Did you notice the date? It’s Hallowe’en again, and the usual signs are out. It’s fascinated me for some years how Australians take this festival, and I finally had to put it out there - Hallowe’en seems to create more Grinches than goblins, ghouls or headless horsemen in this country. I wonder why. There seems no reason for it at all.
Last week I was in a nameless large department store in an unfashionable part of my home town, and saw a fairly half-hearted display of decorations, pumpkin-shaped loot sacks, childrens’ outfits and so on near the entrance. Goody, said I, just what I’m after, and proceeded to lay in a supply of scary trimmings.
As I was choosing Jack-o-Lantern-emblazoned battery lights and witches hats, a small boy and his father walked past, perhaps on their way to buy toiletries or stationery or motor oil. “Look, Dad, Hallowe’en,” said the nipper. The very typical Australian father (yes, a little tubby and sloppily dressed) didn’t break stride. He was on a mission to get whatever it was. “We don’t have Hallowe’en in Australia,” I heard as they disappeared.
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While our nation’s leaders grapple with “major issues” such as climate change, international economic upheaval and industrial dramas, everyday Australians are missing out on the chance to dress up as Bill Murray characters and various animals.
This year’s Halloween – the annual event where Americans put on costumes, dance and pretend their country’s economy isn’t being mercilessly sucked into the Earth’s core – made me wish we had a stronger tradition of costume-wearing here in Australia.
I’m not talking about adopting Halloween. I’m talking about making more of a general effort to inexplicably turn up to work and dinner parties in lavish, grossly-inappropriate costumes. Everyone loves costumes, even famous people.
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Since when does dressing up as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz involve flashing your underpants?
As an Australian living in the United States, attempting to embrace my cultural surroundings for the epic Halloween festivities – parades, parties and the like, I am rather appalled at the costume selection available for women.
It’s tough to find a dress-up option that doesn’t involve showing an inordinate amount of flesh whether it’s micro mini-skirts, midriffs or cleavage enhancing tops.
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As a small group of Halloween-devotees in Martin Place this week protested that October 31 is not a national public holiday like Christmas, you can be sure that thousands of religious folk around the world are right now making the opposite demand: Halloween is evil and should be banned.
I have been asked many times, both as an Anglican minister and as director of the Centre for Public Christianity: Is Halloween evil? Should Christians oppose it?
My general feeling is that Halloween is no more ‘evil’ than Christmas. In fact, the two festivals have a bit in common.
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It’s Halloween this Saturday, and though we’ve never quite gotten into the whole ghoul thing in Australia, people do attempt to celebrate.
There’s the odd, weak-themed club night, annoying neighbourhood kids who to trick or treat until they get to a door behind which a grouch refuses to give them anything (is there a name for the Halloween scrooge?) and those people whose birthdays fall on Halloween, instantly bestowing a lifetime pass for dress-up parties.
In the States, they go a bit nuts at this time of year. The amount of pics I’ve seen in the last week of celebrities shopping for a pumpkin outnumbers those carrying a Starbucks - and that’s saying something in La La Land.
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Halloween is almost upon us. On October 31 thousands of children and adults around the globe will don strange costumes and wander the streets.
Tricks will played, treats will be given …. but will Australians ever really embrace the day?
I love Halloween and in one form or another have celebrated it all my life. However, many in Australia do not. Descriptions such as “glammed-up celebration of ghoulishness”, “over-commercialized clap trap”, “a celebration of lollies and terror”, “Americanization by stealth” all spring to mind. So when a friend from the US asked me whether Australians celebrate Halloween like they did, I had to tell her that sadly, the short answer was no.
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