Tonight, I succumbed to a bit of pressure from the resident small fry and took them and a couple of their mates trick or treating for the first time. I don’t cave easily. I’ve been resisting this pressure for at least three or four years. Some people I know rain down hellfire and brimstone on the whole “Ew. Hallowe’en. It’s an American thing. Why would you want to do an American thing?” And there’s the whole trick business of allegedly throwing eggs at houses that don’t want to play along.
For starters, though – we live in a country that has had a very long history of embracing aspects of other cultures – particularly the ones to do with food. And Hallowe’en is NOT actually an American custom. It’s Celtic, and Australia is still a predominately Anglo-Celtic country. Why out Celtic ancestors decided against importing the only festival to do with zombies and lollies I really do not understand!
Today’s Halloween customs are thought to have been influenced by folk customs and beliefs from the Celtic-speaking countries, some of which have pagan roots, and others which may be rooted in Celtic Christianity.Indeed, Jack Santino, an academic folklorist, writes that “the sacred and the religious are a fundamental context for understanding Halloween in Northern Ireland, but there as throughout Ireland an uneasy truce exists between customs and beliefs associated with Christianity and those associated with religions that were Irish before Christianity arrived”. Historian Nicholas Rogers, exploring the origins of Halloween, notes that while “some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain”, which comes from the OldIrish for “summer’s end.
Now that’s been lifted straight from Wikipedia (so you know it must be true), nothing about it being all about those pesky Americans and their pesky taking over the world – thinking (more than) some Australians have a hangover from WWII when the GIs that were stationed in Queensland were “oversexed, overpaid and over here”! Plus it seems to me that it is totally cool to be totally negative and mean spirited about everything.
For me though, particularly being a bit of a heathen type, I have no issue with any of the bits and bobs related to Hallowe’en. Ghosties and ghoulies and spooky things abound (probably caused by eating too much sugar before bedtime, I suspect) and the oral traditions of telling stories around the fire – particularly in winter when there’s weather to make things sound creepier than they actually are. One lady we called upon took great delight in telling the boys the true history of Hallowe’en and asked them for a song or a dance for a treat! (Yes, she was Scottish.) There were not tricks to be had from the lads I was supervising, and next year, they will have at least one song!
Valentines Day, Mothers day and even Father’s Day are ‘holidays’ more worthy of scorn and derision. In fact calling any of them (Hallowe’en included) a holiday is delusional! You will hear me moaning loudly about Christmas decorations in September and Hot Cross Buns and Easter eggs in January – that’s not being cross about the festivities themselves, it’s about the whole commercial trend to squeeze as many dollars out of the unwitting consumer as humanly possible. For me though, it means Christmas disappears into the blur of everything else and it’s all a panic when I suddenly realise Christmas is less than three weeks away and not a present has been acquired; and Easter and Easter treats stop being special when they’re available for months in anticipation. Hence my ire.
Hallowe’en however – few lollies, pumpkins and bats lurking about from the middle of October, and POOF. All gone by the beginning of November. And by giving in to the wishes of my kids, they’ve had an awesome time with their mates and their mother. It was an hour of my time, and The Hound got a walk out of it. Another thing it does is foster a slight sense of community – we don’t know our neighbours. We have no idea who lives in the house up the street – by knocking on a few doors, being polite, saying please and thank you and that’s ok when the householder wasn’t prepared for the Groovy Ghoulies that came knocking; they’re getting to know their neighbourhood.
So yeah, I don’t mind it. I don’t mind taking the kids for a walk on a balmy spring evening, and I certainly don’t mind knowing I’ve racked up about a squintillion mum points for my efforts!