Halloween happyLinus firmly believes that on Halloween night the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch and flies all over the world delivering toys to all good children everywhere. —Charles Schultz

Kiwis get into the spirit

by Roger Childs

Last Saturday at Parkrun there were people decked out in black with funny hats, and this evening, weird-looking kids are set to prowl the streets with expectant faces and large bags! It’s that time again; have your candy/sweets ready.

Halloween great pumpkinWe didn’t celebrate this favourite American day when I was a kid, however, with the influence of American culture many Kiwi youngsters dress up on 31 October and head out trick or treating.

The Peanuts fans among you will recall the patient Linus camping out every year on Halloween night, waiting for the Great Pumpkin to ascend from the patch. 

Very amusing, but all rather strange! Linus’s friends use to tease him because the big vegetable never put in an appearance. However that didn’t stop the lad living in hope and nestling down in the garden. The power of positive thinking?

Stepped in history

There are plenty of interesting historical links for Halloween. The Celts in Ireland celebrated the Samhain festival as autumn melded into winter. It is possible that this dates back more than 5,000 years! 

The traditional colours today have historic links:

  • orange for harvest
  • black for the death of summer.

There was a superstitious element, as it was thought that at this time the souls of the dead  would emerge. The Mexicans have a major festival to remember the Day of the Dead. Marauding ghosts were a worry and costumes were worn and fires lit to keep them at bay. (See more below.)

Christian leaders have used many so-called ‘pagan’ celebrations for their own festivals, as with Christmas and Easter. Then in the eighth century Pope Gregory III decided that Samhain could be morphed into a time for remembering the saints, so November 1 became All Saints Day

The day before was known as All Hallows Eve and so the modern name of Halloween developed. The Catholic Church also decided that this would also be a good time to remember the dead, so November 2 became All Souls Day.

Mexico’s Day of the Dead

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Christian remembrances also tie in neatly with the traditions of indigenous people in Mexico.

They believe that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of all deceased children (angelitos) are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them. Mexican Sugar Skull website

So The Day of the Dead is a major Mexican holiday and in Wellington on November 2 the Mexican Embassy will have their traditional cocktail party. I’ve been to one and it was great!

Remembering Halloween in style

Halloween trick or treat 1The festival is remembered around the world and dates back deep into western civilization. Certainly the Americans go to town and 31 October is a holiday over there. Apparently one quarter of all candy sold in the USA in a year, is at Halloween time!

New Zealand has now embraced Halloween. Most folk have some treats in the cupboard for the children who will call round tonight in their ghoulish costumes and fancy dress. 

Some religious communities and schools take a very dim view of the festival, but in fact it was the Christian Church that incorporated the ancient Samhain festival into the main stream.

So enjoy Halloween, the kids love dressing up and it’s a fun time. 

This may even be the year when Linus’s perseverance is rewarded and the Great Pumpkin might rise from the garden patch.