Published by www.kidspot.com.au
I used to hate Halloween.
I was an anti-Halloweener, if ever one existed.
‘It has no place here’ I would say.
‘It’s just not an “Australian” thing’ (whatever that is).
And that was that.
Then I spent a year, pre-kids, living in the United States with my husband, and that’s when my take on it all changed.
The Californian suburban life, is not unlike the suburban life of most of the Australian cities that I’ve lived in (except that literally everything is bigger!). Most of us bound out of bed (or roll out half asleep, with the skill and athleticism of a sloth) in the morning, caffeinate, and the head out into the big wide world. The vast majority of us do this without giving much thought or time to those that live right beside us. We might give them a smile, or a nod, even a quick wave in acknowledgement, and then we’re on our way.
But, finding ourselves living in and amongst the American culture, we decided to try and embrace it, or as much of it as we possibly could. Starting with the simple stuff. We called rubbish ‘trash’ and started asking where the closest ‘gas station’ was... I even temporarily changed my name from ‘Kirsty’ to ‘Kristy’, which I did begrudgingly after one very confused Starbucks employee thought my name was ‘Arsty’.
I’m not going to lie, I’d watch enough Kardashians episodes for one lifetime, and thought I’d had this transition nailed… I didn’t. My Australian accent translates about as well as me attempting to speak Japanese. But, the holidays, that part I could definitely nail. That was the fun part!
We celebrated them all. Christmas in San Diego, New Years in San Francisco, and 4th July in Los Angeles, and we very much looked forward to celebrating our first Halloween in our home town.
In Australia we’ve been fed a very ‘Hollywood’ version of Halloween. The commercialised one. And while yes, it absolutely is. It’s no more commercialised than Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or even Easter (which are all widely accepted on Australian shores). Halloween is steeped in traditions based on Celtic rituals from thousands of years ago. Just like our beloved Christmas and Easter celebrations, it’s been moulded and adapted over the years to fit with our modern culture.
The aspect that I think is lost on most Australians, is the sense of community that I experienced on my first Halloween celebration. My husband and I had lived more than 10 months without meeting the vast majority of our neighbours, but on this night, the community was out in force.
The street lights were on, the neighbourhood was alive. Our cookie cutter houses were all decorated and for the first time in our US life, they were each unique. We met, and made friends with our neighbours, and suddenly we felt like we belonged. But the biggest surprise of the night was the children.
SO MANY HAPPY CHILDREN.
The streets were filled with them! Smiles permanently plastered across their sweet ghoulish faces, and the street was practically buzzing with excitement.
The more I looked around, the more I realised that it was actually pretty amazing. It quickly became one of my most cherished memories from that year abroad (apart from sitting in the audience of ‘Ellen’, but that’s a whole different story).
Now, a few years on, and I have three children of my own, who will no doubt ask about Halloween at some point. The trend seems to be catching on here more and more with each passing year. Walking through our local shops, I’m surprised by how much my 5-year-old already knows about it. We’ve been reading books, and stories about Halloween, talking about where it comes from, and why people do what they do on that one night a year. I’ve even written my first children’s book based on their own questions and worries about what lurks in the dark. An attempt to make light of the monsters that have tendency to make a home in the minds of our little ones sometimes.
Now I see it as, why fight it? Join the happy. Embrace the trend. It’s one night a year for us all to be a bit wild! Dress up, have some fun, and share with the community. My children are still very young, and just beginning to learn about the ways of the world, but I can see in the near future, Halloween becoming a night of fun and family time - as we dress up together and join others in the beautiful community that we call home.
And if you’re still set in your anti-Halloweener ways, then just make sure to leave your porch light off.
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