Halloween is a contraction of All Hallow’s Eve, and is a rather spooky celebration involving ghoulish costumes and copious amounts of sweets. In 16th century England folk believed it was a time when the walls between our world and the next became thin and porous, allowing spirits to pass through, come back to life on the day and damage their crops. The origins of trick or treating and dressing up came from people going door-to-door in costume asking for food in exchange for a poem or song. Many dressed up as souls of the dead believing they were protecting themselves from the spirits by impersonating them.
Halloween is gaining in popularity in New Zealand but what relevance does this have for us – doesn’t it just create a massive sugar high for most of the children?
There is a certain level of competitiveness amongst the trick or treaters in our neighbourhood – throwing a sheet over the five year old, telling him he is Caspar the Friendly Ghost, and giving him an old pillowcase for his sweet haul just doesn’t cut it any more. Mum needs to get down to the Big Red Shed, and spend a small fortune on orange and black cardboard masks, fake cobwebs and ghoulish white make-up. The pre-Halloween discussions – mask or make-up, evil fairy or phantom – become more urgent as the day approaches.
And then there’s the loot, the booty, the calorific candy. Unwrapped sweets are totally unacceptable, and thrown away by protective parents as soon as the young trick-and-treaters arrive back home – individually wrapped small chocolate bars are the only acceptable form of currency for these mini-monsters.
So what about the nay-sayers – are we sending our children out to beg for food from strangers – or is it harmless fun? Kids love spooky stuff – they have an insatiable appetite for zombies, ghosts, ghouls and demons and trick or treating can be a great neighbourhood activity in some areas. Those that don’t want to participate have access to letterbox signage, and the ones that do join in have a lot of fun!