Sunday, November 02, 2008

Hallowe'en In Australia

An interesting post by Planning Queen over at Aussie Bloggers (Halloween In Australia) followed on from some conversations I've had this weekend with other parents post-Hallowe'en. Some of us felt a bit bewildered about the sudden development of this "tradition" in our village, and wondered if it was just a little too much Americanisation, or if there was some value in it for our kids. Here's my comment in response:

"It’s been a hot topic in my rural village this weekend, ‘cos somehow quite a few of us found ourselves roaming the streets behind our “candy”-seeking offspring… There is no doubt that they are strongly influenced in this by American culture…even my wee man, who watches very little commercial TV (and who had no idea, when we set out, that “candy” is the same as “lollies”.).

The conclusion that I reached, and most I spoke to agreed, is that I like the aspects of imagination and community contained in the celebration. The kids enjoyed planning their costumes, and getting dressed up to go outside on public display, and then we all trouped around knocking on doors and chatting and laughing and connecting with our neighbours. Some of the locals really get into the spirit of the occasion, and we got a tour of a fairy garden by the Wicked Witch of the West at one home…!? She was scary and hilarious at the same time, and my little man loved it.

So we started talking about ways to make it better for the kids next year, get those that want to more involved, and those that don’t can clearly opt out. Maybe a kid’s party or concert at the end of the trick or treating, too…an opportunity to dance off some of that sugar, and once again connect as a community.

But I also draw the line at Thanksgiving…"

For those of us with children, ignoring Hallowe'en and hoping it will go away because it is "too American" and not "part of our cultural traditions" is perhaps too short-sighted a response.

Like it or not, by exposure to the global village through TV and Internet, our kids pick up all kinds of strange ideas which appeal to them (fighting ninjas, snow at Christmas, time-travelling dinosaurs). How real and relevant they are to the children is really down to us and how we handle them, but the appeal of these ideas is not going to evaporate just because we say so.

By embracing all that is best about a celebration like Hallowe'en - the opportunity to celebrate imagination and community - we have the opportunity to make them relevant to us, to Australianise them (if you must) by building on the values of fun and friendship and playfulness (the Aussie larrikin), and to underline the multiculturism of our modern Australian society.

As parents, we can be involved in making the event a fun and safe activity for kids, without the descent into hooliganism and ugly satire that seems to play a part in the American tradition these days.

For next year in my village, we talked about using the village store as a distribution centre for some simple signage for those who wish to say Yes (or No) to Hallowe'en. It will ensure that parents and children feel comfortable about approaching houses, and will enable parents with younger children to plan a smaller trek to known "trick or treating houses". We also like the idea of finishing with a party or dance at a central location (perhaps the school or preschool) - with a little cooperative effort from all an event can be easily organised, and provides another opportunity for us to join as a community (and gives the grown-ups an excuse to get dressed up, too...).

What do you think?


Red Dirt Mummy said...

We 'did' Halloween this year. It's not something I would normally be drawn into but our neigbour is American and this was her favourite holiday/celebration as a kid. She has been waiting to be able to share it with her kids and, now that we've moved back and a new family have also moved into the street, this seemed the right year to do it. We had a Halloween party with games and scary-themed food (gorgeous cupcakes!) and then went trick-or-treating in our street. She'd also sent out a note to each house letting them know in advance so they could get organised if they chose or simply lock their gate (some each way on that one). It was lots of fun, the kids had a ball dressing up, the grown-ups had a nice chance to catch up and, as you said, it provided an opportunity for our little street to gain a sense of community.

mountainmama said...

That's great, RDM - I think that is exactly what we can do here in Australia, capture that feeling of family and fun and community...and it's always good to have an excuse for some fun food!

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