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Boo humbug: Not my party

Posted on October 30, 2011

I struggle with Halloween. I didn’t realise quite how much until I had a chance conversation with a friend at a kids’ party today. She asked me if I was planning to take my boys trick or treating. No, I said, I was not. And then proceeded to outline, in detail, for five minutes, exactly why not.

Everyone has their ‘event’ gripe. For some it’s the commercialism of Christmas and how the true meaning is lost. For others, it’s Valentine’s Day and overpriced red roses. My ‘event’ gripe is Halloween. Specifically, Halloween in Australia. In the US, Halloween makes perfect sense. There’s tradition involved. It has a place.

In Australia, Halloween didn’t really exist until, as best I can figure, about 2005, when retailers decided it was the perfect occasion to boost sales in the lead up to boosting sales over Christmas. When I was a kid, Halloween was something I read about in books. I wish in my heart of hearts that it had stayed there.

I’ve watched Halloween creep, pumpkin by pumpkin, ghost by ghost, into the Australian child’s consciousness over the past few years. This year, however, it has really reached a tipping point. Hence the reason for my conversation this morning. My friend was struggling against her seven-year-old daughter’s begging and pleading to go trick or treating. Part of my friend’s struggle was internal. She likes the idea of taking her children out into the neighbourhood at night. To walk under the dark sky and see their world in a different way.

“Fine,” I said. “Dress them up and take them for a walk. But don’t go knocking on doors.”

My boys know that we don’t do Halloween in the Fibro. When they asked me why, I simply explained that it was another country’s tradition, not ours, and we wouldn’t be taking it up. So last year when a young family knocked on our door – at 8pm – I had no qualms about telling them sorry, we don’t do Halloween. I was polite, I was cheerful, I was firm. The mother was not happy with me. But I am not about to start handing out lollies to other kids who knock on our door, when I’ve told my children that it’s not something we do. What kind of hypocrite would that make me?

My elderly neighbours (and the Fibro has many) hate Halloween. It’s not part of their world at all. They hate anyone knocking on their door at any time, let alone after dark. It may be anti-social, but it’s also about security. Not all trick or treaters are friendly six year olds, out with their Mums.

I know this makes me very Bah Humbug (or Boo Humbug, the Halloween equivalent), but I don’t think I care. Halloween is not my party.

56 Comments

  1. Catherine Wilson

    I used to agree but having experienced a great Halloween on our street in Sydney last year, it was really nice to actually meet neighbours and a bit of fun for kids to dress up. What’s the harm? Now we have moved to the U.S its interesting to see what its like here. Not everyone celebrates it due to them being Catholic or Jewish. Its a personal choice just like in other countries around the world. Its not just a U.S holiday but also celebrate in Ireland and some other European countries. But I think people make too much of it, let the kids dress up and have some fun. Decorate the house, do some baking.. You don’t have to give kids candy either, i give fruitboxes, fake tattoos, stickers, erasers..

  2. Kate @ My Dear Angel

    Me too! Can never forget the look I got last year when all I had to offer the kids at the door was a box of sultanas and a bag of Tiny Teddy’s. They were horrified (and most ungraciously snatched regardless of their horror of my offering). And not a parent in sight!

    Is it okay to just not answer the door tonight?

  3. Kristyn

    We’ve never done Trick or Treating before but this year we are doing it because we moved on a street that does it for little kids. My daughter is excited but it’s also a chance for me to put my make up zombie special effects skills to good use. As for the door knocking thing, we only do the doors we’ve already warned. First, it’s much safer and second no one gets crabby and the night ends early!

  4. Kirsty @ Bowerbird Blue

    I love it. Just put a little note on your door so the little ones know not to knock. You could always hand out fruit. Our kids had a great time making scary cup cakes one year. I love it that neighbours say hello to each other – no other festival has you knocking on strangers doors. Our kids once roamed a music festival on halloween dressed up. They heard stories, jokes, sung songs and had the odd treat. Why turn our nose up at the good American stuff? I do see where you’re coming from but we made all our costumes and decorations, it doesn’t have to be commercial.

    • Fianou

      I don’t actually object to the idea of Halloween or the ways people celebrate… I guess my main objection is just the widescale adoption without question of something foisted upon us by marketing companies and the idea that we have to because the supermarkets and big chain stores suddenly sell lousy lollies and plastic junk that says we have to celebrate.

