In the US, the end of October would always usher in plans for decorations and costumes. It’s the perfect excuse to plan for parties and make the funniest, scariest, and weirdest costumes anyone has ever seen.
In Australia however, Halloween does not spark as much interest as in other places.
There have been a few speculations as to why this is the case. A few conversations inspired me to look into it.
Where It All Really Started
Yes, people today would say that Halloween is a North American holiday (thing) . In fact, despite the younger generations’ interest to start embracing this fun tradition, the adults (grown ups) mostly decide to continue resisting to participate. I keep getting this from my Aussie husband every-time I mention decorating for Halloween “I don’t understand Halloween. It’s so American.” To which I respond “What’s there to understand?“. For me, it’s just something fun to do.
The funny thing is, Halloween did not actually originate from North America. It is actually a Celtic event that started in the British Isles.
Yes, it came from the very people who had the most influence on what Australia is today.
Halloween was mostly huge in Ireland, but the practice was also common among the Welsh, the Scottish and the English. This is why it became such a huge celebration in North America. The British people brought Halloween with them when they headed over to the New World.
It’s interesting though that the very people who started it were also the ones who tried to stop the practice.
Victorianism versus Halloween
There was a strict Victorian code that came into effect during the latter part of the 19th century, and this era is what started to take the fun out of Halloween.
There was a huge emphasis on class hierarchy and men were seen as far more superior over women. There was a lot of sexual restraint, and people were expected to pay great attention to their manners. And yes, to put the exclamation point over what starts to sound like a pretty boring era, Victorianism also meant frowning upon anything that is seen as indulgent, fun and lacks restriction (eg. stuffing your face with lollies).
Halloween meant costumes and a lot of fun (and lollies). Obviously, it had to go.
Now all this was happening at the same time that Britain was trying to widen its rule. This, of course, means that the more conservative outlook were already in effect when they colonized New Zealand and Australia.
There is even speculation that not only did they avoid introducing the holiday to Australia, they also brought with them a brand of skepticism aimed towards Halloween, which could explain why Australians would sometimes roll their eyes at the mere mention of the occasion.
Obviously, it was also hard for them to get rid of the holiday in other parts of the world as the practice has already taken root and has spread far and wide.
Taking Halloween Upfront
Of course, you can’t blame younger Australians when they insists on participating on such fantastic event. How often do you get to dress up as a zombie, cat, super hero , fairy, Tyrion Lannister, Magician etc. and roam around town to get lollies from strangers? And basically just have an excuse to have fun?
Also, these days, it’s hard not to be reminded by Halloween. It’s all over TV. American shows always have Halloween specials. Cable channels start adding some Halloween flavour. When you turn the computer on, popular websites have Halloween themes on.
Because of Americans’ love of Halloween, they have always taken Halloween up front and centre, the perfect way to end an otherwise uneventful month on a lighter note.
With all this American influence on media, it’s not surprising that there has been some underground clamour among younger Australians to start allowing the event to be enjoyed down under.
Event such as http://ourjoint.gofundraise.com.au/ is becoming more common. (attempt for Guinness world record to have most numbers of people in a skeleton onesie)
Other Arguments against Halloween
Of course, you won’t hear Australians say that they’re against Halloween because of Victorianism, or because of some mandate ordered ages ago. And so, they have a number of excuses that justify their apprehension towards Halloween.
One such point is that grown ups are trying to warn their kids about the dangers of taking lollies from strangers. So why should a holiday like this make it okay? Because most Australian parents did not experience knocking on strangers’ doors once a year , it is understandable for parents nowadays to be completely uncomfortable about the idea.
In America, it’s different. The parents grew up enjoying Halloween as children, so they allow their kids to do this as well. It’s familiar. It’s tradition.
The difference in seasons may also play a factor. Looking at Halloween decorations, there is so much connection with autumn colours and symbols. Which is just about right, knowing that October is autumn in North America.
In Australia however, October means spring. So instead of the dark, creepy colours usually associated with Halloween, Australia would actually be covered with bright, happy colours more fitting for a less morbid celebration.
Of course, it’s a free country, no one is stopping me from dressing up as a fairy-zombie and walk around the neighbourhood. I will also make (attempt to) some gory Halloween cupcake toppings such as below for this Saturday’s trick or treats !