Tag Archives: halloween

Why I Still Hate Halloween (in Australia)

On October 31st last year, I published a post explaining why I hate Halloween in Australia. That post has turned out to be my third most popular post in the history of The Happy Logophile. (The two more popular posts are the ones I’ve had Freshly Pressed.) It even resulted in me having the opportunity to be a special guest speaker on a local radio station, presenting my opinion on Halloween as a “Social blogger and commentator”.

I’ve seen a resurgence of people winding up at my blog over the last few weeks with search terms like Why doesn’t Australia celebrate Halloween? and I hate Halloween and Australia Halloween stupid. So I figured I’d break this post out and reshare the reason I hate Halloween (in Australia).

Halloween, also known as All Hallow’s Eve, is a holiday that is both new and old. While its roots can be traced back to ancient times, it has really only been celebrated in the modern way for 50 or 60 years, primarily in the USA and Canada.

More than 2000 years ago, the Celts lived in modern Ireland. The time between harvest and winter was an important one for them, and on the 31st of October each year they celebrated Samhain. This celebration mainly consisted of bonfires, food, and sacrifices to the Gods (mostly crops and animals). It was believed that the spirits of the dead could return on this night, and that the veils between life and death, summer and winter, were thinner and more easily pierced. So the celebrants would often dress in costume to hide from malicious spirits.

When the Roman empire spread through Europe and Britain, they brought with them their own customs and beliefs. The Romans celebrated the passing of the dead in late October, as well as a day of worship for Pomona, the Roman Goddess of fruit and trees. Both of these holidays were incorporated into the Celtic Samhain, adding an extra element of ghostliness and Pomona’s symbol, the apple, to the day.

As Christianity spread through the world, heathens were encouraged and then instructed to stop practicing their own celebrations. When that didn’t work, Catholic leaders began moving Christian feasts and holidays to coincide with Heathen feasts. Thus the day to celebrate Christian martyrs and saints was moved from May to November 1, and called All Saints Day — or Alholowmesse in Middle English. The night before, the traditional night of Samhain, soon came to be known as All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween.

The modern idea of Halloween in the US and Canada has only existed since around the 1950s. Although Halloween was celebrated in North America for a couple of hundred years before that, the traditions of today weren’t around prior to mid 20th century. But most of them date back to the older, heathen customs.

Costume wearing is from the Celtic tradition of hiding from mischievous dead. Trick-or-Treating was the Church-sanctified replacement for sacrificing food to the Gods. Pumpkin carving relates to the Celtic practice of extinguishing all hearth fires and then re-lighting them from the communal bonfires. Apple bobbing is a nod to the Roman Goddess Pomona. And the name, Halloween, is a version of the Christian All Saint’s Eve.

All of which is very interesting, but doesn’t explain why I hate Halloween.

I grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, without ever hearing about Halloween. Back in those days, no one in Australia celebrated it. Or, if they did, they did so quietly. There was certainly no costumes or trick-and-treating. And doing so would have made no sense. It’s the start of summer. Why celebrate something spooky when the sun is just starting to stay out late?

But when I was 8 years old, we moved to the States for two years. And, my oh my, didn’t I get an education in Halloween?

The food! The candy! The costumes! The candy! The bigger-than-your-head plastic orange pumpkin buckets to carry said candy! The songs and riddles and games! The parties! The candy! The decorations! Did I mention the candy?

I don’t honestly remember what I dress up as for the two years I was there. But I remember wandering the neighbourhood, going door to door to ask for candy, and having total strangers gush about how great we looked and drop handfuls of cheap chocolate and sugary goodness into our outstretched buckets.

I remember getting home and tipping our loot out on to the floor, and staring in wonder. And then eating as much as I could before falling into bed with a stomch ache.

I remember going to the most amazing party I’d ever been to, with witches and wizards and ghosts and goblins and a few devils. (I was too young to understand that all devils weren’t scantily-clad young blonde women.) We played games, and listened to ghost stories, and did some apple bobbing, and ate candy, and I had the best time of my young life.

