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Is Halloween only about the marketing?

By Genevieve Jacobs 30 October 2018 11

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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11 Responses to
Is Halloween only about the marketing?
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Elspeth Shannon Rollason 8:58 pm 31 Oct 18

It actually originated in Europe and after living in 2 European countries we have continued to embrace it.

David Murn 12:19 am 31 Oct 18

It would only take a year or two of people giving "tricks" instead of "treats" before the kids would completely lose interest in halloween.

Joan O'Callaghan 11:31 pm 30 Oct 18

Wee'uns welcome here!

Why be a Scrooge when $5 worth of sweets fills the neighbourhood with children's laughter? 40 years ago in Ireland I first saw turnip jack o lanterns. I've honoured the ancestors on the eve of All Hallows' since. It costs nought to create a 'flying' witch & broom from sticks, twigs & dress-ups, & less in plastic surgeon fees if u carve an American pumpkin or golden nugget rather than a tough Queensland blue. I plant the seeds. The vines shade precious plants over summer & save water.

Peter Drady Dradrach 9:11 pm 30 Oct 18

It's not American btw. If you want to talk commercialism, look at Xmas. That's in overdrive, but also fun lol

Bethany Williams 8:53 pm 30 Oct 18

I used to resent the American Halloween commercialism invading our culture, but after years of my kids pestering me to go trick or treating, I gave in and now we look forward to dressing up and walking the streets each year. You just have to ignore the commercialism and see it as a fun opportunity to dress up with your kids and interact with members of your community. And it’s really cool seeing the effort people put into their costumes and decorating their homes.

    David Lindsay 9:02 pm 30 Oct 18

    Bethany Williams I agree, I don't see any other night in the calender year where families are out and about interacting with other families and having fun.

    Penelope Starbright 10:24 pm 30 Oct 18

    Well said Bethany and David. 100% agree, it is a really fun family night!

Hans Dimpel 8:38 pm 30 Oct 18

Halloween is about traditionally finding a connection to one's ancestors. So, yes the Australian/American traditions around Halloween are merely about selling lollies.

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