      • Fianou

        We had is happen one year… a neighbour had decided to do halloween with their kids and so they came round and warned us ( it was a neighbourhood where we all new each other, our street had 10 houses) and gave us some lollies to give to their kids. I was fine with that. But what was funny is some of the other kids decided they wanted in on the lolly action and came knocking too with some pretty lousy last minute costumes. Of course we had nothing! They said trick or treat and my husband said Trick! They had no idea what to do!
        There is nothing stopping neighbours from going and meeting each other, you don’t need an excuse to introduce yourself and say hello.

  5. Kevin

    As an American let me say to all you Aussies…I’m sorry. I am so sorry this crap “holiday” has come your way.

    I hate Halloween…my wife loves it. So of course we participate in it. We took the kids trick or treating and they had fun, it was nice to see them smile and now I have two pumpkin buckets full of candy that I will eat.

    But if I had my way, Halloween would be forgotten about in our home.

    And I have never handed out candy on Halloween. I don’t want a bunch of punks knocking on my door.

    Good luck with it.

  6. Andrea

    p.s silly me, i know now it has nothing to do with pilgrims.

  7. Peta

    Thank you!
    I actually put a sign on my door yesterday “no trick or treating please. We don’t do Halloween’.

    I was told I was mean. by someone that doesn’t live in my house.

    seriously. when did it get so big over here??

    I’m with you. besides going against all my Christian values, its a marketing ploy and an “american’ thing.
    Boo Humbug.

  8. This Mid 30s Life

    YES!!!!!! Thank you!!! It’s not just me.

    We’re in the UK and you’d think it was the US. I don’t get it. If we were in America, then yes, we’d do it. But we’re not. And I know I sound like a party pooper but I think it sucks.

    I can not imagine sitting down to carve a pumpkin.

  9. allison tait

    Thanks everyone for all your comments. I learned a few things today and love the people who warn their neighbours first about trick or treating. I think the trouble is that there’s no tradition here, so we have no rules like the porch light arrangement. But I hope those who ‘did’ Halloween had a great night. And that everyone else had a nice, quiet, night free of trick or treaters.

  10. Andrea

    hear hear. leave it in books/movies/US tv shows and u.s visits. It is not our tradition. We have no pilgrims, and it isn’t the season.

  11. MoodyEdits

    If this American can pop her head in real quick…

    Cate – Here in my neck of the woods we call that “Trunk-r-Treating”. Parents like its safety factor.

    Jodi – Thanks. A “bit of fun” is a good thing in my book. And you’re right, Halloween certainly isn’t American. It dates back to the Middle Ages, but here in America it’s barely 100 years old, and its acceptance is even younger than that.

    There are many Americans who do not celebrate. Those folks turn their porch light off on Halloween night. That means don’t knock. We just walk to the next house. It works pretty well.

    I have wonderful childhood memories of trick-r-treating, bobbing for apples at Halloween parties, picking out costumes, etc. I participate today and my children are making the same fun memories. Although here in the U.S. it’s more the norm so I don’t have the dilemma that you have over there. In my neighborhood it’s just an excuse to have some fun, and on a school night no less. 🙂

  12. RuskinDownUnder

    Hi, we did do a little Halloween ‘stuff’ today but we definitely draw the line at trick or treating. Plus it’s always within our home, just like other celebration days from different parts of the world. In my neighbourhood we get a flyer every year saying the kids will be coming around and if we want to participate we can leave our porch light on. Kind of like a spam opt-out clause… anyway. I noticed the young families in the street had their lights on but I don’t see myself doing that any time soon. I do appreciate being told about the children coming around though, and having the choice 🙂

  13. ClaireyHewitt

    I just commented over at Louisa’s blog too, but she had people all saying how much they loved it.

    Not for us either, to me it seems weird to just grab another countries celebration, but still so many people do.

  14. Lis

    Ditto!
    You put it so well.
    Boo Humbug!

  15. Jodi@TheScribbleDen

    Halloween didn’t actually originate in the US, so they stole it too. But gee they do it well!

    I don’t see the harm in celebrating for those who feel so inclined. We have been celebrating with the kids since about 2003.