I remember my parents going all out with decorating our house, and my Dad getting right into character as a mad scientist/psychopath, ready to hand out candy to all comers. I will never forget walking home after our trick-and-treating was finished, and meeting another group of kids who were just leaving our house. “Don’t go up there,” one of them said, his voice shaking a little. “I think there’s dead bodies. And that man’s crazy.”

I loved Halloween. Even more than Christmas.

And then we moved back to Australia.

We don’t celebrate Halloween in Australia. Just like we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, or the 4th of July. Halloween is not an Australian holiday. And after I got over my initial disappointment that there would be no more tubs of free candy or school days spent watching scary movies, I was okay with that.

I am okay with that.

What I’m not okay with is the way that faux-Halloween-fever invades Australia at this time of year.

Walk into a shopping mall, and everywhere you look there are cheap Halloween costumes for kids, tacky decorations, and spider-webs strung everywhere. The thing is: none of it is really for Halloween. It’s just a way to display dodgy old stock in an attempt to cash in on the idea that Halloween is cool.

And it is.

If you’re in the US or Canada.

Turn on the TV at the end of October and all you’ll see if Halloween specials. Even on Australian shows. Perhaps they didn’t get the memo.

Memo: We don’t celebrate Halloween in Australia.

Every year, one or two groups of children knock on the door looking for candy. And every year I say no. If for no other reason than because everyone (who celebrates Halloween) knows that you only trick-or-treat at houses with the light on.

Do I wish we celebrated Halloween in Australia? Sometimes. Actually, yes. Yes, I do.

But hanging fake cobwebs over the confectionery aisle in the supermarket and using Halloween Specials to boost TV ratings doesn’t mean we’ve got a holiday. It means we’ve got an excuse for more commercialism.

And that’s why I hate Halloween in Australia.

What do you think, am I just a cranky old curmudgeon (get off my lawn!), or do I have a point?

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25 Comments

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Australians Have Holidays Too

A couple of days ago I blogged about why I hate Halloween in Australia. You may have read it. If so, you’re note alone. Over the last 48 hours, that post has risen to be the second most viewed post on this blog.

I feel a bit like a small-time celebrity.

That feeling was reinforced yesterday morning when I awoke to find a message from the producer of ABC Radio Perth asking me to contact her. I gave her a call, and she said that she’d read my blog, and enjoyed the voice of my writing. Then she asked if I would be a guest on the 720 ABC Radio Morning Show with Geoff Hutchison to talk about Halloween and my views on why Australians shouldn’t go trick-or-treating.

No prizes for guessing my answer.

Interesting facts about “appearing” on live radio via phone:

  • Even though no one could see me, I still put on make-up and made sure I was dressed in something more impressive than my PJs.
  • I spent most of the three hours between agreeing to be a guest and actually “appearing” doing intensive research. Of random facts. That had nothing to do with what I was going to talk about.
  • I spent the remainder of those three hours contacting my family and friends to tell them I was going to be on the radio.
  • When the time finally came… it was actually very easy. I was just having a conversation with a man on the phone, who was asking me about my experiences and opinions. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s stating my opinion!
  • All that aside, when I finished the conversation, all I wanted was a glass of wine. To celebrate. Yeah, that was it.

It was a great experience. And if any other radio producers are reading this blog, I’m available for sharing my thoughts and opinions whenever you like.

But on to the topic du jour…

Quite a few people commented on that earlier post about how sad it is that Australians don’t celebrate Halloween, because it’s such a great holiday. (And you won’t find any arguments from me, as I mentioned.) But it occured to me that, much as you may not have realised that Australians don’t celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, Independence Day, Presidents Day, etc. etc. etc., you may not know much about the holidays that we do celebrate.

Allow me to enlighten you.

1st January: New Year’s Day — Generally spent recovering from  hangover, and then hitting the beach/park/great outdoors for a barbecue, some more drinks and a game or two of cricket or volleyball.

26th January: Australia Day — This is where we celebrate all things Australian. People display the Aussie flag, bake Anzac cookies, and get together with family and friends in the great outdoors for a barbecue, plenty of alcoholic beverages, and a game or two of cricket or volleyball.

