By Asja Alispahic, YES 2017-2018, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by AFS in Warren, NJ
On October 31, alumnae Anamaria Pestic (YES 2016-2017, hosted by PAX in St. George, UT), Denina Siljegovic (YES 2017-2018, hosted by AYUSA in Mesa, AZ), and I organized a Halloween party for middle and high school students in our community. The party took place at the American Corner in Tuzla, whose staff was very helpful and welcoming. We talked about the way we celebrated Halloween during our exchange year in the United States and two Americans, missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, joined us and talked about the ways they experienced Halloween in their childhood. Participants included students from both Islamic and Catholic schools.
We made sure to have a variety of activities to appeal to different interests. These activities included dividing students into groups who competed to be the fastest in making a mummy out of paper, which made for a very festive atmosphere. Participants also had the opportunity to play witch hat basketball or participate in pumpkin carving. The Halloween party would not have been complete without a wide selection of cookies, which we made and decorated with some of the younger students. Everyone was able to express their creativity!
The Americans who kindly accepted our invitation to join us and talk a bit about their experiences with Halloween also created a trivia quiz which was an absolute sensation and managed to maintain the attention of the participants for quite some time. This lovely learning session provided a wealth of knowledge about this holiday to all of the students. It also raised their competitive spirit, as they fought heartily for a big bag of candy as a winning trophy! Our American guests received an enormous "thank you" from us, as they presented Halloween in the most truthful way and were like a portal for participants to the U.S.
The entire event was a success and a tremendous growing and learning experience for all of the students and participants, as well as for us. Our mission was to make this holiday all about learning, sharing culture, having fun, and socializing. We also aimed to demonstrate that tolerance and understanding - which are key to a more accepting and loving community - are a result of educating and sharing knowledge.
Sharing traditions brings communities and individuals together. Moreover, it makes people learn, understand, and improve, and it serves as an overall bond between different worlds and cultures. This event, which reflects our ambitions to spread positivity and tolerance, brings us one step closer to a more open-minded community. Halloween is an American holiday, but an extraordinary opportunity to make a bridge across the Atlantic Ocean as a bond to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.