    Tonight we are having a party, getting all dressed up and going Trick or Treating. We live in a court and at the beginning of the week I letter box drop a short note to say the kids will be door knocking and for them to not feel obliged to give. All the people in our court think it is great to see the kids all dressed up.

    Really it is a bit of fun and I think in today’s world we tend to take ourselves a little too seriously sometimes.

    But of course each to their own and whatever floats your boat, or not!

    Happy Halloween 😉

  16. Melinda's Stories

    Good on you, I love this post. No Halloween here either.

    I have a very out spoken 9 year old. He is mortified that some Australians celebrate Halloween.

  17. Vanessa

    I totally agree. We put a sign on our front gate stating that we don’t celebrate Halloween. No Door Knockers to date.

  18. Naomi

    I can’t help but wonder if it was a cultural event from a country other than the US (and I’m aware of the tradition being a part of many UK families lives too, not to mention The Day of the Dead in Mexico) would there be this much uproar?

    A work colleague who grew up in Ireland was telling of the joys of Halloween she remembers form her childhood today. It sounded wonderful.

    I have seen many facebook updates from non Hindi people wishing people a happy Diwali, similarly with the end of Ramadan, with lots of people liking these updates. Someone posts a positive status about Halloween and some – not all- people think they can openly have a go at the person behind the status.

    Is it that we are eager to embrace festivals that are more foreign to us – and seem more exotic – and pooh pooh the ones form the US?

    I’m not saying we all have to embrace the Halloween tradition, I am though suggesting we (as you have Al) be polite about it. After all, we are a multicultural society.

  19. Kerry

    I completely agree. I did it once and only once, when my kids were little and we were living in the UK. As you say, tradition is the thing, not fabrication.

  20. Lady Estrogen

    I agree with you – when I was there in high school, it was like forcing an American tradition on to Australia. We ended up having a fancy dress party, that was it – and I was fine with it.

  21. TriGirl

    From the sounds of it, the most important part of Halowe’en hasn’t reached you yet: grown up women dressing in skimpy outfits: sexy vampire, sexy zombie, sexy nurse, sexy bus driver, sexy teacher, sexy referee (not even kidding).

    Now how could anyone say no to that. Oh, plus a lot of little girls’ pre-made costumes are starting to follow suit. Yeesh.

    I love reading blogs because it gets me out of my North American head 🙂

  22. Hazel

    Absolutely!

  23. Ms_MotorbikeNut

    Your not alone sweetie we don’t do it here either.

    Have never had any one knock on any of our doors at Halloween and we have lived many places through out Brisbane in the last 24+ years.

    (((( Hugs )))) XXXX Kisses XXXX

  24. MummyK

    Well said, I wouldn’t be offended if you weren’t into halloween. I’d love to go trick or treating but the Philippines is VERY US influenced so that’s why it’s been on my head. Plus I just recently learned how to do great undead make up hehehe.

  25. Corinne – Daze of My Life

    We celebrate Halloween by having a huge picnic in the park across the road from our home. All the kids from the surrounding streets dress up and we all bring food to eat. It’s a wonderful way to catch up and meet our neighbours and there is a real sense of community.
    Afterwards, if they wish, the parents accompany the kids to trick or treat, each house is given a balloon with a note in their letterbox a few days before and if they wish to participate they put the balloon on their gate.

  26. 74 Lime Lane

    Well said! Agree completely. And also found the pagan information really interesting. Might use that as a “trick” if any moochers come calling for lollies tonight!

  27. Ros

    Wonderful post. Kids came home from school having made “witches fingers” biscuits with theit Italian teacher. As we are also a family that shun the whole plastic two dollar shop cheap lolly version of so aclled Hallowen, these handmade bikkies were welcome. The teacher accompanied the biscuit making with a lesson on the traditional meaning of Halloween and finally the kdds realiosed I was not the only Mother saying no to the gresdy wander about the neighbourhood. Yay for people thinking before action and good luck to those organised enough to apple bob with your loved ones. We are just not answering the door!

  28. Being Me

    The way I see it, you can’t have part of the tradition and not the other – seems everyone (since 2005!) has taken to the streets with their dressed up notion to scab lollies off us all (and a surprising number not having even bothered to don an outfit, going door to door mooching off their neighbours) and yet, if you asked any one of them or their parents, they’d not be able to tell you the first thing about the pagan tradition.

