Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trick or Treat or Not

Today is October 31—Halloween. It’s not really observed in New Zealand, despite the best efforts of retailers and media to interest people in buying Halloween-themed products. Nevertheless, some years we do get costumed kids knocking on the door, so every year I buy mini-chocolate bars just in case. Most years I have to eat it all myself—oh, the tragedy of it all…

There’s actually a kind of backlash of sorts to Halloween. Some object to what they call “creeping Americanism,” by which they mean the importing of American culture and traditions, often replacing homegrown ones. Their objection is really to a sort of global homogenisation, something most Americans have already experienced with the same stores filling the streets of nearly every town, driving local shops out of business.

The other strain of objection comes from Christian fundamentalists who object for the usual reasons. The irony is that very often these people are led or encouraged by American evangelists. So, in a sense, their objection is itself another kind of “creeping Americanism.”

However, the vast majority of New Zealanders don’t really care one way or the other—if people want to participate in Halloween, fine and if they don’t, that’s fine, too. Actually, that easy-going attitude is how most New Zealanders approach most of life—apart from rugby, of course.

My own sense—without a shred of evidence—is that Halloween may already have peaked in New Zealand. Which isn’t to say that it’s been abandoned altogether. Our main “big box” retailer, The Warehouse, puts up displays in its stores hawking costumes, decorations, candy and related stuff. Other stores do similar things.

But most of the real action is with the media who continue to hype the day. Today our morning TV show, Breakfast, had quite a lot of references and plugs for the day. They interviewed a costume supplier, frequently talked about Halloween among themselves and also had the weather presenter give various bits of Halloween trivia and factoids.

Despite the efforts of retailers and media, there are normally very few kids who actually go trick-or-treating, and many of those who do don’t make even a slight effort at wearing a costume. In Auckland, most parents don’t let their kids walk to school, so it’s not surprising that they’re reluctant to let their kids knock on strangers’ doors begging for candy. This is true elsewhere in New Zealand, too.

My guess is that if Halloween survives in New Zealand, it may eventually evolve into a mere party theme, eliminating trick-or-treating altogether. Mind you, even that’s something the retailers could make money on.

Whatever happens this evening, I won’t be finishing all the candy myself. It’ll take me a few days to do that.


Jessica said...

Had 2 little trick or treaters in full costume (though that only relieved me of 4 kit kats; I'll be having the rest). I'm on a immigrating-to-nz forum with mostly UK expats and man they do NOT like trick or treating! Had no idea it was such a big deal. But as you said the kiwis seem to be more laid back whether you do or don't.

I like it for the fond memories of the early seventies. Reminds me of when we used to go around the neighborhood without our parents worrying about it much. And we knew most of our neighbors. Trick or treating in US malls is not the same.

Arthur Schenck said...

I bought WAY too mich candy (including Kit Kats, actualy). Oh, well...

I, too, have many fond memories, but those days are long gone. I think it was the urban myth of the razor blades in the apples that started to kill it off (though there was another myth that people were injecting heroin into apples and candy--as if they'd waste their drugs ike that!)

Oh, well, at least the memories are still there.