It’s my third Halloween in Australia. It’s not a popular holiday here, but it’s growing in popularity. According to the Australian social research company McCrindle:
Those in Generation Y (aged 18-31) were far more likely to have celebrated Halloween in the past than Generation X (aged 32-46) and the Baby Boomers (aged 46-65). When asked whether they had ever celebrated Halloween before, 53% of Gen Ys had, compared to 45% of Gen Xs and 40% of Baby Boomers.
Although I’m tempted, I won’t tell you that you “should” celebrate Halloween. Even though you should. Because it’s the most awesomest holiday. Think about it.
Halloween is multi-cultural
There are two common reasons that Australians give for not celebrating Halloween. First, it’s American. Second, it’s un-Australian.
Our modern-day Halloween has many roots. Some roots go back to pre-Christian European festivals that marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It occurred during a liminal period. That is, at the boundary of autumn and winter. Thus it was believed that the boundary between the realm of the living and that of the dead was thin. Customs included both honouring the departed and scaring away malevolent ghosts. Halloween also has roots in Christianity. It is part of the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead. Yet Halloween was not recognised in America until the 20th century.
It’s true that Americans love Halloween and celebrate it with gusto, but we didn’t invent it and we don’t own it. Australians can claim it as a part of their cultural heritage as much as any other holiday. Easter and Christmas aren’t homegrown either.
Beyond its Celtic roots, almost every country in the world has some kind of remembrance of its dead. In Australia, one of the most important national occasions is Anzac Day, a day of remembrance. It’s hard to accept Australia as a multi-cultural nation while opposing Halloween on the grounds that it’s American. If Aussies celebrate it, then it’s Australian.
Halloween is fun
Really, it is! And it’s fun at any age. When I as a kid, I looked forward to planning my costume, mapping my trick-or-treat route, seeing all the cool neighbourhood decorations, seeing all the other kids in their costumes, and overdosing on lollies. As a teen, I looked forward to scary movies, haunted houses, parties, and overdosing on lollies. As an adult, I’ve enjoyed going with my sister and her kids trick-or-treating, and overdosing on their lollies.
I know that some parents object to the idea of kids “begging” for lollies or consuming too many lollies or feel this flies in the face of “stranger danger”. This is mostly panic and naysaying. Halloween is safe and trick-or-treating is part of the community fun. Nothing feels like it was made for kids more than Halloween. It’s the only night of the year when you can be whoever you want, from a superhero to a monster. You’re in control and you get to visit the homes of strangers (who are actually your neighbours) and demand lollies. What’s more, they give it to you, and they give it to you with a smile.
It’s not just about trick-or-treating
Trick-or-treating was always the highlight of my Halloween, but it is only one aspect of this holiday. If you don’t like it, there are other ways to observe it. You can gather with family and honour the memory of your departed loves ones by sharing family stories and cooking family dishes. Throw a fancy dress party. Learn more about your community by visiting its haunted or historic places. Check out a local multicultural event and discover how other peoples celebrate it.
Some Australians oppose Halloween because they say it’s too commercial. It’s far less commercial than other holidays and commercialisation doesn’t stop people from celebrating Christmas.
Just because the shops have a tiny section dedicated to Halloween doesn’t mean you have to buy the merchandise. Consider it a challenge to get creative without spending a lot of money. For example, field pumpkins, the big orange type that Americans use for jack o’ lanterns are not common in Australia and supermarkets carry them for a limited time and a premium price. Don’t buy them. You can carve any kind of pumpkin and they will look just as good. You don’t have to spend a lot on costumes or decor to have a beautiful Halloween.
Also, Halloween takes place in the spring in Australia. We don’t need to replicate the autumn look of the Northern Hemisphere. I like to explore other looks. Check out my Pinterest board Festivals of the Dead to see what I mean.
What’s on in Melbourne
Every year, there’s a little bit more to do in and around Melbourne on Halloween. Check out Weekend Notes and Only Melbourne to see what’s going on. The Haunted Bookshop, the Melbourne General Cemetery, the Old Melbourne Gaol, and Lantern Ghost Tours all offer ghost tours.