Halloween in New Zealand

So Halloween, although known about and beloved by many around the (Western) world, is not so popular anywhere except the U.S.  Given that, I was a bit saddened by the thought of not celebrating one of my favorite holidays for the first time ever (the other being Mardi Gras). We did not see any Halloween decorations from the time we arrived at the start of October even all the way up until Halloween morning, nor did we see costumes being sold around town. There was candy at the grocery store, and some of it was Halloween oriented, but now that we’re on the other side of the holiday we know that they just have lots of candy at the store.

Umbe and I discussed this most unfortunate situation over the days leading up to Halloween day. We even found a church that was offering an “alternative to Halloween Mardi Gras party,” but clearly that is just unacceptable. Really? Blasphemy! How dare they try to replace one of my favorite holidays with a fake and untimely (for there is something in my psyche and body that times the year around Mardi Gras day) terrible version of my other favorite holiday. So we quickly spit out the foul taste in our mouths and resigned to not celebrate Halloween this year but promised to plan the most fantastic Halloween party for next year. We were content with the sacrifice for an even better cause and spent far too much time making preemptive plans for the upcoming party on the way to school Halloween morning.

On my way to picking up Umbe from school, I decided that at least some candy was in order, so I stopped at the store and picked up a bag of gummies that he has been wanting. Of course, it’s me, so they were the most healthy gummies one can find. Fortunately, he has grown receptive to our food sensibilities over his short almost 8 years, and he was thrilled to finally have the bag of gummies he’s been eyeing at store for weeks. I gave them to him when I picked him up, and he decided not to open them “straight away” (as he says now like a true Kiwi) and save them for after his homework, especially considering that we were not going to be able to Trick-or-Treat that evening.

But…on the walk home from school one of the houses we passed was fully decked out in Halloween spirit! It was not like that when I passed it on the way to pick him up, but now it was (as if a wonderful, magical witch waved her wand and made it so)! We stopped and took a photo:

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He is holding up his gummies and feeling a bit less homesick in this moment. Needless to say, perhaps, this magical display sparked a little bit of hope in both of us: we began to “what if” about the Trick-or-Treat possibilities that evening. Perhaps, NZers (pronounced enzedders) are just a bit less show-offy about their holiday spirit, and we may be able to do some candy pilfering after all. But we stayed on the cautious side and didn’t get too excited in fear of disappointment, especially since we had already established a plan to cope.

Yet, when Tony arrived home he announced that he did indeed see a clown knocking on doors while he was walking home from the bus stop. Huh, okay (it was barely 5pm). So then I began to feel terrible because I was worried about Umbe’s not having a proper costume and our only having the stuff we brought in our suitcases and very little scraps to be creative and put something together, etc etc etc. But Umbe did have his Mardi Gras Man cape (sans the wristbands and shirt), so we figured we could make something work. He put on his Saints jersey and cape, grabbed his wand and a grocery tote, and he was ready to harass people for free stuff!

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Not the best nor the worst costume, but he was representin’ for sure! We walked for a bit before we saw other small groups also Trick-or-Treating, but they were indeed out and about. The strangest part was not knowing how or where to Trick-or-Treat, as no one seemed to decorate (except the house from the above photo) and the porch light rule wasn’t in effect. We noticed a few houses with hand written instructional notes on where to go to receive treats and knocked on doors that did have lights on. We were successful in these early endeavors, but it was very different from back the States. I eventually asked another parent, and he was kind of enough to explain that any house was okay to approach unless they had put a sign up saying for us not to knock. Sometimes people were participating and sometimes they weren’t. People were handing out homemade baked goods, such as brownies, and giving out unwrapped candies. (Not the greatest pictures-apologies)

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These brownies were really delicious:

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And you know what? We ate them! And they were good! And we didn’t get sick or die! How novel.

As a perfect finale to the evening, we stopped by the house that had the Halloween decorations magically appear on our walk home after school. Umbe met the kind witch, got a bunch of lollies from her (that’s what NZers call candy) and we got a photo of them!

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The wind blew her hat off, but as you can see the magic dust is all over Umbe (in his hair). All in all it was a quick but successful unexpected adventure.

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We are very grateful to all the Palmy-ites (Palmeranians? Palmenes?) who partook in the Halloween tradition. You made us feel a little less homesick, and we had a lot of fun. Umbe scored a lot of lollies, many more than we thought were possible.

As you can see from the above photo, though, it isn’t the hedonistic sugar fest that it is in the States, nor was it the much loved and missed tradition of all-out Halloween fun that we have had every year with the Almond family since the boys were in Preschool. We missed how important it is to stay in character on Halloween:

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And (only) Umbe missed how much candy that he’s not allowed to eat that he can get for free on Halloween:

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And the candy mania that usually goes along with the annual Jack and Umbe pilfer the neighbors fest didn’t quite happen, as you can see from this reaction:

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We still plan to have a huge, magical, spooky, and fun Halloween party next year. We are fortunate to have the perfect house and lawn to make that happen, and we’re meeting heaps (another weird NZ term) who will be lots of fun to share it with. What would make it perfect, though, is having our family and, most importantly (sorry mamas), the Almonds join us ;).

Finally, just as Halloween isn’t quite like Halloween here, the next morning the magical decorations were completely gone, and there was no sign whatsoever of Halloween ever happening. Apparently, the NZers aren’t as attached or lazy as us Americans to/with their holiday decorations because they were cleaned up and gone. (I wonder if Christmas decorations will be the same way.)

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