Thursday, November 1, 2012

To Trick or Treat or not to Trick or Treat

I've been thinking about Halloween since, well since Halloween. The reason that I've given it any thought at all is that a couple of friends had lively and passionate debates about it on their Facebook pages. I probably wouldn't have given it any thought at all otherwise, except to make sure I had treats for the occasional little trick or treater that comes to our door.

We don't celebrate Halloween in Australia. There are small pockets of children who trick or treat but that's all. The debate was whether they should do so or not. The main reason against it was that it was an American, not Australian thing to do. The other was that few of the children involved know anything about All Hallow's Eve or All Saints Day.

Several years ago we had our first lot of trick or treaters and I was taken by surprise. We had nothing to give them. Since then I've always made sure I have something. This year we had no trick or treaters so, while Husband and I were out, our children ate them. (The treats, not any visiting children, I can assure you.)

Initially, when I began thinking about it, I was against the celebration of Halloween since it's not part of our culture. When I moved here over forty years ago from the U.S. it was a country heavily influenced by England and English culture; we celebrated Guy Fawkes Day. Over the years our influence has come much more from the U.S. Do we need to begin to celebrate something we've never celebrated before because of this influence? I would give that a resounding no. Except it's only a handful of children that are actually trick or treating; it's by no means a phenomenon that has swept the nation. There are loads of minority groups celebrating different festivals all the time. As a Jew, I do. Furthermore, we should be allowed to do so; it's a free country. One major difference is that you don't see me celebrating Chanukah, for example. Trick or treating is pretty visual. Let's face it, St Patrick's Day, essentially an Irish celebration, makes people wear green and get pissed on green beer every year. We don't begrudge them that; in fact, we all rather like being Irish on that day. (I fully understand the ties between Ireland and the early settlement of Australia.)

As for the children not knowing why they're trick or treating, how many children from non-religious families know that both Easter and Christmas are so much more than just a bunny, chocolate eggs, a man in a red suit and presents? That doesn't mean I think it's right. I would prefer people, including little people, to know why they're doing something and understand the symbolism behind it.

Having written all that, however, I don't like Halloween. That dislike is growing, too. I have nothing against Halloween itself. Sadly, even here where it's not part of our culture retailers have taken it on-board. It's now another celebration - conveniently located between Fathers' Day and Christmas - to encourage us to spend money in their stores and feel guilty if we don't. They don't give a shit about Halloween but they want us to feel obliged to buy lollies for the trick or treaters and costumes for our little darlings. If there is a push to celebrate Halloween coming from anywhere it's from business. I guess you've got to make a living; I just have a problem with doing so by engendering guilt.

In case you were wondering, my children didn't trick or treat; I don't recall them asking. Would I have let them? This may sound like a cop-out but, to be honest, I don't know.



  1. Thought provoking. I haven't pondered this in the past, and with my bicultural grandchildren, I probably should have. The purpose of the holidays you celebrate is to reinforce your devotion to your own culture and history. As an American, I live in a culture made up of immigrants, much the same as Australia, and maybe that's a lot of the affinity between us. We (my family) don't celebrate Cinco de Mayo or Ramadan, and my Mexican neighbors don't celebrate Thanksgiving, nor my Muslim neighbors celebrate Christmas. And that's how it should be. But our Mexican in-laws take the grandkids to tear up the town for Cinco de Mayo, while they spend Thanksgiving with us, and they're at home with both.

    So I guess my conclusion (opinion) would have to be, if Halloween has nothing to do with Australian history or your religion, you should probably skip it, fun though it seems to be.

    Wow, what a windbag! Well, like I tell my boss, if you don't want to hear the answer, don't ask the question!

    All the best, Milady!

  2. Not a wind bag! I always enjoy your comments.