    I detest Halloween, as does the husband. We shall never participate in any part of the tradition in this house. There have been years past where we have felt deeply pressured to present a bowl of lollies to kids but this year, no.

    What I want to know is, where are all your commenters!? Our street is full of yes-people!!

  29. E.

    I’m okay with dressing up for Halloween themed party but refuse to let my children go trick or treating. I guess im a hypocrite.

    When Girl Child has asked about it I have said that it’s based an old tradition called All Hallows Eve that we don’t celebrate. Of course to her, Halloween is a chance to dress up and get lollies.

  30. Erin @ Eat Play Bond

    So well said! I can’t stand seeing this take over, it has no relevance to us whatsoever, its is just an opportunity to sell some rubbish.
    I have no issue with other cultures bringing their traditions to us if they have some kind of spiritual or historical purpose, but all halloween achieves is a few more cavities and kids pumped up on sugar!

  31. mamabook

    My kids are beyond excited because we are celebrating Halloween in America. During our previous stint it was by far the most fun holiday and not because of the “candy” but the true sense of community. The entire neighbourhood would be out, parents walking their young children, houses “dressed up” quite fantastically.
    We did do a mild version of Halloween in Australia but my rules were we only knocked on doors of houses that were decorated which made it pretty boring! And we always handed out sweets to anybody who knocked on our door.
    I am feeling v homesick today but Halloween actually in America is one thing that cheers me up. Although I am a little afraid of exactly how much candy is about to enter our home!
    Michelle

  32. Photographer Mum

    We don’t celebrate Halloween either, never really have either. My cousins on the other hand usually do (because they are half American). We tried taking out kids trick or treating last year but the whole thing just didn’t sit well with me at all. We have only had kids come trick or treating to our place once or twice at our old place, but our current house is well hidden from the road so nobody quite knows how to find it. Bonus 🙂
    Halloween is not really our thing

  33. Trish Goodfield

    I couldn’t agree more. It seems to me the only part of the Halloween tradition Australians want to take up is the lolly bit. Nobody if ‘tricks’ when you say no.

    If Australian are so determined to adopt everything US I would rather see us adopt Thanksgiving.

  34. Diminishing Lucy

    What Bri said.

    PLUS, as a child, I ADORED Halloween. It was big in my neck of the woods in villages in the UK where I grew up – the pagan thing is fairly deeply entrenched…

    The lovely husband is like you though Al – shakes his head and gets very cranky as he percieves it as an “American” tradition.

    So, I shall apple bob and eat punpkin soup with the kids after school, as my own personal little celebration on the seasons…

  35. alliecat

    Couldn’t agree more. We teach kids not to take lollies from strangers and then encourage them to actively ask for it once a year? By knocking on doors no less?

    I mostly don’t even let Halloween register until the day, it’s not in my consciousness. One year we had kids knock on our door for it, and they weren’t even dressed up, I mean, c’mon!! You want free goodies, at least put some effort in! Sadly for them, I had nuffin as I don’t routinely keep treats in the house.

    We won’t be participating, ever. Not to go knocking and not handing out. Hell, I don’t even like door knocking for charity, I did that once and never again……

  36. joeh

    Just wait untill the kids adopt the traditional night before Halloween called “Hell Night” where kids (teens) seem to think it is ok to paper lawns, egg bomb cars and houses, soap windows and other harmless shit!

    The Cranky Old Man

  37. The Hand of a Jeanie

    Boo humbug indeed!
    I am working night duty and will be asleep when the trick or treaters come knocking. Only there will be a big note on our door: PLEASE DO NOT KNOCK – SHIFT WORKER SLEEPING! NO HALLOWEEN HERE.

    Aside from the ‘Americanising’, and the obvious ignorance of the history of Halloween, what really bugs me is that the trick or treaters in our town seem to be teenage girls giggling at your door. The parents of little kids seem sensible enough to have them in bed asleep, WHERE THEY SHOULD BE!

    Halloween will stay in books in our house.

    There ends my rant.

  38. tinsenpup

    It’s knocking on doors and demanding sugar I have a big problem with. It really has no place in our culture. I suspect that marketing being what it is, however, we might as well object to the tide.

