Friday, 4 November 2011

Not another Halloween Post

The other day Allison Tait over at the Pink Fibro wrote this brilliant post about Halloween. This post, together with most of the 47 odd comments on it, really summed up my feelings about Halloween. It is not 'our' tradition. We are Australian, and it just feels like a purely commercial exploitation of our society and in particular the children. Alison wrote how last year when trick or treaters turned up on her doorstep she politely and cheerfully told them sorry, we don't do Halloween.

We have been lucky enough to have never had trick or treaters knock on our door.... until last night that is. I was so grateful for having read Allison's post, and I, too, cheerfully and politely told them sorry - we don't do halloween. That was all fine, except that my boys turned on me after they had left, pointing out that obviously 'some' people do Halloween in Australia. Sure, but we don't, I explained.

Unfortunately to a 9 year old boy, getting dressed up in scary clothes, walking down the street in the dark and getting lots of lollies from strangers is pretty close to perfection. He was devastated that I wasn't going to change my mind. As I tried to console him, and as tears rolled down his cheeks, I thought that it is a bit like breaking a habit. People say that you can't get rid of a habit, you need to replace it. Maybe that is what I (or maybe we - in Australia) need to do. Instead of the American version of Halloween slowly creeping in to our culture to the point that it becomes virtually impossible to say no to our children, because 'everyone' else is doing it, perhaps we need to start our own 'tradition'.

Many people who commented on the post at Pink Fibro pointed out that it comes from a Pagan celebration, another person said that it also had roots from Mexican tradition. In fact, it is something that is celebrated in many countries around the world in some way, and is probably a combination of Christian and non-Christian traditions. Most countries around the world have a day or festival that honours the dead. Australia is possibly unusual for not having one.

When I lived in Sweden, I found their tradition of lighting candles in the graveyards that burn for a week (in the dark, snow covered graveyards), to be beautiful, sombre, and magical.

I'm not sure what I would like 'my' version of Halloween to be look like, but I am thinking of things along the lines of a sombre supper remembering the people who were close to us who are no longer with us. Sharing the memories of my Dad and my grandparents with my children, with good food, candles, soft music. Perhaps also dressing up in costumes (to keep my 9 year old happy).

What are your thoughts on Halloween? Do you think it is just a bit of fun? Do you dislike the commercial nature and Americanisation of our culture?
Do you like the idea of starting your own celebration? On your own terms? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


  1. Personally, when we were growing up, we never had Halloween. Over the last couple of years though, it seems to have grown exponentially and we have about 12-15 groups of kids knocking on our door every year. I have nothing against it as such - we buy lollies and chocolates and will probably take my little ones when they are old enough. I think if you are doing it for some fun its quite alright.
    Having said that though - I luuuuve your idea of a new tradition for Australia! Maybe lighting little oil lamps like the Indians do for Divali too? To show the way to their home? It would be nice to have a day of rememberance and celebration rather than mourning though.

    On a different note, I'm also a psych and yes, doesn't that psych knowledge come in handy with kids?

  2. I'm torn. I LOVE dressing up, and that part of it appeals to me. Trick or Treating however, is not really my thing at all. I read this blog post & it started me thinking about WHY I don't like it... I have no issue with the roots of the festival being pagan (so is the origin of the Christmas tree). I am actually not particularly stressed about the safety aspects. I like that it might just get people to know their neighbours up the street & so on. I don't like the crass commercialisation at all (ditto every other holiday/festival). I don't like the focus on greed & consumption, don't we have easter for that.... I don't like being American-ised... & I think that's the core of it for me. I guess most of our celebrations come from somewhere else, & I hope that if Halloween takes root here that it will develop into something uniquley Australian. I did have a bowl of lollies for the very few kids who visited. My brother in law set up a smoke machine at his front door. (I'm still thinking on this one) :)

  3. Hi Anna, That's amazing have so many kids knocking on your door, it has obviously grown massively over the last few years. We have mostly lived in areas with lots of older neighbours, so this was the first year we have had any trick or treaters. The more I think of it though, the more I think that I need to embrace the idea of it, while rejecting the americanisation and commercialisation, by doing it my way.
    Psych is definitely useful with children, although I think sometimes I have the tendency to over-analyse things :)
    I have a facebook page, but haven't linked it here yet, it is a work in progress, but I will aim to have it up and running by the end of this weekend.

    Mel, I've been torn too, mostly resting on the anti-american/comercial side, but I do agree that there are some positives like getting to know neighbours, and that dressing up is definitely fun. That blog article you linked to is really beautiful.

  4. I notice on the Sydney Morning Herald people suggesting that Thanksgiving might be a more appropriate celebration for us all.
    Now, in that Thanksgiving has an historical resonance in U.S. culture, but not in ours, I myself would object to that far more than to Halloween.
    Halloween is Celtic + others, thus part of our inheritance. Perhaps there are ways of acknowledging/respecting/enjoying this day without going down what seems like a corporate-inspired consumer culture.

  5. Hi Anonymous. That's crazy that the SMH thinks we should adopt Thanksgiving! I'm not against the idea of Australia coming up with its own celebration to be grateful for what we have (I think some Australians sometimes tend not to be grateful of how lucky we are in this country), but I hope we don't just follow the American tradition of Thanksgiving.
    Your second paragraph completely sums up how I feel on this issue - thank you.