April: Easter Friday – Sunday —  Ostensibly a Christian holiday, Easter is often observed as a time to go on a family camping trip to the great outdoors. For those who can’t get away for the entire holiday (which also falls in the middle of school holidays), at least one or two days are taken up with a barbecue, heaps of drinking, and a game or two of cricket or volleyball.

25th April: ANZAC Day — This is the day that we celebrate the sacrifice of the Anzacs in World War 1, and the service men and women who fight for Australia in general. The morning is taken up with veterans and current soldiers marching through the city streets, surrounded by well-wishers cheering them on. There are speeches and medals and music. At lunch time, everyone disperses to the pub, where there’s a traditional barbecue, drinking, and possibly a game or two of cricket or volleyball.

June: Queen’s Birthday — Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is a holiday to commemorate the Queen. Apparently. Really, it’s the last long weekend of the year and happens just before winter hits in full force. So it’s last chance to either go camping, or head into the great outdoors for a barbecue, plenty of drinks, and a game or two of cricket or volleyball.

Labour Day — This holiday falls in a different month in each state/territory. (Fortunately we only have 6 states and 2 territories. If we had more than 12, we’d be in trouble.) I don’t really know what the point of it is. Generally, people use it as an excuse to get drunk, have a barbecue and play some cricket or volleyball.

November: Melbourne Cup Day — The Melbourne Cup: the Race that Stops the Nation. (Although it’s only the Victorians who get a day off work for it. So you’re lucky if you’re one of those 25% of Australians.) If you have no idea what that means, let me explain. It’s a horse race. At 3:10pm on the first Tuesday of November, there’s the biggest horse race of the year. Traditionally, this is celebrated with a breakfast of chicken and champagne, followed by the ritual of donning your best clothes (plus a hat for the ladies), having a “flutter” on the horses, and drinking all afternoon. Even if you’re one of the 75% of people who still have to work, everything stops for the race. And good employers provide champagne for their employees.

25th December: Christmas Day — Celebrated either with a hot roast lunch (despite the sweltering temperatures) or a barbecue. It’s mandatory to have a nap after lunch if you’re over 30, and then the evening is full of eating leftovers, plenty of drinking, and maybe a game of cricket or volleyball.

26th December: Boxing Day — Food. Drinks. Cricket (either on TV or in reality). Drinks. Board games. Drinks. Barbecue dinner. Drinks. And then a few drinks to round things out.

So, there you have it. As you can clearly see, we Australians have a vast array of holidays, and celebrate them all in our own inimitable fashion. What do you think — still feel bad that we don’t have Halloween?

Disclaimer: I don’t condone binge drinking, I just say it like it is. Also, other Australians may have different ways to celebrate these holidays. I welcome comments and alternate viewpoints.

16 Comments

Filed under Opinion

Why I Hate Halloween (in Australia)

Halloween, also known as All Hallow’s Eve, is a holiday that is both new and old. While its roots can be traced back to ancient times, it has really only been celebrated in the modern way for 50 or 60 years, primarily in the USA and Canada.

More than 2000 years ago, the Celts lived in modern Ireland. The time between harvest and winter was an important one for them, and on the 31st of October each year they celebrated Samhain. This celebration mainly consisted of bonfires, food, and sacrifices to the Gods (mostly crops and animals). It was believed that the spirits of the dead could return on this night, and that the veils between life and death, summer and winter, were thinner and more easily pierced. So the celebrants would often dress in costume to hide from malicious spirits.

When the Roman empire spread through Europe and Britain, they brought with them their own customs and beliefs. The Romans celebrated the passing of the dead in late October, as well as a day of worship for Pomona, the Roman Goddess of fruit and trees. Both of these holidays were incorporated into the Celtic Samhain, adding an extra element of ghostliness and Pomona’s symbol, the apple, to the day.

As Christianity spread through the world, heathens were encouraged and then instructed to stop practicing their own celebrations. When that didn’t work, Catholic leaders began moving Christian feasts and holidays to coincide with Heathen feasts. Thus the day to celebrate Christian martyrs and saints was moved from May to November 1, and called All Saints Day — or Alholowmesse in Middle English. The night before, the traditional night of Samhain, soon came to be known as All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween.

