Tip toe quietly through the night, creeping cautiously, taking fright, ghostly ghouls and pumpkin lights, its Halloween time again tonight…

When is Halloween in New Zealand?

Halloween is celebrated in New Zealand on October 31

Halloween is a great time for children to dress up in costumes and go door knocking around the neighbours in your community collecting sweets.

Halloween is celebrated in much of the Western world, in particular the United States and Ireland, but it has gained popularity in New Zealand over the last few years.

Find out everything you need to know about Halloween. How did the tradition start, who else celebrates it, how to stay safe during Halloween, as well as lots of cool Halloween party food and crafts to do.

What is Halloween and Where Did it Come From

Halloween dates back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in), first celebrated almost 2000 years ago.

The term Halloween, and its older spelling Hallowe’en, is shortened from “All-Hallow-Even”, as it is the evening before “All Hallows Day”. In Ireland the name was “All-Hallows Eve”. Halloween was also sometimes called “All Saints’ Eve”.

The Celts lived in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, and celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Thank goodness things are different today!

Celts believed that on October 31 when they celebrated Samhain, the night before their new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred – briefly opening the way for the ghosts of the dead to return to earth.

Thus the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for the afterlife. Great!

Naturally, the still-living Celts did not want to be possessed! So on the night of October 31, villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily parade around the neighbourhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.

Did it work? Perhaps. Although this unusual tradition is still celebrated today it is definitely not taken so seriously.

Other Cultures that Celebrate Halloween

Halloween in New Zealand-Day of the Dead

The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots and has spread right around the world.

By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.

The first was Feralia, a day in late-October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honour Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of “bobbing” for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints’ Day, a time to honour saints and martyrs.

Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 “All Souls’ Day”, a day to honour the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints’, All Saints’, and All Souls’, were called Hallowmas and, eventually, Halloween.

In Mexico, and other parts of South America, a related festival is known as The Day of the Dead, or ‘Día de los Muertos‘. It’s celebrated on November 1 and 2, though other days, such as October 31 or November 6, are sometimes also celebrated. Although the festival is associated with the Christian Hallowmas observances of All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, The Day of the Dead is more of a joyful celebration rather than one of mourning.

There we have it, a centuries old tradition celebrated today although the emphasis is now on having some fun and receiving treats rather than avoiding being possessed by the dead! Thank goodness for that.

What about Halloween as we know it today?

Halloween in New Zealand-Modern tradition

Halloween celebrations have changed to become more ritualised – more about having fun rather than reliving an age-old superstition. As belief in spirit possession waned, the practice of dressing up like hobgoblins, ghosts, and witches became more ceremonial.

The custom of Halloween was brought to America in the 1840s by Irish immigrants fleeing their country’s potato famine.

The modern tradition of “trick-or-treating” probably dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives.

The giving of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given food and money.

How do we celebrate Halloween in New Zealand?

Halloween in New Zealand-How do we celebrate Halloween

Halloween is not quite as popular in New Zealand as in other Western countries, and in the past wasn’t generally even celebrated here.

However, Halloween is gaining in popularity in New Zealand with many retail outlets actively promoting Halloween costume sales in recent years. As a result more and more children are participating in “trick or treating” each year. Once they’ve got the costume, they’ve got to do something with it. So watch out for a knock at your door and perhaps be prepared with a few lollies!

One of the best things about Halloween in New Zealand is the community spirit it creates. It’s really important to get to know your neighbours, and form a strong bond as a community or village. Halloween is a great, safe way for people to get out and explore their community, and meet some neighbours you wouldn’t ordinarily bump into. 

And because it takes a village to raise your child. We think this is one of the best things about Halloween!

In New Zealand it’s becoming traditional to put out a Halloween ‘sign’ out, to signal it’s OK for kids to knock at your door. There are purpose made signs for this, or it might be a spooky spider on your letterbox, or your fence covered in cobwebs. If your house is advertising Halloween, then kids know it’s OK to come knocking, and that you’ll have some treats for them when they do.

