Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

I've heard every argument against Halloween: it's organised begging, it's the devil's work, it's giving candy to children already overdosing on sugar.

Actually - you know what? It doesn't matter. Halloween is really just dress up day - and it's FUN!

The build up to Halloween here seems to take about a month, and intensifies in the week leading up to Halloween.  Jill and Emma arrived from Sussex a week ago, and a few hours later we bundled them up into heavy duty coats, and set off into the night for the Williston Haunted Forest. This is a famous (in Vermont) annual event. It must take months of preparation and planning.
Volunteers working on the jack o' lanterns
Hundreds and hundreds of jack o' lanterns, each lit with a single candle, all carved into different patterns, sparkle through the woodland path.

You walk through the dark forest, along the glimmering path, to little tableaux, while ghouls follow you and leap out in the darkness. We took Lizzy's friend, Tori, with us, and she had a handy way of disconcerting the ghouls: "Welcome to Canada!" she said in her bright, piping voice, every time someone leaped out from behind a tree or tried in any way to scare her.

In the weekend, everywhere seemed to be having a Halloween parade or Halloween event. We headed down to Saratoga, where trick or treating was in full swing.

Everyone wanted to join in the pumpkin rolling competitions!
There were jugglers on stilts, and ballerinas, dogs in fancy dress, and mounted police, amongst all the children dashing around the shops with their loot bags. And the decorations in some houses had to be seen to be believed:

So, today was Halloween. School closed at lunch time and our girls headed off with their costumes, wigs, make-up in bags to dress up with their friends and attend various parties. It was pretty quiet down by the lake, since there are no other kids down here. But when we went to pick up Lizzy, she'd had a glorious time, culminating in a ride through the neighbourhood on a hay wagon pulled by a tractor, and then fireworks on the lawn. I stood out in the night chill with the other mothers, while they laughed about seeing Halloween through Lizzy's eyes, and volunteered to adopt either of my daughters for a term next year. Emily came home a couple of hours later, almost asleep, and deeply happy.

It's all so over the top, so utterly crazy, such delightful fun. I love how everyone seems to embrace it, and the wholeheartedness of people's engagement, their lack of - what is it? - inhibition, self-consciousness around it. I've listened in on professors discussing their costumes ("No, no, I went as a disco queen for the last two years") and watched middle-aged male shop assistants straighten up their Roman helmet in the mirror, without seeming to feel that their masculinity was under threat. I love that it was Pumpkin Sunday at Trinity church last week - and parishioners brought their hand carved jack o' lanterns which were lit up and placed all around the sanctuary.

I keep coming back to this: why don't we do more of this in New Zealand? Why don't we have more community fun? Can you think of a single festival or celebration  that everyone engages with? The only one I can think of is Anzac day - which is important in all sorts of ways, but possibly doesn't come under the heading of fun. Please can we have Dress up Day in New Zealand!?

1 comment:

  1. Lisa--I love how you love Halloween (or, more pedantically, Hallowe'en). It's far and away my favorite day of the year, when people open their homes to kids and lots of rules are suspended. This holiday should go worldwide.