The modern idea of Halloween in the US and Canada has only existed since around the 1950s. Although Halloween was celebrated in North America for a couple of hundred years before that, the traditions of today weren’t around prior to mid 20th century. But most of them date back to the older, heathen customs.

Costume wearing is from the Celtic tradition of hiding from mischievous dead. Trick-or-Treating was the Church-sanctified replacement for sacrificing food to the Gods. Pumpkin carving relates to the Celtic practice of extinguishing all hearth fires and then re-lighting them from the communal bonfires. Apple bobbing is a nod to the Roman Goddess Pomona. And the name, Halloween, is a version of the Christian All Saint’s Eve.

All of which is very interesting, but doesn’t explain why I hate Halloween.

I grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, without ever hearing about Halloween. Back in those days, no one in Australia celebrated it. Or, if they did, they did so quietly. There was certainly no costumes or trick-and-treating. And doing so would have made no sense. It’s the start of summer. Why celebrate something  spooky when the sun is just starting to stay out late?

But when I was 8 years old, we moved to the States for two years. And, my oh my, didn’t I get an education in Halloween?

The food! The candy! The costumes! The candy! The bigger-than-your-head plastic orange pumpkin buckets to carry said candy! The songs and riddles and games! The parties! The candy! The decorations! Did I mention the candy?

I don’t honestly remember what I dress up as for the two years I was there. But I remember wandering the neighbourhood, going door to door to ask for candy, and having total strangers gush about how great we looked and drop handfuls of cheap chocolate and sugary goodness into our outstretched buckets.

I remember getting home and tipping our loot out on to the floor, and staring in wonder. And then eating as much as I could before falling into bed with a stomch ache.

I remember going to the most amazing party I’d ever been to, with witches and wizards and ghosts and goblins and a few devils. (I was too young to understand that all devils weren’t scantily-clad young blonde women.) We played games, and listened to ghost stories, and did some apple bobbing, and ate candy, and I had the best time of my young life.

I remember my parents going all out with decorating our house, and my Dad getting right into character as a mad scientist/psychopath, ready to hand out candy to all comers. I will never forget walking home after our trick-and-treating was finished, and meeting another group of kids who were just leaving our house. “Don’t go up there,” one of them said, his voice shaking a little. “I think there’s dead bodies. And the man’s really scary.”

I loved Halloween. Even more than Christmas.

And then we moved back to Australia.

We don’t celebrate Halloween in Australia. Just like we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, or the 4th of July. Halloween is not an Australian holiday. And after I got over my initial disappointment that there would be no more tubs of free candy or school days spent watching scary movies, I was okay with that.

I am okay with that.

What I’m not okay with is the way that faux-Halloween-fever invades Australia at this time of year.

Walk into a shopping mall, and everywhere you look there are cheap Halloween costumes for kids, tacky decorations, and spider-webs strung everywhere. The thing is: none of it is really for Halloween. It’s just a way to display dodgy old stock in an attempt to cash in on the idea that Halloween is cool.

And it is.

If you’re in the US or Canada.

Turn on the TV at the end of October and all you’ll see if Halloween specials. Even on Australian shows. Perhaps they didn’t get the memo.

Memo: We don’t celebrate Halloween in Australia.

Every year, one or two groups of children knock on the door looking for candy. And every year I say no. If for no other reason than because everyone (who celebrates Halloween) knows that you only trick-or-treat at houses with the light on.

Do I wish we celebrated Halloween in Australia? Sometimes. Actually, yes. Yes, I do.

But hanging fake cobwebs over the confectionery aisle in the supermarket and using Halloween Specials to boost TV ratings doesn’t mean we’ve got a holiday. It means we’ve got an excuse for more commercialism.

And that’s why I hate Halloween in Australia.

What do you think, am I a cranky curmudgeon (get off my lawn!), or do I have a point?

17 Comments

Filed under Opinion