Halloween: ancient annual ritual of fun or festival of public nuisance?

“Trick or treat! Trick or treat! Give us something good to eat!”

Only once as a kid did I ever knock on neighbourhood doors with this catchy little slogan up my sleeve. I was about nine years old and I remember being shocked by the rudeness of my neighbours in turning us away. Not only did they not give us lollies, we were yelled at once, told to go away twice and several said they didn’t believe in it.

“Belief” in Halloween is a big issue in Australia. It is amazing that it isn’t more widely followed as a custom here because it began – not in America – but in Celtic regions of Scotland and Wales as a festival preceding All Saints Day on November 1. It is essentially therefore a Christian ritual thought some scholars link it to Paganism.

The fact of it is, America has taken over Halloween and turned it into a consumerist celebration which has lost nearly every ounce of symbolism it had. Nowadays it is simply a chance for young kids to dress up in costumes and get free ‘candy’. But I ask you, what’s wrong with that?

One night a year is designated for these kids to go around the neighbourhood in sometimes elaborate, scary costumes and be given free lollies. Personally, other than the one time I tried it, I was never into the Halloween thing. But come October 31, I will be stocking up on bags of chocolate, lollies and all things sweet because I live in an area full of primary school kids. It gives the parents great joy to see their kids dressing up and I’m always amazed at the effort that goes into the costumes. Kids that young won’t get the opportunity to go to fancy dress parties until a little later on in their lives, so why not enjoy this celebration while they can? We are blessed with (mostly) balmy temperatures at this time of year as well so it makes for a nice evening for the kids.

One issue many people take in opposition to Halloween is the safety issue. Of course in this day and age it is not conceivable that a child under the age of ten should be walking around the street at night without supervision and I can assure you, in my neighbourhood this doesn’t happen. In the United States it rarely happens either. Times have changed and it is now understood if there is not a parent or parents keeping close supervision on the kids, ‘trick or treating’ is not on. I’d be very worried if young kids turned up at my door without a parent nearby. Safety is no more a concern than not getting a full bag of lollies at the end of the night.

This Halloween, whether you subscribe to it or not, make sure you have a bag of chocolates or lollies handy. The happiness and excitement it brings to kids is hard to beat and if you don’t give all the sweets away, there’s a stash for yourself. Everybody wins.

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2 thoughts on “Halloween: ancient annual ritual of fun or festival of public nuisance?

  1. I think in order to earn the lollies you have to dress up though. We always get kids halloween-ing at our house and I think if they haven’t dressed up they shouldn’t get lollies….but I feel mean telling them to go get a costume so generally cave and provide teeth rotters to all – only after pointedly asking “what are you meant to be”.

  2. I was never one to go trick or treating on Halloween, but I think it’s a great tradition and children should continue to get into the spirit of Halloween. In this day and age, of course they need to be accompanied by an adult, but preventing them from going and dressing up in a costume would be stopping them from exploring their creativity in dressing up and experiencing doing something at night.

    I hope they’ve been taught to dispose of their wrappings thoughtfully after consuming all that candy!

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