For most of us, our understanding of Halloween comes from watching American television shows. In New Zealand, Halloween, on October 31, is an opportunity to dress up, eat treats and play tricks – all in the name of good fun!
Halloween, otherwise known as All Hallows’ Eve, derived from the ancient Gaelic harvest festival known as Samhain (pronounced Sah-win) observed on October 31: a night when, it was believed, the spirits of the dead could return to the earth. Halloween evolved with the spread of Christianity through the Western world – when the idea of remembering the souls of the dead, including the saints, became known
as All Hallows’ Eve.
Fast forward a couple of millennia, and today Kiwis don all manner of costumes, and adopt their own rituals to amuse and scare others. Added to the frisson of Halloween, for the kids it is all about gambolling about the neighbourhood with friends, and collecting sugary treats.
IN THE SPIRIT
In the past, people observed Samhain by turning off their fires and making their homes inhospitable for the spirits of the dead. However, today you may want to invite witches and ghosts and the like into your home for a Halloween party. Here are some tricks to make your party a treat for all.
If you are hosting a ‘family’ Halloween party, remember that families with kids may wish to go trick or treating. Consider hosting a casual day party for families – with the option of taking your party to the streets afterwards and trick-or-treating as a group.
Halloween is all about spooky fun and surprises, not about traumatising the kids. So, if you’re hosting a party for kids, put the emphases on fun and surprises and dial down the fright factor.
Create a spooky, and magical, ambience with tea lights or fairy lights. If you are hosting a party during the afternoon, dark sheets over the windows can transform the atmosphere.
When it comes to food, keep it bright and fun, and remember the savoury options. There is a delicious smorgasbord of devilish dishes online, but here are two simple-to-make, sure-tosurprise ideas.
Out On A Limb Cookies
Having made your gingerbread men, leave to chill in the refrigerator, ideally overnight. For the icing, combine 1-1½ cups of icing sugar and 2 tablespoons of milk until smooth, then pipe bones onto the cookies. For a more polished look, use skeleton stencils to make impressions in your cookie dough before baking.
Green-Eyed Monster Burgers
Use cheese cut in a zig-zag pattern to look like teeth, with blood-like ketchup spilling down either side. Place two gherkin slices on top for eyes, and carrot triangles for horns.
The practice of trick-or-treating probably dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England, when poor citizens would beg for food in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives. It has further evolved from the custom of ‘guising’ where children would dress-up and sing songs or perform card tricks in exchange for treats.
Perhaps, as a nod to the practice of ‘guising’, you might like to teach your kids some positive tricks to perform when they are out trick-or-treating – as a way of saying thanks for the treats they do receive, rather than as a consequence should the neighbours fail to produce the goods.
If your children are heading out on October 31, be sure to tag along and keep an eye on them to ensure they’re safe. Safekids.org and the NZ Police both have great tips for keeping safe this Halloween.
Now it’s time to start thinking about costumes for all the family – and, remember, anything goes!