Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Adults take over night of the dead

Children traditionally get dressed in scary get-ups and head out to disturb their suburb and score a few special treats in the process. Photo / Dean Purcell
Children traditionally get dressed in scary get-ups and head out to disturb their suburb and score a few special treats in the process. Photo / Dean Purcell

Elaborate costumes, corporate events and prop-laden house and street parties have joined trick-or-treating as New Zealanders increasingly embrace Halloween.

One Auckland prop- and costume-hire shop, First Scene, says the tradition - long dismissed as American commercialism by many Kiwis - is now the biggest event of the year in terms of sales, and gets busier each October 31.

Supermarkets are also recording strong sales, with Foodstuffs saying overall sweet purchases increase 25 per cent in the week leading up to the big night.

"Kiwis have really taken it on board," said Jo Pilkington, general manager of First Scene. "Halloween gets bigger every year for us ... We probably dress on average around 2000 people on one day on a Halloween weekend."

Ms Pilkington said many customers were people attending house parties. The idea that the tradition was just for younger kids had faded.

"A lot of adults will have a party either side of Halloween if, like this year, it falls in the middle of the week.

"I think Kiwis love to celebrate, and Halloween is a real opportunity to do that ..."

Ghost boy helps other scary looking kids invade another house for treats as they take part in Halloween.
Ghost boy helps other scary looking kids invade another house for treats as they take part in Halloween.

"A lot of clients are in their early 20s through to their late 20s, and they just want to party hard."

Every Halloween prop First Scene has, including coffins, gravestones and gargoyles, is hired on October 31.

The tradition's increasing popularity has been underlined by the success of public events such as Motat's Victorian-themed Olde Hallows Eve.

The museum's marketing manager, Danielle Dunn, said the event was popular with all ages, but particularly university students.

" ... it's not any more the days of people just getting a bedsheet and cutting some holes in it. When we first offered this three years ago, we had about 3500 people ... Staff on Sunday ... said there were about 5000 through."


Halloween treat is who you meet

Every Halloween, children flock to a house in Titirangi - despite its owners opting not to give out treats.

Grizelda XXX, who changed her name by deed poll, has been opening her home to the neighbourhood since moving there about nine years ago.

A former employee of First Scene costume and prop-hire shop, Grizelda said her home was full of props and knick-knacks year-round, so it wasn't much of a stretch to decorate.

Grizelda XXX hopes to bring some magic into people's lives.
Grizelda XXX hopes to bring some magic into people's lives.

"My partner is in the film industry, so he makes props and things. We'll decorate anything that stands still long enough.

"The first year, we had about 20 or 30 kids, and now we get up to about 100, and the parents get dressed up too now."

Children can cast a "spell" in a cauldron, burn incense or write down a wish. Grizelda said no lollies were given out: "My partner offers to pull their teeth out with rusty pliers to save time."

Towards the end of the night, a pizza oven is fired up and closer neighbours will stay longer.

"It's to bring some magic into people's lives," Grizelda said. "You leave the mundane world at the end of our driveway and come down to something that's quite magical."

Have a frightfully good time

Costumes

• Zombies are this year's most popular theme, with vampires and Victorian-era costumes also featuring.

• Adult costumes are becoming elaborate, and making them can mean originality. Hiring or buying is an easier but more pricey option.

Decorations

• For the cheap option, pick up some fake cobwebs and plastic bats and skeletons. At the other end of the scale, a 2.3m gargoyle can be hired for $180 from First Scene, with wooden stocks ($63) and metal cauldrons ($42) as options.

Treats

• The hastily bought Minties or closing the curtains and turning off the lights are still classics. But those wanting to stand out can make their own themed treats like "brain" cakes. Give extra-chewy toffee or pieces of fruit to reduce the line next year.

Staying safe

• Halloween is a time when it is acceptable to take lollies from strangers but kids should still be in the company of a trusted adult. If that rule doesn't apply, you are probably too old to be trick-or-treating.

- NZ Herald

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