A baffled Kiwi experiences a true American Halloween

by Joanne Black / 28 October, 2017
RelatedArticlesModule - Halloween America

A squirrel on Halloween pumpkins in Washington DC. Photo/Getty Images

When bands of marauding children come knocking, the scarier your house is, the better, apparently.

Here in the US, Halloween is not a night but a season, and a long one at that. Already, large pumpkins have started appearing on front doorsteps of homes in my neighbourhood. That is good news for squirrels, which are partial to pumpkin, and it’s a reminder that I vowed I would carve a pumpkin this year, not for a roasting dish – that’s so New Zealand – but to make a jack-o’-lantern.

I am partly motivated by wanting to make it look as if my family is making an effort at cultural assimilation. Carving a Halloween pumpkin when you are living in America is not like, say, fasting for Ramadan when you move to a Muslim country: the only sacrifice involved is the pumpkin’s.

The other motivation is that there are many young families in my neighbourhood and the scarier your house looks on October 31, the more welcoming it is to kids. It shows that you get it, whatever “it” is.

To be truthful, I do not get it. Halloween baffles me. As a kid, I would have been terrified to go out in the dark knowing people were going to scare me, although my sugar addiction would probably have triumphed.

I once read that one measure of addiction is what you are prepared to do to get what you most crave. Halloween would have been my test but, fortunately, when I was growing up in New Zealand in the 60s, Halloween was something you knew only from American TV shows, which screened months behind the US, serving only to increase my sense of cultural confusion.

In America, more pumpkins are carved for decoration than are eaten. When pumpkin is eaten, other than by squirrels, it is usually bought canned, which at least saves the hacking job.

I will give carving a go but, given the size of pumpkins for sale, the chance of accidentally cutting off my arm is quite high.

Still, spilling fresh blood down the front step will be authentically Halloween. As I say, baffling.

This article is an excerpt from Back to Black column that was first published in the September 30, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

Funny Girls gets serious about suffrage in new comedy special
96571 2018-09-20 00:00:00Z Television

Funny Girls gets serious about suffrage in new com…

by Russell Brown

A comedy special with the Funny Girls sheds light on New Zealand women’s historic winning of the right to vote.

Read more
How to ease symptoms of IBS and endometriosis with the right diet
96373 2018-09-20 00:00:00Z Nutrition

How to ease symptoms of IBS and endometriosis with…

by Jennifer Bowden

Diets low in fodmaps are a saviour for people with irritable bowel syndrome and endometriosis, helping to manage the gastrointestinal symptoms.

Read more
The web browsers’ war on user tracking
96529 2018-09-19 13:01:40Z Tech

The web browsers’ war on user tracking

by Peter Griffin

The reach of tech giants Facebook and Google goes well beyond their own websites to capture your web browsing. So how can you stop them tracking you?

Read more
Emails between Clare Curran and Derek Handley to be revealed
96499 2018-09-19 08:04:02Z Politics

Emails between Clare Curran and Derek Handley to b…

by Gia Garrick

Copies of former minister Clare Curran's personal emails to tech entrepreneur Derek Handley are expected to be released to Parliament this afternoon.

Read more
Suffrage 125th: We're not there yet, but with each generation we get closer
96160 2018-09-19 00:00:00Z Social issues

Suffrage 125th: We're not there yet, but with each…

by Genevieve O’Halloran

It's 125 years since women got the vote, but full equality eludes us. The motherhood penalty curtails careers and the gender pay gap remains.

Read more
How gender barriers blighted the career of a Kiwi psychiatry pioneer
96491 2018-09-19 00:00:00Z Social issues

How gender barriers blighted the career of a Kiwi …

by Robert Kaplan

Mary Barkas' significant achievements in psychiatry in the early 20th century made little difference to her career prospects.

Read more
Did your ancestors help win women the vote in NZ?
96082 2018-09-19 00:00:00Z History

Did your ancestors help win women the vote in NZ?

by Sharon Stephenson

A new exhibition recognises the some 32,000 NZ women who signed the Suffrage Petition 125 years ago, paving the way for women to be able to vote.

Read more
How NZ women won the right to vote first: The original disruptors & spiteful MPs
96463 2018-09-19 00:00:00Z History

How NZ women won the right to vote first: The orig…

by Vomle Springford

Is it right that while the loafer, the gambler, the drunkard, and even the wife-beater has a vote, earnest, educated and refined women are denied it?

Read more