Halloween: Trick, Treat or Banish?


Halloween

Image Courtesy: vividity photography

‘Trick or treat’…

Do those three words get your goat? Does the very mention of October 31 launch an instant tirade against the evils of small children dressing as superheroes and begging for sugar?

Love it or hate it? The very idea of Halloween polarizes Australians.

There are those brought up, like me, to believe that it’s an American import wrongly thrust upon our kids. We cry that it’s just a global marketing scam from the confectionary giants.

And then there are those, like my kids, who start getting their costumes out in September. Who make decorations daily, who hoard lollies to give out at the door, who wait in breathless anticipation and count down days on a spooky calendar? My three kids can’t understand why some of their friends aren’t allowed to dress as Superheroes and eat chocolate on a school night.

They can’t fathom how ‘When-I-Was-A-Kid’ Halloween was only something that weird Adams Family in the spooky house at Number 36 did.

In Australia the celebration of Halloween is gaining momentum. Research over the last few years has shown a surprising 26% of Australians planned to celebrate it. The majority of these were families of primary school children, and not surprisingly the majority planned to ‘trick or treat.’

Obviously the left over three quarters of Australians never visited my street where Halloween grows every year and literally hundreds of children parade the scarily decorated streets dressed as lolly gobbling ghouls.

Halloween

Image Courtesy: vividity photography

‘It’s actually a lovely way to meet the neighbours’ says Sally, mum of three year old Ellie. ‘The kids have fun, it’s harmless, those Grinches who complain need to lighten up.’

The naysayers cry foul about obesity and Halloween’s message encouraging door-to-door begging for lollies.

For many the sheer commercialism of Halloween, and the lack of relevance to Australian culture is enough to turn them off. These same critics obviously ensure their Christmas cards never feature snow, Santa or mistletoe.

In 2010 an online survey asked Aussies whether we should ditch Halloween celebrations entirely in Australia. 77% of us in this poll said we should. It seems overwhelming until you notice that only 48 people bothered to vote. So maybe what this actually shows us, is that for the majority of us, the overwhelming feeling towards Halloween isn’t disgust, intolerance or fear but perhaps just good old Aussie indifference.

We all know by now that Halloween isn’t in fact an American tradition at all.

The fact it is a public holiday in Ireland surprises many Australians who happily paint their faces green on St Patrick’s Day.

Halloweens origins are, of course, Celtic. It was a traditional festival called Samhain where the ancient pagans prepared for winter. The dressing up part of it stems from cultures as far as Ireland and even Italy. And for those who think it’s commercialism gone bad well here’s an argument for you.

Halloween isn’t just Mars Bars and masks.

It has history and literature links. It was even mentioned in Shakespeare’s comedy ‘Two Gentlemen in Verona’ with a reference to ‘like a beggar at Hallowmas’.

Halloween

Image Courtesy: Tiger Lily Photography

But it seems Shakespeare was onto something and it’s this begging part of Halloween that makes many cringe.

‘It’s a horrible practice, sending little kids out begging for lollies. We have a large sign firmly planted on our front door saying ‘We do not celebrate Halloween here!’ says Carla, the mother of six-year-old girl Gemma.

One of Carla’s neighbours says that she thinks it’s actually dangerous. ‘Who knows what could be out there in those lollies? We’ve all heard the stories of razor blades and poisonous sweets!’

It’s enough to turn you off your Caramello Koala until a simple google search shows the razor-blades-in-the-candy myth is just that.

An urban myth.

It is however a massive part of the yearly earnings for confectionary manufacturers.

A look around your local supermarket will see Halloween lollies invading the shelves from early October. If only Australians would embrace the tradition, it’s a marketers dream with no other major holiday preceding it.

In America over $2.4 billion is spent on ‘candy’. In Australia supermarkets report an extra 25-30% increase in sales due to Halloween.

(I swear only a fraction of that is my children… at least this year).


Shauna Anderson lives in Cammeray with three kids and two dogs. Her boys aged 4 and 6 go to the local school and pre -school while her daughter, 2, rules the roost. Before entering the world of parenthood Shauna worked as a TV journalist, most recently as Chief of Staff at the Nine Network's Today. She has over 18 years experience as a reporter, producer and writer.

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