voldemort, and then a huge one of Hagrid who was found looming behind the castle on the day. In the end, in spite of our (readily admitted) creative deficiencies, the main hall looked good with all the décor we’d worked hard on.
As I mentioned, the other thing which took up a lot of my time was preparing for the opening 15 minutes of the party, which were to consist of my brief introduction of Halloween for the children, then a short performance to start the event off with a bit of a bang. Last year, for our Olympic theme, we had a faux opening ceremony with people wearing masks of famous world leaders, which went down quite well. This year we wanted to introduce the idea of magic, so I decided to create a video whereby I would ‘magically’ change in response to magic tricks from people on the stage. I thought it was quite a clever little video all things considered, as Okuno-san and Hitomi-san magically made me disappear, dance stupidly, switch to a different location, or change in size. I was happy with how it turned out, but unfortunately—though there was some laughter—the response of the crowd wasn’t quite as raucous as I had hoped. One person mentioned that they thought people were so taken aback by the creativity of the performance, that they were more amazed than tickled by it. That, for me, is the most comforting consideration, so it’s the one I will run with! Anyway, following that, Dumbledore (played by YIFA chairman, Yamamoto-san) took to the stage with us and we all lit up the room with the ‘lumos’ incantation. It was a good idea to have a ‘moment’ whereby the event could be started properly, and, after a brief preparation time, the magic show began. The kids convened at the front of the room and seemed pretty engaged by the magic show, though I felt the very little ones weren’t really sure about what was going on! Though the magicians are just amateurs, they did a really stellar job, and I was particularly impressed by how they encouraged participation from the audience; something which really maintained interest levels among the children.
Usually at the Halloween Party, we would then have our Potluck based lunch break, where we would enjoy eating the food everyone had brought while chatting together. Unfortunately, with no food this year due to the Covid-19 situation, we weren’t able to do that this year, which was a huge disappointment. In retrospect, it would have been a good idea to have incorporated some time where people could just simply meet and chat to each other. Without it, it was a fairly relentless schedule and didn’t give the adults present much opportunity to talk to each other, though I’m sure they would have liked to have spent time doing so. It was difficult to foresee that kind of issue this time though, as the situation was so alien to normal years. Fingers crossed that next year we will be able to hold a regular Halloween Party with food and everything else.
Anyway, after the magic show, we had a little break followed by the costume contest (prizes donated by local businesses as usual), before the younger children separated into groups (well actually Hogwarts ‘houses’ this year!), and walked around the various rooms of the community centre to play games and enjoy trick-or-treating. This was the highlight for the kids I would imagine; nothing makes a little child happier than getting nice sweets!
After that, we all reconvened in the main hall to take some photos together and officially end the party. Once most of the people had filed out, the staff and volunteers quickly began the job of taking down all the decorations. It struck me—as it did last year—how brutal the clearing up can be! Decorations that we had lovingly put together were torn to shreds in seconds, and the whole community centre had been restored to normal within an hour. Of course, we will have no use for the Harry Potter related decorations in future years, but it does feel strange breaking carefully made things into pieces the way we did!
Overall, the guests all enjoyed the party, so job done! As with last year, I felt that the effort put in was not reflected in the output, but everybody who worked towards putting the party on enjoyed doing so (including myself), so maybe in the end that is a part of the job; coming together not just at the party, but while preparing for it. Of course, there were things which could have been better (mainly mentioned earlier), and there were plenty of things to discuss on our reflection meeting a few weeks later. But, in the circumstances, I think we should just feel glad that we could put the event on at all, and not be too hard on ourselves in terms of any issues.
Thanks for reading the blog. It’s a good chance for me to reflect on our events and projects, and consider ways to improve in future. All the best, Phil.