Like it or loathe it, Halloween is upon us once more. The journey of that old pagan tradition linked to the Northern hemisphere’s autumn festival of Samhain to its current 2 dollar shop plastic kitsch in this country (and others, to be fair) must be a tangled one. If lollies weren’t involved, would children still bother to dress up and go door to door? For a European perspective, you could try Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough, which will tell you far more than you thought you wanted to know about European pre-Christian mythology.
The idea of a celebration that includes dead family and friends doesn’t have to be morbid or a spooky one, as Halloween pretends to be. My favourite has to be the Mexican Day Of The Dead, which actually covers 3 days , from 31st October to 2nd November, and is celebrated with food, drink and remembering those who have passed away. Has to be better than Christmas Day with the in-laws, surely
Fendalton Library is having a Dia De Los Muertos display, from Friday 1st November, courtesy of Christchurch’s vibrant Mexican community; why not drop and have a look if you’re in the area? The library does have a book dedicated exclusively to El Dia De Los Muertos, if you wanted to find out more.
Since we’re heading into the festive season, why not check out the library resources on festivals.
I think I’m going to put on my crusty curmudgeon hat and say “I hate Halloween”. I’m the sort of person who when kids come trick or treating says “your costumes look neat but we don’t do Halloween here”.
Why? Well let’s start with:
- When did we start celebrating Halloween? Only in the last 10 or 15 years when the chain stores realised there was a buck to be made. Then they started promoting it like it had always been a Kiwi thing.
- Allegedly it’s a time for kids to have fun but really it seems more like a thing for adults. They are either having Halloween parties and dressing up, or they are dressing up their kids.
- It represents the triumph of American culture – Halloween is very much an American tradition which we have seen in films and television.
- In many parts of the world All Saints Day is a time to remember the dead – not scary ghouls but real people you loved and who have died. The commercial takeover seems crass.
- Halloween rituals make sense in the northern hemisphere where bonfires and lanterns are light against the encroaching darkness of the long Northern winter. Not so much in springtime New Zealand where the days are lighter and longer.
How do you feel about Halloween?
An alternative to Halloween which is green and rooted in Aotearoa’s cycle of seasons and cultural influences is suggested: National Green Day. Perfect for high spring: planting rituals like getting your tomatoes in, planting and enjoying fragrant native plants, harvesting the ti (tea tree), the return of pipiwharauroa (the shining cuckoo), enjoying the song of the riroriro (grey warbler).
Anyway grumps over – if Halloween is your bag we have lots of stuff to help celebrate the day: