As an American newly returned to New Caledonia after 5 years away, I was curious to see if one still celebrated Halloween in the South Pacific. When we were here years ago, I was charmed by the young (and older) trick-or-treaters who knocked at our door. Now, with a 6-year-old Harry Potter in tow, I wondered if and how Nouméa celebrated Halloween.
Boy do they!
We started seeing advertisements for cheap Halloween costumes and decorations in early October. Then we bumped into the candy lady in the grocery store who told us we had to get ready: little dressed up boys and girls would be claiming candy on Halloween (did I know this holiday, she asked).
Then we were told (again, about 5 weeks ago) that there would be a big Halloween party with games and such at school, and we needed to get ready. The school was decorated to the hilt and children started whispering about their costumes. On the day, parents brought a plethora of cakes and cupcakes, cookies and candy. The children danced to Halloween (Ghostbusters!) music, made Halloween crafts, had their faces painted, went through obstacle courses – and the best part? The parents were allowed to come along.
This may seem all very straightforward to you, but I assure you, in all my time in France, Halloween wasn’t celebrated this much. Not with all-afternoon school parties and advertising and candy ladies. Not to mention the gym. Did I mention the gym? They decked it out (as if it were a US high school during Halloween week), and the staff wore costumes throughout the weekend preceding Halloween. Really.
So what did we do for Halloween in the end? The local aquarium was decorated floor to ceiling and opened its doors to children for mask-making and face-painting. Though we did not make masks or paint faces, we enjoyed the various decorations, costumes and exhibits.
A few days earlier we had carved our pumpkin and made Halloween crafts – I mentioned that I am American, right? And that I love Halloween?
The best part of Halloween, though, this year, was trick-or-treating. We were invited to a wonderful community where our little guy could run from house to house with his friends, trick-or-treating, just like in America, just like when we were little. Houses were decorated (see above), one family danced, another had children plunge their hands into spaghetti to find spiders (to get treats). There was caramel popcorn, cupcakes and old-fashioned candy. Pablo’s favourite part was sliding down a steep hill on a piece of cardboard (a game proposed by one of the families).
So does Nouméa do Halloween? It certainly does for children. My guess is it is out there doing it right now for the children trapped in adult bodies, for, after all, tomorrow is All Saints, another holiday in New Caledonia.