Say it once, say it twice, roll the dice, take a chance… In praise of Hallowe’en

I’m miles behind schedule with this post…  Sorry…

Do you know what I hate?  The Americanisation of our society.  All this boohooing about Bills of Rights and Parliamentary Budget Offices and Republics and Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party and the media saturation with who’s ‘winning’ the Republican primaries race and the hatred of the letter ‘u’ and the excruciating abuse of the English language…

It all stems from one thing: too much American television on Australian screens.

And yet despite my somewhat rabid hatred of American culture, I am 100% a supporter of adopting Hallowe’en in Australia.

Holidays and festivals have a focus: a driving message which legitimates and justifies.  Christmas and Easter have long since shed their religious significance for a lot of us, replaced with an excuse to visit our families.  Melbourne Cup holiday is a chance for Australia to pretend that it’s a civilised place to live (it isn’t).  Australia Day has become a holiday to platform a lot of intellectually meaty and confronting ideas about who we are as a nation.

But Hallowe’en is a celebration of the community rather than a celebration of the family or of the nation.

We let our kids dress up as terrifying beasties and let them loose (under supervision) into the community.  It’s a transformation of our neighbours from strangers who co-locate into members of our environment.  It’s an induction into our Welt.

I was raised in a one adult household (even when my father was there, that statement remains true). It was physically impossible for my mother to be around us every moment of the non-school day.  One day, my brothers and I were at home after school before mum had returned from work.  It was about five thirty when a really nasty storm hit and knocked out the power.  My brothers and I were a bit freaked out, so we went ’round to our neighbour’s place who looked after us until mum got home.

For thousands of kids, the parenting situation is the same.  One parent having to do the work of two, but there’s only so much that is physically possible.  To an extent, we need our communities to provide support.

When I raised this point with a friend (who has kids), they immediately rejected my argument: ‘I don’t know who my neighbours are.  I certainly couldn’t trust them with my kids.’

Trust is built on the back of knowledge.  When we know the people who surround us, we begin to trust them.  Festivals like Hallowe’en provide an excuse to get to know the neighbours and introduce the next generation to them.  The neighbourhood becomes part of the kids’ support network.  When they rebel and decide to run away from home, wouldn’t we prefer that they run only as far as the end of the street to be with somebody whom they already know and trust?

Hallowe’en fills a gap in our socialisation which the other holidays don’t.

The other key reason to introduce Hallowe’en into Australia is its excellent impact on adults: it is a licence for silliness and absurdity.  We don’t have enough opportunities throughout the year to indulge in immaturity, to let our hair down and just have fun.  Hallowe’en provides the perfect remedy.

Do I worry about the gender narrative caused by Hallowe’en, with it becoming commonplace to refer to any female costume as ‘slutty’?  Well, yes.  I wouldn’t be a good and proper conservative if I didn’t.  But I’m also sensible enough to know that Hallowe’en just provides a focal point for the misogyny and sex-shaming already in society; it’s not creating new evils.

So make Hallowe’en a common event in Australia, I say.  Let our kids become familiar with the neighbourhood and let’s indulge in some childish costumes.

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Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based blogger and policy wonk who writes about conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

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