A View on Halloween

A view on Halloween

By David Ahern

Halloween has long been the creepy domain of goblins, witches,
ghosts, zombies, skeletons and other ghastly creatures. When I was growing up
in the 1960s and 70s, Halloween costumes and ‘trick-or-treating’ belonged in a
Hollywood movie. It wasn’t an Antipodean thing to celebrate Halloween. October 31
would come and go much like any other day.

How times have changed! Halloween has been seeping into our
collective psyche in recent years, to the point it has now reached plague-like
proportions in our towns and cities. It’s enough to make my blood crawl: an
American festival with a ghoulish flavour invading our suburbs? Thousands of
youngsters dressing as their favourite monsters and taking delight in scaring
one another — and quiet, ordinary folk like me. And it’s not just the children who
have embraced Halloween: many adults are equally enchanted, organising fancy
dress parties, even at supposedly haunted venues. Egad!

Sure, the Americans didn’t invent Halloween. It began as a western
Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day, a three-day observance of Allhallowtide and was influenced by
early Celtic customs and beliefs. The time in the liturgical year dedicated to
remembering the dead, including saints or hallows, martyrs, and the faithful
departed.

So far so good but Halloween has morphed into something far
bigger. There was a time I thought we’d be shielded from Halloween but alas, like
many things American, we tend to follow suit. It’s now best practice to stay away
from the family home between 5 and 8pm on October 31, unless you find pleasure
in the incessant ringing of the front doorbell, the sight of spooky faces and shrieks
of “trick-or-treat”.

While it’s customary to display a pumpkin head with eyes, nose
and mouth cut out so little ones know which houses are Halloween friendly, the
kids don’t always stick to the unwritten rules. The inquisitive – and most
children are – and those with too much sugar running through their veins will
often knock on other doors as well. Like a political rally, the decibels begin
to rise as excitable youngsters, keen to add to their growing booty of
chocolate and lollies, scramble from one house to the next. It’s almost a
competition to see who can accumulate the most yummies in the shortest amount
of time.

Yes, it’s only one day a year and it’s always good to see
happy, smiling children but I harp back to the point of one culture’s increasing
dominance over another, benevolent or otherwise. To be fair it’s probably been
like this for a long time. I grew up loving cowboy and Indian movies and TV
shows like I Dream of Jeannie, Get Smart
and, dare I say it, Bewitched. American
television and American culture were all the rage in the 60s.

Perhaps the growing popularity of Halloween is no different
to my boyhood when my brothers and I would play in the backyard and imitate the
‘invincible’ characters from our favourite TV shows. Back then childhood
fantasies were more about Superman and Batman than ghosts and witches.

As the end of October draws near, maybe I will rethink my
attitude towards Halloween. Maybe I will stay at home and cut out a pumpkin
head and place it on the front fence. And if there’s a knock on the door, maybe
I will greet the visiting ‘ghouls and monsters’ with a broad, welcoming smile
and with sweets in hand. Maybe!

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