I was a Halloween sceptic. Thought it was just another US-led commercially-driven faux tradition foisted upon the Aussie calendar in order to sell more stuff in the lead-up to Christmas. I was the Ebeneezer Scrooge saying, ‘bah, humbug’ to Halloween.
So what changed?
My sister-in-law is an American Australian and, together with other expat friends, started trick-or-treating with her kids. The Little Monkey and particularly the Little Dragon, with his long-held interest in all things monstrous and spooky, adored it.
I’ve heard the arguments about kids having too much sugar in their diets already and Stranger Danger messages being diluted or contradicted by letting the littlies ask unknown faces for lollies. I’ve also seen how much fun the kids have and the upsides of familiarising themselves with their local neighbourhood (with adult supervision).
But that’s not what got me to change teams.
It was researching the stories behind Halloween that sold me. I like that this is an ancient Celtic festival, celebrated in Ireland, the UK, North America and elsewhere. I really like the idea of the border between this world and the next thinning temporarily and allowing spirits to pass over. Apparently the horror masks and door decorations began as a way of persuading harmful spirits to pass by your home.
At the very least, it’s a fun way to acknowledge the shifting of the seasons, the transition (in our case) from cold to warm. In a time of global warming and extreme climatic events, I reckon reconnecting ourselves with Mother Nature’s moods and cycles is a good thing.
I read a lot of ghost stories before and during the writing of Five Parts Dead. I also consciously switched off my journalistic cynicism when friends and relatives told me of otherworldly encounters. Many ghost stories centre on the need to make peace with the past to smooth the pathway into the future. That’s an idea I’d like to sit with this weekend, too.
Imagine if every Halloween we consciously let go of / scared off any bad energy hovering around us, made peace with the past and reset ourselves for what comes next. That would truly be cause for celebration.
Anyway, I’m on board. I’ve even purchased a pumpkin to carve.
Here’s the indomitable John Birmingham explaining why he’s a fan. For other fast facts, check out Wikipedia’s Halloween page.