Halloween in New Zealand-Halloween signs on doors

Equally, by not putting up a sign, this tells kids to move on to the next house. There’s also purpose made ‘don’t knock’ Halloween signs now.  This is a really great way to keep all the neighbours onside in your community, so consider this tradition if it hasn’t already started.

The other thing that’s becoming more popular each year is for houses to go all out, and turn their front yards into ghoulish scenes. Everything from hands coming up through the lawn, to giant spiders hanging from trees, to all out LED lit graveyard disco scenes! This is all in the name of fun, kids love it, and it makes for a really vibrant community for one night a year!

If you are interested in celebrating Halloween in the more traditional and popular American style, check out some of the links below for some scary ideas your kids will enjoy.

Cool things to do for Halloween


Halloween is the time that traditionally we plant pumpkins in New Zealand, rather than harvest them, so here’s How to grow a giant pumpkin!

You’ll also want to check out our Halloween-inspired toilet roll crafts in Fun and easy craft ideas using toilet rolls.
Make a toilet roll haunted tower scene

Keeping safe this Halloween

In most western countries Halloween is not complete without costumes, pumpkins, monsters, vampires, witches, werewolves, ghosts, scary tales, haunted houses – a lot of this is becoming popular in New Zealand, with more Halloween parties starting to appear each year.

Halloween can be a fun time for the kids but do take care. If your children are heading out on October 31 for a little trick or treating, be sure to join them, keeping an eye on them to ensure they’re safe.

Safekids.org and the NZ Police websites both have great tips for keeping safe this Halloween.

By the way, you might also want to keep an eye out for ghosts and spirits of the dead sneaking around the darkening streets. Beware… you’ve been warned (just kidding)!

More Halloween fun

We have some great craft ideas too like our Spooky puppets, Recycled monsters and Magic potions.


Halloween craft - recycled tin ghosts and egg carton bat

If you want to make some healthy creepy treats this year, how about our Spider muffins and Frothy blood jelly! Or, for the little ones try these Halloween upcycled tin ghosts and egg carton bats.

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how dose it relate to nz people i don’t know

Jarrod Rendle

That’s a good question. But we love any excuse for a get-together with the family! Matariki, New Years, Diwali… If it involves people, and food and festivity, we’re all for it. Fun is fun! — Kiwi Families

Shahbaz Asghar

i was not aware before that people in New zealand celebrates Halloween,


the only thing i new about was Santa not Halloween…..we didnt celebrate halloween until some people brought it here to NZ

Marc Jansen

It’s fun for kids! So of course it’s evil and American, I guess it is why so many are against it! Too bad because sadly it’s dying here in America also, thanks to the endless liberal stupidity that has to destroy everything associated with western or white America for whatever reason! Christmas? What’s that? Happy holidays!!! Once a great time and so much fun! I remember running home from school and getting ready with homemade outfits usually and heading out around four and not returning until eight and even a few times ten, with a paper grocery bag or a… Read more »


Thanks for your comments Marc. Yes it’s a shame when the fun-police get started isn’t it! We don’t actually have Thanksgiving in New Zealand. But we certainly do love to eat and drink and get together with family! — Jarrod

Opinionated Cat Lover

My only real question, being an American who is in the process of immigrating to New Zealand, is how do you guys work the holiday into your seasons. Is it mostly celebrated intact, or does the fact that it’s mid-spring alter it any?


No, we just work it in. You’re quite right, pumpkins make no sense at the start of Spring. But you just wait until you go down to the beach on Christmas day after a full roast turkey! — Jarrod

Opinionated Cat Lover

Christmas in Summer is sure going to be a shocker for us. We’re Coloradan (mountainous state in central US), so not only are we used to cooler weather for Christmas, we’re actually kind of attached to the whole snow and winter thing. :3

But you guys have the whole Christmas in July thing too, right? A nice vacation to the South Island that time of year ought to make up for no snow in December. :3


Ha, yes in that case it’s gonna be a little different down here. Christmas is a huge celebration here as it’s right at the start of our summer holiday. It’s sort of like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring Break combined! You’ll love it.


