The Influence of Halloween

Ladies and gentlemen, the spooky season is upon us!

I don’t know about you, but besides Christmas, Halloween is one of my favourite holidays. But just like Valentine’s Day, Halloween technically isn’t a holiday in Australia. Why? Because even though it is considered a novelty, an online survey found that most Australians just don’t care about Halloween. Although, recent statistics show an increase in popularity over the years and the acceptance of Halloween as a “mainstream cultural practice”.

The Halloween hype this year has got me wondering where the whole idea came from. Did someone just say, “hey, enough with the happy family holidays, let’s have a scary themed holiday”? Perhaps as the years passed, people adapted to it and added their own bits to it – pumpkin carving and spooky “slutty” costumes.

If you don’t know the history, well hold on tight, because you are about to dive into the mysterious past of Halloween history.

Our good ol’ pub loving Irish friends started what we now call Halloween. But back then, it was known as the festival of Samhain (pronounced like “sow-in”). It was named after Lord Samhain, the Lord of Darkness (Voldemort’s twin?).

Over 2,000 years ago, the Celtic people considered November 1st the New Year. This meant that October 31st was New Years Eve, or their other name for it, Hallow E’en, which evolved from the name All Hallows Eve (Christian influence). During this festival, the Celts believed that those who died in that year crossed the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead. Which meant they walked among the living. People would leave candy and yes, carved pumpkins, on their doorstep to steer the “walking dead” away. In addition, people would go around to their neighbours asking for food contributions to help with the festival – this is possibly where the “trick or treating” idea originated from.

However, have no fear, Lord Samhain is here! Despite his name, Lord Samhain was a good guy and helped out by collecting the spirits on the night of Halloween. So maybe he has all the good qualities Lord Voldemort doesn’t.

In the 1800s, Irish and Scottish immigrants brought their spooky festival of Halloween to America. The Americans loved this idea so much and they decided to include almost everything in their version of Halloween. This includes the candy, the pumpkins and the trick or treating. But a Lord of Darkness? Nah, that’ll scare the kids!

Instead, the Americans turned it into a highly commercialised (and expensive) holiday. It is almost compulsory for Americans to take part in the “trick or treating” events in their neighbourhoods to avoid being vandalised or equal thereof. That is why they always have a bowl of candy at the ready.

However, Australians like to provide our neighbours with the option to partake in Halloween activities. For example, the below image shows what I received in the mail this past week – a Halloween activity invitation. My neighbours advised me of the upcoming holiday (like I would forget) and provided a decoration for me to advertise if my house was open to “tricksters or treaters”.

As mentioned at the beginning, Halloween is slowly becoming more popular in Australia. Being in the 21st century, it is easier to see how events around Halloween have supported this boom in popularity. For example, the spooky but fun Fright Nights at Movie World and various Nightclub Halloween themed events. Celebrity influence has also supported the rise of popularity.  Such as talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres, doing an annual video of a colleague going through a haunted house.

I love Halloween not only for the candy or pumpkin carving (thank you America), but because of the themed costume parties, scary movies and the ominous spooky vibe. It’s exciting to see the increase in popularity of Halloween, which might make it a legitimate holiday one day in Australia (finger crossed!).

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