Quiet Halloween Downunder
October 30, 2010
One of the biggest cultural shocks of moving to New Zealand happened our first October. We were used to Halloween american style. A week-long celebration. Lots of parties, homemade elaborate outfits, (sometimes two in a year) pumpkin carving, house decorating, prank pulling, party planning, and trick or treat gatherings.
New Zealand has heard about “Halloween”, but not experienced it. They do not have cellular memories of apple bobbing in the fall, and scare crows and pumpkin patches.
So, there we were with our 6 and 3-year-old girls, in the spring time, when the days were getting longer and the flowers were blooming, trying to decide what to do for Halloween. The girls got dressed just in case. We put a pumpkin out by our mailbox. We waited. We went outside and looked. The sidewalks were silent. We were trying to sort out what to do when a group of children did in fact come to our door. I think one or two had on silly hats. “Trick or treat”. We joyfully gave them too much candy and then, interrogated..”How do you know what houses are giving out candy?” (In the US if your light was out, you were out of candy or not participating.) “Oh that’s easy, they stand there and say no no no!”. Then they mimicked what most people do in new Zealand when approached on a lovely spring evening with beggars at the door.
Time for another meeting. We had no intention on imposing our culture and we did not want to subject our children to rejection, but we longed for this familiar ritual. We devised a plan. We sent our daughters outside with a flashlight. We told them to circle the house and knock on the door. When they opened the door, their father and I were dressed like cowboys. We talked in our worst southern accents and gave them candy. We advised them to circle again. The next time snobby dentists answered the door and gave them carrots, and told them to go around. The next time, their dad was a woman, I was a man…Around and around they went, discovering a “new house” every time. It was the most fun I’ve ever had on a Halloween night.
The next Halloween, we invited friends over and the parents had a little party and took turns dressing up while this bigger group of children ran around a decorated house. (some spiders fell down and other tricks were played while the children made their way) It became an annual tradition.
Until this year.
The girls are 12 and 15 and they have other plans. They don’t want a party. My rabbit and witch have grown up.
So this year, it is a kind of goodbye. Goodbye to my older daughter’s childhoods, goodbye to my old traditions. I don’t expect any goblins at my door, I’ll experience a quiet spring evening just like a real Kiwi.