Giving up on Halloween.

Oh, Halloween. I used to be so excited about designing costumes and buying kilos of lollies (Kiwi for candy). I festooned fake cobwebs about the house, and made tombstones out of polystyrene.

Not this year.

Halloween used to be my favourite holiday. Over the years, I've stubbornly persisted in celebrating it. In ninth grade, I was the only one who wore a Halloween costume to school. When I moved to San Francisco, their Halloween was my mecca, and made my obsession with witches and haunted houses look tame (if not quite normal for an adult).

Halloween parade in San Francisco
But since moving to New Zealand, a country with no reason to celebrate Halloween, I've been going through the motions. I mean, despite my best efforts.

I had already given up Thanksgiving and July Fourth. But I tried to keep Halloween in my heart. I did my best. Halloween was like my Christmas. Or my Rocky Horror Picture Show. Because Halloween is the ultimate day for theatre geeks, creative types, and what polite people call eccentrics.

However (as you know), in New Zealand, Halloween happens in the spring. The days are getting longer. The idea of Halloween (the spirit of it, if you will) is completely counter to the season that it is actually in. There are no spooky bare trees or other metaphors for death. The earth is teeming with life. There are baby birds, baby lambs, and green grass.

And against this spring tableau, imagine two dozen children (tops) who are possibly wearing costumes hastily purchased an hour ago at the $2 Shop. They are wandering around in broad daylight, among wildly blooming geraniums, hoping to find the odd couple of families in the village who are participating in that “American holiday”.

Last year, I decided to turn Halloween on its head, and make our garden into a fairy grotto. I thought it would make more sense to have an Easter-ish approach to a Southern Hemisphere Halloween. Needless to say, this idea was a flop.

“What are you, a beer wench?” asked Adam.

Scary fairy in the grotto.

“I am a scary fairy,” I said, with my teeth clenched.

Celebrating Halloween feels slightly (or to be honest, completely) ridiculous. I always imagine Adam and I will have a big “fancy dress” party at Halloween. We will turn our house into a haunted castle, and make the kids carve pumpkins (which are not in season), and dip their hands into cold spaghetti. There will be a bonfire in the back garden. Our party will be like the Peanuts.
Adam is lukewarm about my Halloween ideas. “I think my sister is planning a lunch on Sunday, October 31st,” he said.

Who has a family “do” on Halloween? Yes, that’s right. People who don’t celebrate Halloween.

So, I give up. I’m not going to force Halloween on people any more. On Halloween, we will close our curtains. We will pretend we aren’t home. (Just like all the other Kiwis.)


Nik said...

Yes, I probably miss Halloween more than any other US holiday. But it's just not really done here, despite the best efforts of the Warehouse et al to shove it down everyone's throat. Best summation of the kiwi view of it I heard a few years ago: "I'm not going to let my kids go beg for lollies!" A bit sad to think my boy won't grow up with it, but then again you can't force another country to take on what's basically an American-driven holiday I guess...

Unknown said...

As you point out, it's senseless in the southern hemisphere season. A bit like the way people here adhere to winter themes for christmas, or insist upon celebrating one of histories most epic fails - the Guy Fawkes plot to blow up parliament; in Britain, by the way...

Given nothing happened on that occasion, what are we actually celebrating apart from the ability to scare animals, cause fires and generally be stupid?

Arthur Schenck said...

I think Halloween in New Zealand peaked several years ago. Our local Warehouse has a one small display of Halloween stuff (it has more Christmas stuff), the grocery store has given up on large displays of bags of chocolate bars—the whole effort feels so half-hearted.

On the other hand, this year I've seen a couple fundamentalist churches promoting a "Light Party" as an alternative. Those churches usually take their cues from the USA, so I guess it makes sense they're trying to counter an American holiday with an American response.

The joke is that for the average New Zealander, they're BOTH irrelevant.

utunga said...

Yeah, we tried to do Halloween with our kids the summer after moving back from the states.. was a bit of a disaster. One house had a sign (it was 2005) that said "We don't do Halloween or any other American crap like the Iraq war"...otherwise I was trying desperately to explain Halloween to old codgers with no idea wtf we were up to.

just a totally different experience and a bit sad.

however if you wanna include us in your Halloween plans next year we can arrange a bit of a swapsie.

Ann Imig said...

That is the precise way my Mom always celebrated Halloween.


betty-NZ said...

The change of Southern Hemisphere seasons is definitely a lot of adjustment for us Americans.

I do, however, have an American acquaintance who keeps Thanksgiving traditions and passes them on to her Kiwi friends.

Cadi said...

Reminds me of doing Halloween with my kids in Germany a few years ago. One benefit was that the families who participated (maybe 5 houses in the lil' town) gave up whole bags of candy. Not many trick-or-treaters, ya know. ;-)

Unknown said...

I'm still in America, am I'm kinda "eh" on Halloween. I've done the SF HW. It is awesome, but in a natural disaster kind of way. It's almost impossible to attend and NOT end up peeing in the bushes. Maybe I'll be more into it when my kids are old enough to get worked up.

I do like the fairy grotto though...

Mika said...

The kids beg for Halloween (they watch too much american tv *cough cough*).

I kind of wanted to shield them from the strange looks from old people answering doors and people telling us off (yes, the one time I let the kids go to ONE house, we got told off for waking the baby with the knocking...then their daughter sheepishly gave the kids lollies).

So our compromise is going trick or treating to family members who live in the area.

We also did trick or treating "in house" one time when one of the kids was sick, and went knocking on bedroom doors for candy :P

I'm kind of hoping to get away with not doing it this year

Happy Frog and I said...

I have never really got the whole Halloween thing, but I feel guilty now after reading your post. I will try to fling myself into it this year and think of you. :-)

Christina said...

Yup, I can relate. The put-together-a-costume-in-ten-minute thing is so true!