Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween, R.I.P.

As I expected, we didn’t get a single Trick-or-Treater last night. So, because I’m always prepared just in case, I’m stuck with candy I’ll have to eat. Such a burden!

Since I started posting about Halloween seeming to be dying out in New Zealand (in terms of the American traditions, at least), I’ve heard from several people in NZ who are or are not still seeing evidence of Halloween (some of those comments can be seen in the comments to previous posts on this subject). The TV news featured a party for kids in Devonport put on by some Kiwis who—surprise!—had lived in the US one stage, and liked the Halloween hoopla. This year, that seemed unique.

What I’ve seen this year has been a decline caused the one force more powerful than hype: Indifference. There was no campaign against it, no public discussion, just indifference.

When I first started seeing people in our area pushing American Halloween traditions—especially Trick-or-Treating—I hadn’t been in the country very long. Then, the opposition, such as it was, came from two main areas: Those who resented “creeping Americanism” (a phrase I hardly ever hear anymore), and those who objected on religious grounds (Auckland’s North Shore seems to have more than its fair share of fundamentalist churches—way more than its fair share…). But even way back then the biggest opponent was simple indifference.

This year, the NZ Police made two signs (above) available for download from their website. One was designed to welcome Trick-or-Treaters, the other asked them to stay away. This is a sensible, common-sense solution I thought was a logical thing to do way back when, but the Internet makes it easy to distribute such signs.

The police also posted a flyer of “Spooktacular things to remember at Halloween”. It was filled with the sort of advice that American parents follow, like “Stay in areas that are lit with streetlights,” “Be visible,” and “Always go trick or treating with an adult” (the first couple years, I seldom saw adults anywhere nearby). But there was also somewhat more modern—and sad—advice: “Only go where you or your friends know the residents.”

The police also reminded kids to “Understand what a prank is. Do not commit a crime thinking you will get away with it because it is Halloween.” Killjoys. They offered “Key Messages for householders” (why do all organisations talk of “key messages” nowadays?): “Householders do not have to open the door or respond to knocks on the door on Halloween.” Um, duh?

Kudos to the police for putting their slogan “Safer Communities Together” into action. The flyer may have been a bit wordy, but the advice was sound and the whole thing was a sensible way of approaching Halloween.

So, while this year was a total non-event in our area, that doesn’t mean it won’t come back in the future. Indifference is a powerful thing, however.

Update November 2, 2009: Some houses, however, are into Halloween fun.


d said...

An update from Welly: the Capital E thing was huge (numbers to be announced), and Civic Square was full of people. New this year was a teenager event held in the evening untl 1am!

Also, several more bars got into the Halloween spirit with decorations and parties (and trick or treating within the bar). Trick or treating out in the neighborhoods doesn't seem popular, but at every themed party, there was trick or treating. Perhaps next year it will spread beyond parties?

In a twist, it was the first year Darren and I not only did NOT have a party, we didn't go to any parties. We did, however, be sure to watch "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". :)

Unknown said...

I'm not a fan of trick or treating, I have lollies ready for the kids who come round, and we had a few this year, but a lot of the older ones don't even bother with a costume, just turn up with a bag and make demands.
I've told my kids they can have a fancy-dress party with spooky games for Halloween, but I don't think we'll get many visitors out where we'll move to!

Arthur Schenck said...

Thanks for the updates! It's interesting to see what's going on—or not—in different parts of the country. Oh, and Louise? You may not get Halloween visitors are your new place, but I'm sure the family will make up for that. You'll have to decide if that's a trick or a treat. ;-)

Mark from Slap said...

Not living in suburbia, I don't encounter any trick-or-treaters either. I think the whole children's aspect of Halloween is a tough sell to anyone who hasn't grown up with the tradition.

Still, there must be some interest among adults, right? Halloween is such an insane holiday---definitely one of my favourites! I can't imagine not throwing our annual party, dressing up, serving spooky jello shots, etc.

Arthur Schenck said...

Halloween is apparently celebrated at parties, including ones held in bars and pubs. I don't remember any being promoted in Auckland, but I probably wouldn't have seen any ads, anyway. Still, I know there were parties elsewhere in NZ.