Halloween fun police

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
ABC The Drum /
October 31, 2011 /

Click here to view original /

The second that September’s Labor Day festivities – centred largely on last-of-the-sunshine barbeques – faded, American stores were filled with Halloween paraphernalia.

From pumpkin-carving kits to greeting cards, from sacks of sweets to the slightly suspect “haunted hay ride” offered by a nearby farm, not to mention pumpkin-spiced everything, like all holidays here, the celebration largely involves the checkout.

An observation of course, more than a criticism. I’m thoroughly supportive of people investing in costumes and candy. Go for your lives, my decorated and diabetic friends!

When I’m at home in Melbourne, Halloween means my Dad’s birthday. It means another Simpsons Halloween special and perhaps involves reflecting on those we’ve sadly lost; like the Conner family who did Halloween better than anyone. Otherwise, it’s no big deal. Like Valentine’s Day, like Dr Pepper, like flags in our front yards, by and large, Australians haven’t embraced Halloween like the Americans.

Attempts of course, are made annually to market it to us. There’ll be in-store displays, rather random promotions and some costume stores renting stuff to people other than horny baby boomers. There’ll be speculation that Australians might just get seduced this year and perhaps most interestingly, is the burgeoning vigilance of those adamant not to trip into the trap of American commerce.

A friend working at a school in Melbourne tells me that they’ve called a prohibition on Halloween festivities. No ghost-and-ghouls art projects, no gratuitous use of cotton wool and fake arachnids and presumably no singing of the Monster Mash. Nothing to do with scaring the kids or opposing paganism however, nope, all about an opposition to the thorough Americaness of it all. Let us not be like those Godless American devils, my children.

My earliest years were somewhat sadomasochist in nature: the superb pleasure of watching Sesame Street and the pain of being hit with a rolled up newspaper if I ever pronounced Z as Zee. To a lot of people, being Australian is apparently defined by making sure everyone knows that we call them biscuits not cookies, lollies not candy, and that we fervently believe Hershey’s chocolate smells vaguely of vomit. And that we never bother with Halloween.

For some Australians it’s apparently terribly important that we arbitrarily choose which American things that we just simply won’t buy in to. The fact that Halloween actually has nothing to do with the US, apparently means little. That our randomness regarding opposition to cultural imperialism is completely farcical is evidently a trivial point.

Seemingly we want our HBO and in my case as much music from Ohio as possible, but the line just has to be drawn at Halloween. That Halloween takes the tackiness and capitalism and (eye roll) raunch culture all too far.

Why Halloween endures the wrath of Aussie patriots is peculiar to say the least. Surely what it means to be Australian involves a lot more than whimsical opposition to a little light darkside frolicking?

Fortunately, the Halloween fun police isn’t merely an Australian pastime. Here in Massachusetts, apparently some neighbourhoods are too sketchy to trick-or-treat in. Whereas I’m thinking the ominous threat of actual death could only add to the experience, the fun police disagree. Come one, come all if you dare, to the truly frightening experience of Mall-o-Ween. Indoor, in-store candy shakedowns at places like Subway. So so spooky.

And let us not forget those stoic local townsfolk concerned about breached bedtimes and kids out on the streets tryin’ to score the sweet stuff. The answer? Changing the date of observance to a Saturday.

And, what about that shady and surprisingly unenterprising dentist wanting to buy candy off the kids to spare their teeth?

Good to see that buzz killing isn’t exclusively an Australian festivity!

© Lauren Rosewarne