Nov 1, 2017

Fright Night... 👻

I'm a day late, I know, but last night we celebrated Halloween in my house - something I didn't grow up with an appreciation of. Like most Australians, I saw this holiday as an American invention, and didn't want a bar of it. But alas, the internet has come a long way since my childhood and homogenised EVERYTHING, so that my kids see Halloween as a delicious little birthright.

The first year our house was trick-or-treated, in 2009, I was caught off guard. As a diabetic, I have to have lollies on hand for low-sugar emergencies so fortunately I was able to send our enthusiastic little Halloweeners off with some 'candy'.

And I learned my lesson. The next year, I made sure to have a stash by the door. Year after year, the tradition - and occurrence of visitors - grew. About three or four years ago, Woolworths started to stock a full-blown section of Halloween merchandise; surely the biggest sign yet that the holiday has reached mainstream acceptance level here in Australia.
Even my mum's beloved Westie isn't safe from my Hallow-love

Now, I used to be a nay-sayer, and I've crossed over to a Halloween-loving mega-enthusiast (this will surprise no one who knows me and my love of all things celebratory.) There are a lot of people still in the anti-Halloween camp, which got me curious about the origins of Halloween.

It turns out, it has its roots in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Around 2,000 years ago, Celts believed that the midway point between summer and winter made it easier for spirits to pass from their world to ours. The would dress in scary outfits to ward off evil spirits, leaving room only for their benevolent ancestors.  Enormous fires were lit, and all of the houses in the village would extinguish their own fires and renew them with the communal flame. It sounds to me like it began as a festival of appreciation and togetherness. It was adopted into Christianity as All Saints/Hallows Day (1 November), and taken to America with the mass of Irish migration in the nineteenth century.*

This makes me feel a little more at peace with the celebration, but really, there was simply no way I could stem the tide of my children's enthusiasm for this celebration. For them, it's all about 'candy' and pumpkins, and shouting 'trick or treat' while they run wild with their little mates.

We live in a street that is inundated with children - twenty two of them are under twelve years old! For the last four years, all the kids have dressed in their scariest, most ghoulish outfits and doorknocked their way around the block (the mums enjoy a glass of 'blood' champagne as we accompany them).

It's funny that millennia later, our little version of Halloween is all about togetherness and communal appreciation, much as it began thousands of years ago (though the spirits I'm personally most afraid of are the little cretins my kids turn into if I don't watch how much of their lolly haul they consume before bed!)

Okay, I'm ready to hear both sides. Where do you fall on the controversial issue of Halloween? Are you over the Americanness of it? Or do you love it like I do? Does your family have any traditions of their own?

*There's a lovely long article about Samhain here.


  1. Hi Clare

    When my kids were young we did nothing but now with the grandkids and the way it has been commercialized the grandkids dress up and I have taken them trick or treating I ensure that there is a bowl of lollies (body Parts) and chocolate at the ready but 2 years in a row now we have had no one knock on the door Hayley was waiting eagerly for someone to knock but no so know we have all of these lollies to eat LOL

    I don't mind Halloween I think it is here to stay and I know how much fun the kids have so enjoy I say

    Have Fun


    1. That's the spirit! Sort of forced into it by its inevitability but I'll take it, ha! I think I love it all the more because our little neighbourhood goes all out. Pretty much every house in our street had the cobwebs and ghouls, the skeletons in windows etc, and it's not just the kids who love it! We have a few octogenarians and nonagenarians on our block and they always seem so excited to hand out the sweets they've bought! But, yes, it would be sad not to get the door knock! Not so sad to have all the treats as consolation though ;)

  2. I must admit I'm torn, Clare. My kids really love going trick or treating but I find it a bit icky and commercial. Also, I hate my kids eating all that sugar but love it when people have gone to the trouble of making something semi-healthy for the kids (which happens a bit around these Byron parts). So, I guess I'm on the fence.

  3. I totally felt your post, Clare! mostly, for me, that huge bucket of lollies is more than they usually see in a year! But oh how they love it - the dressing up, the ghoulishness, the surprise every time they hit a new door. Let delight win, I say.