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.

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5 Responses to “Quiet Halloween Downunder”


  1. I love it. You have had the most interesting experiences. It is sorta sad to see the “growing up’ but then in time new little ones arrive and there is nothing so fine as grandchildren!!!

  2. ETHEL mOORE Says:

    Come home immediately! We’re expecting about 200 little gremlins on our doorstep. At least you have thanksgiving to look forward to. : )


  3. What a great idea with the wardrobe changes! We don’t get trick or treaters at our house on the dead end lane. We go to another neighborhood though. Sorry to hear your girls are too old for it. Here that is the age the kids really know how to work the candy givers. My husband is telling stories of filling a grocery paper sack and then going out for another whole sack. His Mom ran out of candy and started giving out his hard earned candy. LOL


  4. Hello! Well, here in Brazil, Halloween is also just a “shadow” that goes on inside schools for children of parents with richer habits and who know the American culture. Israel is also an unusual festival.

    For children everything goes as they grow up, but I think the older must keep the traditions, even when children say not believe more in the old stories.

    I was very happy with his comment on my blog Yeladim. Thank you!

    May your days be sweet as honey.
    Adelle (Isha Shiri)

  5. thedarkphantom Says:

    Thanks for the great post!

    I live in Belgium and things were definitely low in our neighborhood this year–hardly any decorations at all. I love to put up decorations and have a little party, but I felt the odd one out, I must say. Perhaps the recession has something to do with it? Not sure. It was a lot livelier two years ago.


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