Does Halloween Matter In Australia?

Most Australians my age learnt about Halloween through dubious US TV specials. But is that always going to be the case?

Picture by Kate Raynes-Goldie

In the run-up to October 31, there's always a steady stream of posts from the Lifehacker US site detailing Halloween tricks, time savers and construction projects. For the most part, we tend to ignore them here at Lifehacker Australia, just as we do with posts for Thanksgiving, Fourth Of July and other US-centric celebrations.

However, a quick walk around any shopping centre suggests that Halloween can't be dismissed quite as quickly as that these days. Supermarkets, newsagencies and discount stores are filled with Halloween-themed costumes and trinkets, and I can't imagine they'd give up so much space if people weren't buying the stuff. There's not much of a tradition of trick-or-treating (and I can't see helicopter parents embracing one any time soon), but I suspect it would be a more difficult week than usual to try and hire a costume. It looks like Halloween has made some impact on our national consciousness.

So I'm wondering what our readers think. Has Halloween now become a major event for Australians, or should we just continue to ignore it? Share your thoughts (and your Halloween plans, spooky or otherwise) in the comments.


Comments

    No, it's a US holiday! Why do we need to still it for?

      So many commenters are hailing Halloween as an American holiday, yet it's been a part of British tradition for many years. Certainly I remember dressing up a quarter century ago and trick or treating under the guidance of my parents.

      Now that I'm the Dad and living in Australia, we're into our second year of Halloween parties. All of the other parents who join us say they've wanted to do something for the kids but didn't know what to do.

      I'll write another 'halloween hacker' comment later on detailing how we put together a party that's enjoyed by all.

      For the record, I live in an old part of Toowoomba where many people have lived for generations. There's been no resistance from people who are as Australian as they come -- they see the fun that's to be had and join in the spirit of things.

      no its a tradition every wear ok and its not a us tradition and dont ever say that agian sob

      Actually, it's a Celtic tradition. Why does everyone think it's American? P.S. for the "it's un-Australian" crowd, neither is Vegemite anymore, it's owned by Kraft, an American company...

        They bought an Australian food. They sell an Australian food. In my opinion it's still Australian. Doesn't change the origin of where it's from.

    What is halloween???? haha exactly..

    It should be ignored.

    Me and my friends usually have a house party. We do a Christmas themed one for Halloween, and a halloween themed Christmas party. We don't do trick or treating or anything lame like that - but who could deny themselves the opportunity to have a piss-up at a mates place while dressed like video game characters?

    Does it matter? Nope. Should we ignore it? maybe.

    I'm an american living over here. My aussie wife and I celebrate Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July and even Hallowe'en every year. Think about it:

    Thanksgiving: stripped of its dubious 'history', this is atually a good excuse to reflect on you, your family, and your place in the world.

    Hallowe'en: As far as I'm concerned, any holiday that encourages silly fun -- and potentially scandalous costumes -- gets my vote.

    Fourth of July: oh goodness. Since when do Aussies ever need a reason to celebrate the British having their teeth kicked in?

      I'd prefer to celebrate America having. It's teeth kicked in

    If you look at the origins of Halloween dating back near 1000 years, a traditional celtic festival for the end of summer to winder (light to darkness) wearing masks to scare off evil spirits, its not really a US festival at all.
    So really we in Australia should celebrate halloween in April for our celtic ancestory.

    Another American ex-pat here.... Halloween is just good fun for the kids. No sense trick-or-treating given neighbours wouldn't know what to do if you showed up in a costume and candy bag, but my kids love carving pumpkins.

    Hilarious that's it's considered a "holiday"....as in holy day...maybe for the pagan's.

    personally I hate the fact that US centric celebrations are being embraced by kids here. Each I get a couple of kids coming around trying, but really is that what you want your kids doing, going up to strangers houses and asking for candy!!?!?!?!?

    WTF?????

    Pinky Beecroft once said, "Halloween is bollocks. Not Australian, never was, never will be. It's unequal parts Irish, American and lame. Kind of like Snow Patrol."

    Hear hear.

    ignore it.
    ignore the local marketing attempts to lighten your wallet also.

    As you well pointed out in the article, it simply comes down to being another excuse for retailers to peddle useless junk.

    Having said that, if people want to celebrate it, they should be free to do so, but not expect that others should follow suit.

    Although I think it's great that it adds to this great country's cultural richness, I loathe the commercialisation of the celebration.

      Alvaro, I totally agree with you. Just another excuse for the retailers to cash in on it. I personally don't want anything to do with it. I've never recognised Halloween so why should I start now? Also I object to kids roaming the streets in the evening "trick or treating" unaccompanied by adults. Not safe in this day and age.
      Julia

    While I think Hallowe'en as a children's holiday han't been embraced in Australia (and I hope it never will), the excuse to dress up and have a party has I think- and why not? I think it has been adopted by adults as another excuse to party, and costuming as another way of having fun.

    That part of Hallowee'en is only a recent inclusion in American celebration of the holiday, and fairly harmless (as party going goes.) But our society has become too paranoid to ever allow kids' trick and treating.

    I'm in Perth and we'll get at least 20 kids coming to the door every year.

    Hey it's feel lollies, why wouldn't they.

      Can you have a typed Freudian slip? I guess you can.

      We host a Halloween party, is mainly an excuse to wear fun costumes and drink with friends. (we've hosted the last 4 years) Always entertaining to get dressed up.

