It’s that time of the year again when people all over the world celebrate Halloween – a good moment to remember that Halloween has long since been one of the many cultural traditions Scots took with them to places all around the world where they settled. This included New Zealand, where Scottish communities in both the North and South Islands made Halloween celebrations a central part in their annual events calendar.
In Wellington, in 1908, a Scottish festival was held in Burns Hall. The event was advertised as ‘a night of Scottish song and story’, and there was also a lecture entitled ‘The Love Songs of Scotland’, which was delivered by the Rev. J. Aitken (see advertisement). The musical programme had a number of contributors, including a Mrs Dempster who sang ‘My Nannie’s Awa’ and ‘Doon the Burn’, while Mr Mackenzie sang ‘My Love is like a Red, Red Rose’ and ‘Bonnie Lass o’ Ballochmyle’. Mrs Dempster end Mr Mackenzie also sang the duet ‘Oh Wert, Thou in the Cauld Blast.’ Moreover, there was also a Highland Reel, performed in appropriate Scottish attire. To ensure a real feeling of Scotland – perhaps a real scent – heather was distributed at the door.
Celebrating Halloween in New Zealand, unsurprisingly, was especially prominent in Dunedin in the South Island. Originally settled by Scots, the Scottish heritage remains particularly strong there. In 1923, the city’s Burns Club arranged what the press described as a ‘splendid concert programme’, with a ‘real Scotch nicht’ thus assured. The stage decorations were to be appropriate for the occasion. Two years later, in 1925, and again ‘sparing no effort to make this year’s festival an outstanding one in every respect’, the Club continued the tradition. Dookin’ for apples was a favourite, ‘enlivening the proceedings’. Events such as these served to revise ‘old-time memories of pleasant evenings’.
In that spirit: Happy Halloween! Just leave out the Trumpkin!
If you are interested in a little more about Halloween in New Zealand, have a look at these newspaper reports.