  39. Amanda

    Couldn’t agree more. Am a bit disturbed to hear that Aussie kids are starting to celebrate it (or want to celebrate it) more, I will have to quash that quickly with the small boy! I do remember that when I was a kid Halloween was celebrated by just a couple of kids in our street – including the street bully who all the kids hated – and he talcum-powdered everyone’s doors at Halloween and then all the adults hated him too! I was pleased. I wonder what he’s doing now? (Hmm might go look him up on Facebook!)

  40. Tork

    Stuff Halloween..

    Maybe as a fun party as an adult, but why Americanise Australia anymore? Hell, just writing Americanise, my browser is trying to change the way I type that word!! (with an -ize).

    May as well celebrate Independence day, Thanksgiving and add more working holidays to the calendar!

    Nah, it really annoys me how American fads seep into every culture. Oh well, they have their good about them too…

    – tork

    • Fianou

      John Howard DID introduce thanksgiving day! I am grateful it doesn’t seem to have endured. But I remember suddenly all the churches in my town started a thankgiving day thing one year. Don’t remember it lasting though.

  41. purple_cath

    Yes Im with the other pagan sentiments and acknowledge that it is also taken from a traditional mexican tradition – the day of the dead celebrating those that have passed over. I agree with not doing the australian version based on the american adaptation. Actually in the middle of a blog post now =) xx

  42. Mrs BC

    I’m with Bri (& I love the fraudian Seasonanal!) I think most Americans celebrate the commercial version/social custom of Halloween in the same way that most Australians celebrate the commercial version/social custom of Christmas. Either way, it’s not for me to decide how or weather people should celebrate an event in the calendar. I like Halloween, but as a Pagan I will celebrate Samhaim at the end of April.
    x

  43. cjtato

    My eight year old begged for a Halloween party this year. It was so much fun and really just another excuse to get everyone together.

    We did succumb to pumpkin carving this year though. But there will be no trick or treating and nobody will get through our gates or walk our very busy road to trick or treat here anyway. 🙂

  44. Maxabella

    Ha! Boo humbug. Love it!! x

  45. Mum on the Run

    I have just had this very conversation with my husband.
    A friend has some halloween activities planned for tomorrow including trick or treating and has assumed my boy and I will join in.
    We won’t.
    I can’t.
    For all of the reasons you describe.
    It’s false, commercial and misplaced.
    I also don’t like the very essence of ‘trick or treat’/
    Feed me junk or I’ll be nasty?
    That goes against everything I believe in – especially just before bedtime.
    Anyway, I don’t like scary costumes!
    🙂

  46. allison tait

    Thanks Bri – I didn’t know any of that, so I am left feeling that blogging is really a very educational pastime. 🙂

  47. Cate

    I don’t mind it – well more specifically the dressing up bit. My girls love to dress up. But I do hate the door knocking. We don’t.
    What we have done for the past few years is to get together a group of families. Get everyone to park their cars around a circular carpark at our local playground. Then decorate the boot of the car and have the kids trick or treat from car to car.
    This way they get to 1. dress up. 2. get lollies. and 3. play together afterwards.
    Happy kiddos. Happy parents (and then I eat the left overs – bonus!)
    xxxCate

  48. Bri

    Ugh, that should have read SEASONAL not some warped version of that word. Sorry!

  49. Bri

    Halloween is based on the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain and is celebrated in that guise by modern Pagans (like me). However because the Wheel of the Year celebrations are SEASONANAL, Samhain in Australia is at the end of April. So technically, Halloween should be at the end of April when you are in the Southern Hemisphere – the end of October (now) is Beltane. /end pagan information session ; )

    So the Halloween in Australia at the end of Oct is just WRONG WRONG WRONG.

    • Fianou

      Yeah totally, I have no problems with people celebrating Samhain, but its not Samhain!

  50. ally

    I could have written this
    I hate that Australia is adopting this – I cannot for the life of me understand why

  51. InkPaperPen

    Could not agree more x

  52. Thea

    Oh thank God!!! I’ve been banging on about this for days. You just summed up every single feeling I have about Halloween much more eloquently than I ever could have!

    So….Amen to all of the above!

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