Wondering Wall: Celebrating Halloween

October 31, 2013 Wondering Wall 6 Comments

Wondering Wall: Celebrating Halloween

It’s Halloween peeps. Time to pull our your costumes and prepare for a horde of small children to descend on your place seeking lollies. If you don’t hand over a significant amount of sugar, you are likely to have your place water bombed or TP’d. Today’s wondering wall is:

Should we celebrate Halloween?

I like the fact we can celebrate all things creepy and spooky once a year as it makes up for the saccharine sweetness of other events. Halloween definitely promotes community spirit and kids obviously have fun dressing up. I still can’t help but wonder though whether we really ought to be celebrating it in Australia.

Origins?

There are two main origin stories. The first has Halloween coming from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain which marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. Preparation was the key to surviving a long winter and in this case rituals grew up around appeasing spirits or gods whose untimely interference could spell disaster. Although the Roman Catholic Church declared All Saints Day (aka All Hallows Day) would fall on 1 November in the 9th century which Christianised the pagan festival, it still retained its pagan roots. People would dress up (perhaps to confuse the spirits who might come after them into thinking they too were spirits) and go to houses reciting verses and expecting food in return. If you didn’t cough up, you would get bad luck. Rather than waiting for bad luck to occur, people started performing pranks on those who were stingy.

Another origin story is that the tradition is purely Christian and began with All Saint’s Day. People shared soul cakes and rang bells to make life a little easier for those in purgatory. Souls could wander the earth until All Hallows and dressing up would ensure you wouldn’t fall victim to a vengeful spirit. Alternatively, towns would display their relics and if a place was too poor to own any, people would dress up as the saints.

Some suspect trick-or-treating came to America (where it really flourished) along with the Irish immigrants but there aren’t any written records of it prior to 1911. Sugar rationing interfered with the movement during the 40s but people like Walt Disney helped it take off again.

To be honest the true origins will probably never be discovered simply because of the lack of written records in pre-Christian Ireland when Samhain began and the fact that printing presses were only invented in Europe by Johannes Gutenburg in 1450. Handwriting stuff was arduous and people weren’t inclined to rattle off every single thing they did because they didn’t have the time or the materials were expensive. 

Australia?

So if we go with the Celtic origin story then we probably shouldn’t celebrate it as we are in the southern hemisphere – harvest takes place at a completely different time of year. The stores promote it fairly heavily but I suspect that is more because it is a chance to make money rather than actually following the religious aspect of it.

Verdict?

Don’t wait until Halloween to get to know your neighbours, have a fancy dress party or muck around with your kids. For me, spending time with people you like/care about are what matters and I can do that year round. I actually forgot to take my red Dracula cape and fangs to work as I overslept. Melbourne Cup horse races are on next week so I think I’ll pair the cape and fangs with my elegant fascinator, heels and dress. If nothing else, it should get a few laughs.

What do you think about Halloween? Is it the cat’s pyjamas or just another day?

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6 responses to “Wondering Wall: Celebrating Halloween

  1. Marjolijn

    Cool comments as usual! Pity about the sleep-in but Melbourne Cup combo sounds like it will sufficiently confuse the kids.

  2. Marjolijn

    By the way I have finally worked out how to submit a comment after many failed attempts! I just had to tick the little box that says COMMENT LUV. Duh…

  3. Marjolijn

    By the way I am so tired of all these really American aspects of culture seeping into our Australian culture – boring. Halloween works much better in the northern hemisphere as it is the right time of year. It is actually all just a capitalistic plot by the big retailers to make us spend our money buying sweets to feed to kids so that their teeth rot and then they have to go to the dentist.

    • I’m happy to rock that conspiracy theory along with you. Down with secret government plots designed to line dentists’ pockets.

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