Halloween is a Celtic tradition used to mark the end of summer and the beginning of the dark, cold winter; a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celtic adherents believed that on this very night, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. To celebrate this time of year, people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off spirits. All my parents need to do is walk into my room with their swimmers and any spirits will be well and truly warded off.
Wearing costumes to ward off these spirits awaking from their eternal rest has manifested in a different form that modern society relishes in, this being the activity of Trick or treating.
Trick or treating is an age-old ritual of Halloween that has turned into the greatest sweets-hoarding schemes of the 21st century. Children (and adults) dress as mummies, pirates and sexy nurses. Everyone does this not, only to enjoy the celebration and ward off the dead, but also to scam homeowners out of their hard-earned sweets and treats.
There was always something glorious about being able to put on a costume and be whoever you wanted to be for a night. God knows I would’ve made the best Pink Power Ranger that there ever was on this Earth. However, I digress, I wasn’t ever allowed to go trick-or-treating because my parents thought it would be dangerous to go into strangers’ houses asking for junk food. My parents would always imagine someone stuffing a syringe into a Crunchie or poisoning a Milky Way; or worst of all, someone voluntarily giving me a cherry ripe. It gives me the chills too in all honesty.
Later in life (after my tantrums and pleading to treat and trick), I found out that this type of mindset was shared by many Australian parents who feared that their children were buying too much into Americanisation.
The thing is, many older Australians don’t see the relevance of such a holiday due to its perceived American ties. You see, it all links back to the monarchy ruining everyone’s fun. Right before Australia’s colonisation and eventual settlement, the then monarch of Britain and by extension Australia introduced a strict Victorian social code. Queen Victoria called for all to have a deep-rooted disdain for activities that may be perceived as indulgent, for example, celebrating a holiday such as Halloween from a Celtic perspective.
It was a matter of pure coincidence that the Victorian backlash against Halloween happened to coincide with the colonisation of Australia. The irony here is that this was long after the American colonies had broken away from the British crown. However, this betrayal has enforced the idea that buying into Halloween as an event allows the cultural imperialism from the US to take hold of our great Australian nation.
It is from this that Australian’s have formed a home-grown Aussie culture of rejection and fear of the alien, foreign or unknown. Halloween is an excellent example of American culture that Australians have feared for a millennium, as even the idea of enjoying such a holiday could destroy our own culture. In all honesty, it’s ironic how the majority of older Australians neglect popular holidays in order to maintain our independently made, home-grown culture built upon phasing out another culture completely to make way for the great British monarchy.
Australia’s relationship with culture has always been blurred as foreign ideologies, people and culture are thought of as being alien in our society. There is a deep-rooted fear that we will lose ourselves to such thoughts and tribulations and phase out all that is ‘Australian.’ When, at the end of the day, Halloween is just a fucking night where kids get to eat fucking sweets for Christ sake.
Along with this, the biggest possible reason as to why Halloween has historically not been an adopted part of Australian culture is our deeply rooted national faith of Catholicism and the conflict of Christian denominations. As Halloween has Irish origins, there was definite contempt for all things non-Catholic to Christian denominations and society. Decades ago in Australia, rejecting anything that was not Catholicism was as much a part of asserting cultural identity as was rejecting the unrelenting force of American culture in every element of the mass media from the last half of the 20th century to the present day.
It seems as though the bare bones of Australia’s home-grown culture is to reject all other cultures that we come into contact with until we realise that they aren’t actually out to get us or steal our sweet treats. In the meantime, I’ll be looking for outfits to wear for this year’s Halloween.