31 October 2022

Halloween's here to stay - whether you're a party pooper or not

| Ross Solly
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Halloween display

Halloween in Osmand Street in Waniassa. Photo: Canberra Halloween House Waniassa, Facebook.

On our street, there’s a house that looks like the poop deck of Captain Jack Sparrow’s Black Pearl, with skeletons, stuffed parrots, pirate booty and eye patches.

“This year I’m going for a Pirates of the Caribbean theme,” the homeowner tells me proudly.

“Last year it was Phantom of the Opera, and everyone loved it.”

Welcome to Halloween 2022, the American phenomenon spreading its tentacles around the globe, sucking in whole streets, whole suburbs. And, it seems, dividing the Canberra community.

For every one person who has gone to the effort to deck their house out this year with ghosts, ghouls, spiders, bats and other really scary stuff, there’s at least another who is appalled this American schmutz has infiltrated our society.

These are the people who tut as they walk past Captain Jack Sparrow’s poop deck, the same people who refuse to acknowledge Valentine’s Day. In some cultures, these folks are known as party poopers, wet blankets, buzz killers.

At lunch on Sunday, our table of eight was split evenly down the middle between those who see no harm in the annual trick-or-treating and those who might seriously consider electrifying their doorknobs to ward off spooks with sacks looking for lollies.

At first, I wasn’t a fan of Halloween. But now I am. Not because I think it’s great more American culture is seeping into our lives, but because I think … wait for it … Halloween might actually be fun.

And what is wrong with having fun? What is wrong with our kids having a bit of fun? After the past couple of years, don’t we all need to have fun? To embrace something we might actually enjoy?

READ ALSO I’m conflicted about Halloween (but not for the usual reasons)

I grew up on a farm in Western Australia and we never heard of Halloween. It was never mentioned even during five years of boarding school in Perth.

My first experience of Halloween, the first time someone knocked on my door dressed as a zombie, was here in Canberra. I can’t remember the year, but it couldn’t have been more than a decade ago.

On that occasion, as you might expect, I was woefully unprepared. I had no treats to dish out. The lone block of chocolate in my fridge was going nowhere. Mercifully, despite my lack of lollies, the zombies spared me the tricks – no egging of the house, no toilet paper strewn over the trees.

In London, Halloween is now huge. I’ve never been in the US during Halloween, but I can tell you Londoners are embracing this 31 October tradition with gusto. Locals told me it’s really only taken off in recent years.

As my fellow Riotact columnist, Zoya Patel, pointed out, many in our community don’t want to be disturbed, don’t want their doorbells being rung for hours on end, and don’t want the pressure of having to provide treats or face possible consequences.

So I tell my youngest daughter, who has been excited about Halloween for weeks and is a little surprised that not all Australians share her passion for dressing up as spooks, that she can only knock on the doors of those houses decked out like the living dead.

It seems a reasonable compromise.

This year I had the pantry stocked, and a giant spider and bats were plastered all over our front wall … it’s a pity the biggest buzzkill this year was La Niña.

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A few days before Halloween a neighbour put a note in the letterboxes with a black balloon to hang up if you wanted to meet and treat the local witches, goblins, devils and zombies. So those who didn’t want to be disturbed were not. It’s a way to meet your neighbours and a bit of cultural diversity that ‘progressives’ claim to be in favour of, but are often not.

Harmless fun for kids and their parents. It would be nice if they only knocked on doors of houses participating in Halloween

For a start, Halloween is now recognised as mostly American but it had its origins in England and went over to America with the first white settlers.
I have a sign up at my door telling all that I don’t celebrate Halloween.
I don’t need my dog going off at the door knocks for hours on end.

Like the decorations idea. Just give the visiting kids a litre of red cordial and a kilo bag of sugar between them and send them home. Fantastic. Seriously let the kids have their fun. The world is a grim enough place at the moment.

Oh the days when you would leave a paper bag of doggie doo on the doorstep, set it alight and run away to observe the stamping it out and associated mess

Yes, sounds like you are metaphorically describing the A.C.T Legislative Assembly election results.

Halloween doesn’t have to be a complete consumerist endeavour. Households can lean into young at heart fun and creativity at minimal cost. That’s how I look at it. It doesn’t have to be throw away, meaningless consumption but a community building activity. Keep it real people and use the three Rs (except for the treats).

In my 60s and as a kid Halloween wasn’t a thing. So I’m a late convert. I had a bunch of happy kids in my area, dressed up in their scary gear, roaming the streets and simply happy to get a treat, it was lovely to see.

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