It’s often seen as a commercial event, and Americanism forced down our throats and not a part of Kiwi culture.
But it is much more than that – it is a very old, pre-Christian celebration, and it is certainly not American.
Before it was sponsored by The Warehouse, Halloween was celebrated as the Christian festival of All Saints Day. This was a day to remember everyone who and died and gone to Heaven, and since you were a good person who hoped to go to Heaven yourself when the appointed hour arose, it was broadly a day to remember your dead ancestors.
Churches would hold a vigil service on the night of All Saints Day, and after the service the congregation would go out to the adjoining cemetery and tidy up their relatives’ graves, and generally honour the dead.
All Saints Day, was also known as All Hallowed Day, and the evening service was Hallows’ Eve, or Halloween.
But the tradition runs much deeper than this. Early Christians were flexible enough to adapt already popular religious events to fit into the Christian calendar, making it much easier to recruit followers. The most obvious example is Christmas. Just a week or so after the longest (northern Hemisphere) night, the astute would have noticed that the nights were starting to get shorter, signifying that the winter was starting to turn and warmer days would return.
Halloween is an adoption of a harvest festival – by mid Autumn the crops were in and stored, and it was time to prepare for the long dark nights of winter.
It’s almost impossible to imagine, from 21st Century New Zealand, just how long, how dark, how cold, and just how threatening a pre-industrial Northern European winter would have been. In some latitudes is was dark for almost 18 hours every night, with no street lighting and no Kathmandu down jackets. The winter nights were something to fear, both for known dangers like hypothermia, thieves, wolves and Mongol hoards, and the unknown dangers that long dark nights can build in the mind, like spooky ghosty things.
So a good party in the graveyard before winter set in was something to be enjoyed.
Halloween then is a true traditional festival, built into nature’s calendar and celebrated around the world. It is a time to remember and look after our ancestors, and to celebrate and be thankful for another completed harvest. Calling it a commercialised Americanism is only party true, and doesn’t do justice to this ancient festival.
Which leads us obviously and directly to the Malthouses’s Lagunitas Halloween Tap Takeover & Party on Thursday 31 October.
This will feature 16 Lagunitas beer on tap, with six being poured in New Zealand for the first time:
-Dog town pale ale
-Giniper Tom’s Town Barrel Aged sour ale
-Dark Swan Sour
-Unfiltered Coffee stout
There will be live music from 7pm, burgers and hot dogs on the menu, and prizes for the best Halloween costume.
Just remember, it’s an ancient tradition you’ll be celebrating!