Every year I get ridiculously excited about Halloween, and every year I end up sadder than a child who got clothes for Christmas. Last year I only got one lot of Trick or Treaters (and they were just the kids from next door who knew I had lollies)!
What’s that you say, it’s not an Australian holiday and why should we celebrate it? I’m sorry, who said that? Was that you in the back there? Yes, you there, dressed in green, drinking beer and waving a shamrock flag…enjoying yourself, are you? We’ve certainly embraced Saint Patrick’s Day, so why not Halloween?
I hear so many people saying things like, it’s just a stupid American tradition! First of all, why is it that so many Aussies seem to think that anything that comes out of America must automatically be a bad thing? It just isn’t true! (In fact, I think we should adopt Thanksgiving too; I could totally handle a whole day of eating turkey and laying about on the sofa being all grateful and stuff.) Secondly, the Americans did not invent Halloween! Yes, they’ve embraced the tradition with gusto, but the origins of Halloween were borne a very long time ago in Ireland.
A little bit of history:
Samhain (roughly translated, Samhain means “summer’s end”) was a Celtic festival that came about to celebrate the end of harvest. At that time of year (the end of October) a lot of the crops and animals would be dying and, because of this, the Gaels believed that they were closest to the spirit world at this time.
Because they believed that the veil between this world and the next was lifted, the Gaels would dress up in masks and costumes to blend in with the spirits. This festival later became associated with All Saints’ Day, a Christian celebration (also known as All Hallows).
When European immigrants came to America they brought their Halloween customs with them. But it was the Irish immigrants in the second half of the nineteenth century that really popularised Halloween nationally. Over the last two hundred years the way Halloween is celebrated has changed dramatically. It has lost most of its superstitious and religious associations and where it was once a lively community celebration, it is aimed mostly just at children now.
Celebrations and traditions evolve over time – it’s a fact; everything from the way they are celebrated to their meaning and what they represent can change. Hey look, if it helps, I’d be perfectly happy to make Halloween all about lollies, ghouls and beer! I see no reason why Australians can’t embrace this celebration and come up with our own awesome version of it. Do it for the kids, do it because it’s fun, but mostly, do it for the sad lady with cobwebs in her hair who’s waiting by the front door with her big, overflowing bowl full of lollies.
(My actual bowl of lollies that no children came to collect.)