30 October 2018

Is Halloween only about the marketing?

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Halloween happens on Wednesday night but most official Canberra events have already occurred.

If you’re doorstepped by a horde of pint-sized ghouls, ghosts and monsters on Wednesday night, will you be handing out the lollies or slamming the door?

Canberra’s reaction to the ancient Celtic feast of Halloween is probably best judged by the fact that most “official” celebrations, from Boogong at Googong to Mooseheads’ Decade of Death happened last weekend rather than on the actual night itself, October 31.

So does that mean that Halloween is all about the marketing in this country? Are we being overwhelmed by a floodtide of American commercialism? Deakin University academic Dr Paul Harrison is a Senior Lecturer in their Faculty of Business and Law, specialising in marketing and consumer behaviour.

He was in Canberra for the weekend with his family, and he thinks something slightly different is happening here and elsewhere in Australia.

“I think the concern people have is that we’ve adopted this cultural tradition that has no roots here. But we can take it and make it our own, and that’s what I saw my nephews and nieces doing with their neighbours and friends.

“It’s not All Hallow’s Eve when the line between the real world and the ghosts dissolves. It’s more about little kids wandering up and down the street and having fun. There’s a real age divide at work though. The older you are, the more likely you are to be irritated by Halloween.”

Dr Harrison points out that some parents would now remember celebrating Halloween in their own childhood, and adds that it’s not going anywhere, so we may as well adapt the Northern Hemisphere festival for our own purposes in much the same way we do Christmas. After all, if pumpkins are out of season, so are snow and reindeer.

He says you can be irritated by the marketing juggernaut, but that’s not really more prevalent than it is at any other time of the year. “One mother actually said to me ‘Can’t people just let it go and allow the kids to enjoy themselves?’, and I think that’s fair.

“Like a lot of cultural festivals, it has lost its point in the translation from somewhere else and that’s probably a good thing. Let’s find a way to make it work for us in this country instead of grumbling about it. Lots of us celebrate Christmas these days with seafood and a dip in the pool instead of a roast. Halloween can probably go the same way.”

Do you celebrate Halloween with the local kids? Is it all about the marketing, or just a harmless bit of fun?

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