|Jack-o-Lantern, Opoho 1997|
I quite like Halloween. Its gradual creep into the local festival calendar has been assured and bolstered by foreign pop culture (TV specials, mainly, it seems), and as a pop culture observance you could find worse things to obsess over. Far from the folklore trappings of All Souls Eve, or the superstition and belief of the dead walking for one evening, Halloween is incongruous fun. Certainly, that’s the spirit in which I attempted to take it in when I was a stripling young Simian, dressing up with the kids next door and visiting a grand total of two houses (each other’s, naturally) for enthusiastic – if not a little self-conscious, games like apple bobbing and pumpkin carving. So nerdy. I might have been one of the few kids in my class at primary school to go the whole hog, but yes, I carved the odd green crown pumpkin and even provided my bewildered classmates with a demonstration at school one year. Off and on over the years I’d have another crack at it, hardly refining my method, but enjoying it all the same, even after university days.
I have no great issue with Halloween in New Zealand, either. Speaking personally, it’s one of the few Celtic traditions which have survived in some form in the modern world, and even though it’s become commercialised and Americanised along the way, I don’t think either of those elements have damaged it the same way that, say, the commercialisation of Easter and Christmas have. Admittedly, seeing displays for Halloween booty jostling shoulders with Guy Fawkes Night gear and Christmas decorations at this time of the year is patently ridiculous, but it’s a small thing to live with, and it seems to me that the easier thing to do would be to elbow Guy Fawkes out of the picture entirely, or move the fireworks to Matariki when it really is cold, dark, bereft of holidays and we’d all appreciate a noisy night out. As a side note I like the slow import of Day of the Dead as well – a local Mexican bar is going all-out on it this Friday and in an impressive charm offensive Hell Pizza are embracing the day as well. It seems to me that Día de los Muertos allows us the opportunity to observe both the pagan and Christian aspects of this season. It’s a win-win.
Halloween in the Southern Hemisphere however makes me feel as though we actually got the better deal season-wise. Yes, the Samhain connection with the harvest cycle is lost, but in a modern sense warmer, lighter nights for kids to go trick or treating makes perfect sense. If someone could explain to our neighbourhood teens that trick or treating isn’t some form of intimidatory entitlement ritual then all the better. Jet Junior’s birthday is about a week out from Halloween, so I expect that as the years go by pirates and Wiggles may make way for Halloween-inspired birthday parties, and if they do I’ll be there armed and ready with a pumpkin and a knife, ready for the fun.