As an United States citizen about to visit your wonderful country for a year, I am very excited to see Hallowe’en gaining in popularity. It is my favorite holiday! The fall, the spooky and spirity nights! A celebration of change. I adore it! Am excited to expirience it in the spring this year! I think we are all copying, rather, joining the ancient Celts in celebrating change.

Rochelle Gribble

Hope you enjoy your trip!


Halloween is evil!!!!!


It’s originally a Catholic and Celt holiday. Not sure how you can call someone’s religious Holiday “evil”.


OH but now some christian churches don’t like Halloween.

Marc Jansen

The only mention of modern Halloween and America is that the custom was brought to America by the Irish in the 1840s? Whatever! Have fun with it parents, it’s about the kids anyway, What little girl does not like to dress up or boy playing anywhere? Some good old cartoons on line to watch as tv shows and movies. Bugs Bunny, Disney, Garfield, Charlie Browne, we’ll you get the idea. As for music, allot also from the likes of Werewolf of London, Monster Mash, or even movie tunes like Experiment in Terror! As for stories, being of the Empire, you… Read more »


why do we copy the Americans?

Scott Miller

From an American– I kind of wish America had a Guy Fawkes Day.


You do . . . but it’s called July 4th

John Flower

It’s different. We are celebrating the successful catching of a terrorist. It’s the equivalent of catching Osama Bin Laden before the planes flew into the Twin Towers. We then burn an effigy of Guy to remind terrorists not to try any mischief…. else we’ll hang, draw, and quarter them. Although Guy had a nasty accident and broke his neck immediately prior to the punishment, the other terrorists were give the full treatment.

Heather Pennington

it’s not only an american tradition, why are you so opposed to accepting other cultures ideas?

Eric Nicholls

Not sure if you read the article but Halloween comes from the Celts that lived mainly in Ireland and the UK. Kiwis are British descendants so why not?


That’s a great point Eric. I don’t think its really a case of copying anyone. Halloween is just loads of fun. Its a great opportunity to hang out with your kids, do halloween inspired crafts, and dress up, and go a bit wild. And its also a great chance to get around and meet your neighbours, which can only be a good thing. — Jarrod


Here, in Vancouver (Canada), it’s the one holiday where you can buy fireworks and launch them in the city. It gets crazy for the week previous and afterward, as number of people can’t respect the one day rule and you can be waken up by crackers in the middle of the night. Not to mention the numerous temporary fireworks stores. – It’s probably bigger than trick-or-treat here.


Hello, I’m wondering if you have a rough percentage of how many New Zealander’s currently celebrate Halloween. It would be greatly appreciated, thanks.


what do new zealanders do for Halloween?

Rochelle Gribble

Hi Pie,

Halloween is a bit mixed in New Zealand. Until fairly recently, Halloween wasn’t really ‘celebrated’ here but with the increase in American TV etc, there has been an increase in what happens. It tends to be fairly low-key and ad hoc, however, and many parents don’t really like their children going ‘trick or treating’.




Halloween is evil!!!!

bik guest

I do agree. Halloween is certainly NOT a great time for anyone.
The only reason it has gained popularity in NZ is because of the warehouse deciding to push it for commercial gain. Now other retailer are joining in and its become a thing.
What people are ignorant of are the not so nice things that go on behind the scenes and believe me very real.
But even of Penelope choose to ignore the unsavory aspects of Halloween and join in for a bit of fun. it promotes greed and foolishness.

bik guest

penelope should read “people”


I’ve seen Diwali celebrated here in NZ to great fan fare! Please don’t get all high and mighty about other folks celebrations. Guy Fawkes day isn’t a NZ Holiday and it is celebrated here. And don’t say that it’s been around longer. Hallowe’en has been around over 2000 yrs. Do some research.

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