    It just doesnt feel right. All of the main characters seem alien in Australia I reckon. I guess we have made Santa a local by giving him a pair of thongs, singlet and the kids leave a stubby of beer out for him. I suspect jack-o-lanterns witches and otherwise will need same treatment before you'd consider it a local festival. I agree that we are in midst of a sudden retailer-led cultural shift. Who decided that one?

    At $25 for a orange pumpkin who could resist. We have far more important things to worry about and even celebrate than Halloween.

    (That said Pumpkin Beer is amazing, but you might have to brew it yourself as Murray's will sell out quick)

    A local kinder organised trick or treating on the street we used to live on, and even the most cynical of the parents admitted that it was a great initiative after participating with their kids. The residents who gave out treats also got a big kick out of it. So my advice - don't knock it until you've tried it!

      I agree, Jon. I was brought into it purely because of my kids, and was very happy for them to pop into houses we knew of, dressed in costume, for an hour around twilight. Great fun for them and a good way of bringing the street together. My kids grew out of it after a couple of years, but we keep sweets available these days for any others who knock on the door. Harmless, inexpensive fun.

    Firstly, I'm for ignoring this holiday. It's never been anything celebrated in Australia before and really think we shouldn't.

    ... That said: We can't.

    If you live in even a mildly family-oriented suburb, the amount of children looking for "trick or treats" (and accompanying parents) is staggering.

    This is definitely a holiday produced by media: Most parents of young children (such as myself) will remember seeing so many US shows about Halloween, that I think it comes as no surprise that parents these days are agreeing to dressing up their kids, and walking around the neighborhood looking for lollies.

    The last few years in my suburb (which is very family oriented) has seen this event grow exponentially.

    If anything, the Australian Halloween feels more awkward and innocent as you can see the kids and parents don't know exactly what's supposed to happen.

    So, even if you don't plan on celebrating yourself, go to some place like Aldi and stock up on a few treats and lollies for when you hear a little tap on the door.

    -- Dan =)

    Halloween is a traditional (thousands of years old) Gaelic (not Celtic) festival to celebrate the end of the harvest and commemorate the dead. Wikipedia has a relatively good article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samhain). The current incarnation of Halloween in the US and Australia is simply commercialisation.

    Why wouldn't we want to celebrate it? We already celebrate Valentines Day and Halloween is waaaay better than that because it's not mandatory, its not religious (for most people) and its a great laugh.

    It doesn't have to be expensive either. Get some friends over and watch some scary movies and consider the holiday celebrated.

    Of course, if you want to participate in the trick or treat aspect of it, just remember some simple guidelines. Pre-wrapped sweets only, leave your front lights on from 6pm and something that I personally subscribe to, "No Adult = No Treats". Of course you should check with your council in case they have their own guidelines but everywhere I have ever lived this has worked for me.

    For all you naysayers out there, the whole trick or treat thing is really adorable. I have seen lots of kids/parents put some effort into costumes and some of them were Awesome! I've seen a milk carton storm trooper, vampires (The non-twilight variety) and my personal favourite, a 3 foot tall zombie with the dancing style of Peter Garret in amongst the less creative yet often funny bed-sheet ghost (with floral arrangement)

    The other advantage it has is that it prepares me for Christmas lighting. I can get all of my non Christmas looking lights up early so its not so much work come November.

    It's not “candy”, it's lollies, and there's no such thing as Halloween.

    Kids knock on my door, I knock on their skulls.

    Magicians all over the world celebrate Halloween to commemorate the death of Houdini, who died on October 31st, 1926.
    We are having a meeting with the local Brisbane magicians on Sunday night. It promises to be a fun affair, and a great opportunity to perform all of our geek, bizarre, and spooky magic that we could never get away with for the rest of the year.

    i personal would much rather Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
    The Gunpowder Treason and Plot

      I'd love me some bonfires and fireworks, fo sho.

      Can't do guy fawkes either - fireworks are banned.

      Halloween in Australia makes Australia the 52nd state...lol

    We (Australia) should recognise that this is a traditionally USA tradition/holiday.

    We should NOT observe any duplication of it here in Australia. It's fake, contrived, me-to-ism and totally unnecessary here in Aust.

    When they come to the door, ignore them. I'm "not home" thankyou.

    End Old-Curmudgeon-Get-Off-My-Lawn Rant ;)

      Totally agree. I refuse to buy into the begging that is trick or treating. I don't give my nieces and nephews junk food so why would I give complete strangers lollies? I put a sign on the front door saying "No Trick or Treating...this is not America..,thanks"

    I totally agree with Harvz. But the kids of today know nothing about Guy Fawkes and think that Oz has always celebrated Halloween.
    We oldies are fighting a losing battle. Maccas, malls, and US language are engulfing our identity.

      I'm an Aussie living in Japan with my family and it is no different here. Americans pushing commercialism and American culture on others. Halloween novelties abound in every store and it is practically forced upon the Japanese by American shopping chains such as Toys R Us. Disneyland has a big Halloween celebration to push it further and American lollies and drinks are all decorated with Halloween stuff.

        @James: Not sure why you think America is "pushing Halloween" on you...how would Americans make any money on that?

        Blame your fellow Aussies who choose to promote it...it's not as though America has a patent on Halloween and charges for the use of it. **roll eyes**

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