A group of five kids just came to my door, trick or treating. Except for a wee guy aged six or seven, they were in their early teens. I'd never been visited by trick or treaters before, and I was taken by surprise. All I could find to give the youngsters was a bag of unexciting Farmbake biscuits. Their dismay at this shite bounty was painfully obvious. Nonetheless, they politely thanked me (even the girl who rejected my offered biscuits). The Grim Reaper amongst them told me cordially that he would not be stealing my soul, and the trick or treaters went off into the un-scary late afternoon sun.
The kids' visit made me feel even guiltier about refusing to allow my own daughter to go trick or treating. She's been preemptively nagging me about it for some months now. I've got a range of philosophical and other concerns which I've been wrestling with, as only a namby pamby liberal leftie feminist can. Number one is safety. I just don't like the idea of letting kids roam the streets seeking goodies from strangers, whether or not they're accompanied by adults. Number two is dignity. I don't feel at all comfortable asking for food from strangers (particularly not in my poor neighbourhood). But the thing I dislike most about Halloween - and I admit it's kind of irrational - is that it's another cultural import from the USA, brought to us by the telly, and with no relevance to NZ whatsoever. When there's so much kiwi stuff stuff we could be celebrating, it's rather odd to draw on foreign concepts for inspiration.
In my day (and here I go sounding old and crusty) we celebrated Guy Fawkes. That was dumb for a host of reasons: it was a commemoration of an irrelevant, centuries-old gory event from the other side of the world, replete with horrible injuries from fire crackers. I still feel nostalgic about it, though (except for the horrible injuries), and look on Halloween as a kind of frivolous imposter.
Halloween is not the only thing to make it here from the US. Opposition to this pagan carry-on from fundamentalist Christians also seems alive and well. My daughter came home from school with a flyer promoting a 'Saints and Angels' party. Kids were invited to come dressed as their favourite saint or angel, and Halloween costumes were strictly forbidden. For f&#k's sake, I thought to myself - how many saints and/or angels can the average kid name? How many can the average grown up name? I'm stuck on two angels (unless you include Lucifer before The Fall, which the organisers of this event would likely disapprove of), and most of the saints I can think of died in hideous ways. I would not consider it good taste to dress up my daughter as St Catherine being tortured on a wheel, for example.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with dressing up and having fun, and I try not to let my dour politics turn me into a complete killjoy. I just didn't like the options on offer - indulging in the culturally alien consumerist silliness of Halloween itself, or hanging out with the nervously Satan-fearing puritans at the 'Saints and Angels' party. My daughter and I reached a compromise position: she was allowed to have a few friends over for a Halloween party. The kids painted their faces, ate junk food and watched a kids' doco about bugs. I wouldn't say that it was particularly scary; but with the possibility of a National government looming, we've got all the fear we need in our lives right now.