Happy Halloween. There, I said it. Haters, you can pack your bags and head home if you wish. I like the thought of Halloween, but I do have my (minor) reservations with it.
The Australian media on radio, television and the internet (and I expect the print media, but does anyone actually read printed newspapers daily any more, my father-in-law excluded?), social media and my fellow bloggers (professional and non-professional alike) have been discussing whether Halloween should be celebrated in this country. I have resisted reading other people’s opinions although I did hear a discussion on the radio yesterday and saw another discussion on the early morning breakfast show while I was running on the treadmill this morning.
I want to give my own opinions on this, but my own Facebook news feed has been rife with status updates from my friends talking about it and giving their own opinions so it is hard to write something and suggest that this has just come from my own mind; so I will address the fact that my points below have been influenced by what I have read and heard over the last week or so.
1. It is just another American tradition that Australians have gotten caught up in.
Sometimes we love Americanisations (notice the s, not the z; I don’t want to push it too far), and other times we hate it. Sinterklass is the fabled names of a Saint Nicholas type character who is recognised in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, as well as some parts of Germany. Sinterklaas was Americanised into “Santa Claus” (a name first used in the American press in 1773), but we don’t begrudge that. I bet most of those people who are against Halloween for the reason of it being too American are happy to send Christmas cards with snow, and reindeers, and the Americanised
Saint Nicholas Santa Claus on them. Hello, Christmas is in summer for us…
And you have more than likely heard all of those other commentators mention that it is actually a Celtic tradition (called Hallowe’en, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve) which has been Americanised. I don’t need to go into that. Read about that somewhere else, maybe even here.
But you know how it can be less of an American thing and still be fun for us Aussies? First, hand out lollies instead of candy. Hand out your favourite Australian lollies, chocolate or other confectionery. If you are to go into one of those English or American sweety/candy importers and buy up some Hersey bars, or Reese’s bars, or all the other countless candies we see named on American television shows then THAT is Americanizing (note, I used the z this time) the tradition.
I could go on with ways that you can erroneously (in my opinion) Americanise your life, but I will sum up this first argument by saying; I am a proud Australian and I love Halloween and I don’t feel more American for doing so.
2. Our kids don’t need all that sugar.
That is true. Nor do they need artificial colours and flavours. And that’s not just today, that’s every day. But here’s something that you can do and we did previously before we had to restrict our eldest son’s diet. When we got home from Trick or Treating last year we gave him one thing and one thing only. We didn’t give anything the next day. What we did was slowly release the lollies and chocolates (and some accidentally made their way into my mouth or my wife’s mouth). But we are not going to do that this year. We are only going to let him have the things he is allowed to have and whatever else he gets that he can’t eat, well that might make it into the party bags for the kids coming to his party next week.
Look, we can’t be in control of every child, just our own. I am not going to suggest that we shouldn’t trick or treat and that others can’t as well because of the junk food that is being handed out. I bet ALL of those fit American sports people who are breaking world records, taking home the Olympic gold medals, and getting paid way too much money to play professional sports were all trick or treaters. And I am sure it didn’t do them any harm as long as they had fit and active lives.
I did however make sure that I bought lollies that are free from artificial colours and flavours (note the letter u in both words; less Americanisms for me). Sure the lollies have the bad kind of sugar, but really, is there a good type? I have somewhat less guilt handing these lollies out.
3. It brings communities together.
I don’t know my neighbours as well as I should. Back when I was growing up in the late 1970s and 1980s I knew every second household, and because of that, so did my parents. We knew the Robinsons, the Sharpes, the Smalls, the Russos, the Lorings, and the Greens. We knew the Clelands, and the Olivers, the Vellas and the Shamoons. And that’s not even a quarter of the families on our street who we knew, just the first ten that came to mind.
Last year week saw many kids that same age as our eldest, all dressed up and walking around with their parents in tow. It felt good to meet them. It felt even better to give them a little present. How can you not love that?
4. Halloween helps the economy.
And not just the big department stores and the evil duopoly of the evil Coles and Woolworths. Little stores in shopping centres are getting into the act of selling Halloween inspired clothing, decorations, food, you name it, they are selling it. And then online stores through eBay are also selling costumes and those sellers are generally home run businesses. Small business employs so many people in this country, and buying costumes from them (like I did this year) will mean that this small businesses can continue and feed the families of the owners.
The mumprenuers with their own home businesses have been advertising their own Halloween inspired wares. Toys, clothes, decorations, again, you name it, they are selling it. Commercialisation isn’t a bad thing in a free economy like ours. And having things like Mother’s or Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Christmas, plus Halloween are contribute to money being put back into the kitty and jobs are created and people spend money, and… it’s economics 101 (is 101 an American term? Maybe I should stop using it). Whatever, it’s all good for everyone.
5. Dressing up is fun.
Last year our eldest loved The Gruffalo and although we couldn’t find a costume to buy, my wife turned an old tracksuit into a costume. Even though she swore at me whilst doing it (and I am man enough to take the abuse of a wife who is stressing out making stuff), she enjoyed herself. And just look how happy it made him…
Sadly though, last Halloween was one of the hottest days in the Spring of 2012. Yes, he sweated it out.
This year both he and I are dressing as ninjas to appease his ninja obsession.
To sum it up, I for one welcome Halloween in the Australian way of life. I think there is plenty of room for it.
So if you are in a country other than America, do you celebrate it or do you feel it is too American? Alternatively, if you don’t celebrate it (and this is for those Americans who don’t celebrate it as well), what is your reason for not liking the “season”?