How not to ‘Halloween’…

Love it or hate it, Halloween is upon us once again. Today it is a vastly different experience than the one that the Celts traditionally celebrated. For them it marked the reaping of the harvest, the end of summer and an opportunity for the dead to cross over to the living world and scare the daylights out of everyone. Sounds like great fun so far!

For us however, Halloween has become an attempt at recreating what is largely a Northern Hemisphere celebration – with Southern Hemisphere seasons, beliefs and inclination. And more often than not, if we try to emulate what we see on TV we are destined for disaster. So here is a cautionary tale of ‘How not to Halloween’. Sadly parts of this aren’t as fictional as I would like them to be.

CB249_PUMPKINS_JCKT_RVSDLet us think for a moment… the pumpkins will have only just been planted and won’t be ready until around Easter next year. So now we will have to attempt to carve something sourced from the local supermarket. We pick out a nice Crown pumpkin and overlook the insipid grey colour and lack of grandeur. Beggars can’t be choosers. All it needs is a scary face carved in it and a candle to highlight your excellent pumpkin cutting skills. You take your sharpest knife and start to cut the top off what is arguably the toughest skin on any vegetable available*.

image_proxy[1]After you get back from the doctor, you decide that it is probably wise to do away with the carved pumpkin as you can’t afford to lose the use of your other hand. You may still be able to salvage it as a Halloween decoration however, as it is now rather realistically covered in blood.

Meanwhile, your kids are dressed up in the scariest costumes you could find at the local Opportunity Shop and are already dreaming about the sheer weight of the lollies that they hope to get. They wonder momentarily if that pillowcase is going to be big enough.

Leaving Hubby home in charge of the lollies; you venture forth into the bright sunlight with a handful of ghosts and witches in tow for the trek around what you thought was a friendly neighbourhood. How wrong you were. You find yourself greeted by grouchy people who can’t even fake being nice for the kids. They love to point out the error of your ways for daring to try and experience what is largely an American custom. Others will wander openly around their living room while your kids knock on a door that will never open. Some will go to the trouble of putting out ‘No trick or treaters’ signs to save you the energy of knocking. I like these people. We each know where the other stands.

Cover of The Halloween encyclopedia

Of course it isn’t all doom and gloom. There is the occasional legend that will gush over the kids costumes and hand over a lolly or two. But after an hour and a half of what amounted to a crushing failure; we head home defeated. I console the kids with the fact that if we’re lucky, their dad won’t have eaten his way through the entire bowl of lollies at home. It has been a rather disappointing experience. The kids don’t understand why their Halloween bears little to no resemblance of the ones that they have seen on TV. Let’s be honest – it’s still won’t be dark for another hour or more.

When we get home we find that the only other people that have come around trick or treating were teenagers who didn’t bother to dress up. And when my daughter finds out that they made off with her plastic skeleton that I’d propped next to the ‘bloody’ pumpkin; she probably won’t forgive me.

Cover of Halloween book of fun

I know that there are houses somewhere that are re-enacting their version of Halloween – I’ve seen the lollies disappearing from the shops. Maybe next year I’ll save myself some time and heartache and just ask them where they live. At least then we can be assured of a guaranteed result!

So if your kids are begging you to join into Halloween this year, you think you can avoid these amateur mistakes and you are looking to earn some easy brownie points; here are some books to help you achieve this.

Cover of Halloween activitiesCover of Halloween crafts Cover of Ghoulish get-ups Cover of Twisted cakes Cover of Trick or treat

Or try our –

And safety first!

*Try softening the pumpkin in the microwave first. I may have learned this the hard way!

Piping in the New Year

Piping in the new year

New Year’s Eve 1960

John William Bettridge (1899-1960) and his son Llewallyn (Allyn) Bettridge about to go visiting local pubs to collect donations for the Christchurch Metropolitan Pipe Band. This photograph was taken at the home of John and Minnie Bettridge at 91 Burwood Road (the house has since been demolished and the section redeveloped). The two little girls in front are John’s grand-daughters Alyson and Leonie Miller who had come down from Auckland to spend the summer holidays with their grandparents.

From Christchurch City Libraries collection.

Collated for Heritage Week 2010. See other Heritage Week 2010 photos

All about Eve (Christmas that is)

A Kiwi night before Christmas

I used to love Christmas Eve as a child.  I would put clean sheets on my bed (the pretty ones with tiny orange rose sprigs on them), have a bath and get into clean pyjamas, watch the Christmas movie on television, have a Christmas story and then spend the night tossing and turning because it was too exciting to sleep.  I would give  up at about 5am and sit on the couch staring at the presents under the tree with my brother and sister until our poor parents finally joined us at some still ungodly hour.  One year in a bid to get a bit of a sleep-in on Christmas Day our parents (poor deluded darlings) put all of our presents in pillow cases at the end of our beds but we kept going in to show them the presents we had gotten. 

This year I have my own very enthusiastic not quite four year old and chubby cheeked cherub of just past one to start our own traditions with (I know Lucy has already had a couple of Christmases but I’m only just getting organised enough for the Christmas trimmings – so to speak).  These may not turn in to traditions as such but this Christmas Eve the Christmas stories will be  A Kiwi night before Christmas and the Christmas caravan – not just in a bid to support our local talent but to hammer home the lack of snow at Christmas. 

And the music on the drive down to Hawea?  A mix of Abba, Neil Diamond, John Denver and The absolute best Christmas album in the world – ever (that is the actual title but still quite good even if you don’t like Christmas music). 

So what is on your Chrismas Eve agenda? Have a Merry Christmas and if it doesn’t go to plan, just think how glad you are that you don’t have to listen to our music selection on a five hour car trip.