The most common objection I hear when talking about Halloween in Australia, is that it is an American tradition, not Australian. Why should we be taking on the culture of the United States of America when we have fine customs and traditions of our own, I am asked? It’s a good question, and one that I had asked myself in the years before becoming a parent.
One day I reluctantly gave in to the insistent pleading of my then six year old son, and took him out with some friends who were going trick or treating in our little neighbourhood in Bassendean, Western Australia. It was a warm Spring dusk and the kids were out in mass. Homes were decorated and witches loitered on street corners trying to tempt little children to exchange lollies for their immortal souls. The streets of our little suburb were as alive as I had ever seen them and thick with the laugher of children and the cackle of adults in character. And that was the moment when I finally got it. I finally understood what this tradition is all about. As I saw the smiles on the faces of our neighbours from all walks of life, the elderly, families, the young and childless alike, when the little tricksters came calling. And the joy on the faces of the children who bravely rang the doorbell of a neighbour they had never spoken to, and were rewarded with a smile, a kind word, and a treat.
Halloween is not about spoiling kids or boosting the bottom line of candy manufacturing companies. It does not have to be another excuse for mindless merchandise purchasing. Halloween is about communities. It is an excuse for human interaction in a light and fun environment. It is about getting out and meeting each other, ironically, without fear or shame. What other event or tradition encourages us to we go out into our local community, share a few kind words with our neighbours for no other reason than the joy of shared human experience? So many of what we consider our own Australian traditions are insular and exclusive, not inclusive. Christmas is shared with family and friends and the iconic Australian Day BBQ is spent with the mates, but what about those people in our communities without family or extensive networks of friends?
Halloween is an inclusive celebration of the joy of youth and life experience. And you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy it. Dressing up, decorating the house and setting a spooky surprise for trick or treaters can be enormously fun and rewarding for adults and children, old and young alike.
So get involved, register your household for trick or treating this Halloween!