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Taking back Halloween: embracing the trick or treat

I get that a lot of people in Australia are a bit anti-Halloween – you know, that crass American overly-commercialised festival trying to impose itself on our laidback way of life and inject a tonne of unnecessary sugar and extra plastic. I used to be one of those people, decrying such foreign cultural institutions like Halloween, obligatory gratuities and Starbucks, but I have to admit I’ve come around on Halloween. It took till having grandkids to do so.

Firstly, we need to establish that of course Halloween is not something that America dreamed up. The festival is steeped in Celtic traditions hundreds of years old and harks back to a pagan festival called Samhain in Ireland and Scotland. It occurred at the end of autumn at the change of seasons. It was thought that on 31 October the line between this world and the next was at its thinnest and hence easier to cross. This allowed spirits, good and bad, to escape their boundaries and wander about, but it was thought if you dressed up as an evil spirit yourself, you could evade the attention of the nasties. Voila, scary dress-ups!

Of course it’s completely illogical in the southern hemisphere as the end of October marks the coming of hotter weather, not an imminent winter – but that’s fine details, especially when you’re a kid. And in my reckoning, any evil spirits are likely to be quite opportunistic and prepared to adjust for the hemisphere shift in this modern world of globalisation.

I totally understand that some people – kids or parents – can’t cope with the sugar overloads and subsequent highs and lows that might come with an evening of treat gathering, and it is pretty difficult to get a neighbourhood to come on board with sugar-free treats. But if you can negotiate that blip, it can be an awful lot of fun.

The kids have a hoot trying on and getting dressed up in all sorts of costumes and letting their imaginations run wild, making things and letting the excitement build. And it was great for them to be able to be out and about after being cooped up for the last couple of months.

As it turns out, some of the big people really get into the spirit of things as well. I’m looking at you, Mr T. Inspired by a couple of suitably scary dementors floating menacingly in the trees a few streets away from us, hubs decided he’d make his own. I blame it on his love of all things Harry Potter. And perhaps love of a challenge.

But a couple of dementors wavering in our front garden wasn’t enough. No, then he had to make a guillotine, which children would have to navigate if they wanted a treat. Who’s the evil spirit at work here, you may ponder? The device turned out to be quite effective at cutting (I tried it out on a pear) so I insisted he put a bit of tape on the bottom, just to avoid any potential neighbourhood lawsuits or loss of limbs. Oh don’t panic. Of course it was perfectly safe but it did cause quite a few kids to scream and drop their lollies.

And just a note: no items were purchased in the making of the dementors or guillotine or in fact for any of the dress-ups. That’s part of the challenge, so it’s pretty fortunate we have somewhat of a ‘magic house’ which contains no shortage of treasures kept for ‘just in case’ for such occasions and boxes of dress-ups. Some might call it hoarding but it comes in rather handy from time to time. I wrote about it here. And I have to say our dress up collection contains some fabulous items collected over the decades: Flintstones outfits, a pith helmet picked up on travels decades ago, boas on tap, even the chiffon negligee my mother wore on her honeymoon which now serves as a princess gown.

Here’s what we produced from the boxes for this occasion:

  • a ghost buster (with backpack)
  • a Mummy mummy (well that was from the first aid cupboard and toilet)
  • two clowns
  • an evil Queen from Snow White (who it must be said was very committed to his role)
  • a baby pumpkin
  • a werewolf and a witch.

Hot Halloween tips

Here’s a great way of having a successful Halloween in your area. We weren’t sure how many people would be on board – a lot of people just aren’t into it and you don’t want to be knocking on the doors of those people and irritating them. So  my daughter did up some friendly signs and a note which invited people to be involved if they liked by putting out the sign on the night, which we distributed to a small area. We were a bit anxious the day before because we did a quick drive around and could only see one sign out, but on the night, those little paper signs popped up all over the place – along with a whole lot of skeletons, cobwebs and pumpkins and all sorts of spooky paraphernalia. It worked!

Turns out, the people who got involved were super friendly. One couple even had a sheet of prepared scary jokes, of the Christmas cracker ilk but about witches and ghosts and subjected visitors to them before they got to take a treat. There were hanging ghosts, small graves and carved pumpkins and one house had a clothes line strung up with paper bags of treats ready for the taking.


It all happens surprisingly early so be prepared. We started getting door knocks around 5.30pm and it was all pretty wrapped up by 7pm, and it hadn’t even got dark! Takes away a bit of the atmosphere but that’s the timetable that works well for little kids.

The kids had a blast and I think the parents did too, and we met some of the neighbours. In good news, I sent the children home as the youngest started to melt down from the excitement – and I didn’t have to deal with the sugar highs.

I think we may have started a tradition in our house now. Mr T is already dreaming up new inventions and ways to scare the children next year. He just can’t buy anything to make it. I seem to be over my aversion to a foreign celebrations, but you’re still not going to catch me going to Starbucks.

Did you get involved?

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  1. I, like you, am a recent convert to Halloween. In my case, it’s my daughter who has convinced me we all need an excuse for a bit more magic in our lives. We had a great time trick or treating!

    1. Indeed. More magic is always a great thing!

  2. I, like you, am a recent convert to Halloween. In my case, it’s my daughter who has convinced me we all need an excuse for a bit more magic in our lives. We had a great time trick or treating!

    1. Absolutely – who doesn’t need magic in their lives? There’s so much crap going on in the world, it’s important to make or take some fun and joy whenever we can. Glad you enjoyed it too.

  3. We didn’t get any callers, although I was prepared just in case.

    1. Of course you would be prepared! It really seems to be in pockets but our neighbourhood really went off. Hubbie reckons he had 40 groups coming by and 120 kids, while I was with the kids doing the rounds.

  4. I think Halloween has become more popular in Australia over the last decade. I don’t mind it either way and I stocked up on treats for any kids who called in but only had one small group. Of course I live in an area with mostly retirees and there aren’t many school aged children at all.

    I think we get so few things in life to celebrate it’s worth making the most of what we can and taking our joy when we can so I love that people make it special for those around them.

    1. Yes, it’s really in the last 10 years, isn’t it? We were inundated here, but that could be partly because we put out the signs ourselves and probably encouraged it. It’s certainly worthwhile taking the joy whenever we can.

  5. I came from Switzerland where there was no Halloween nor lot of TV that explained what Halloween was. Moved to Canada in 1980 and was 11 at the time. Before internet etc…

    I resisted Halloween for a long time until my kids came along. My second especially is so much into Halloween that it’s hilarious and I feel joyous to be participating alongside her. She’s now fourteen and her emphasis is on making costumes and dressing up and hanging out with her gal pals rather than that candy.

    But all through childhood even the schools got into it with pumpkin carvings and parades and always the costumes.

    Took a long time for me to accept Halloween as a childhood tradition in North America all the while resisting and rejecting the commercialization at the sugar overload. But when I walked the dog with my teen girl and her gal pals to a local party in the neighbourhood last night and watched how joyous the kids were at all the elaborate decorations on many of the houses, and I must admit I felt happy for them too. Especially this year after 16 months of lockdown and 2 cancelled Halloweens. 🎃🙂

    1. Yes, it really is just about having fun dressing up and hanging out with friends and it is nice to see the little ones enjoying it so much. It’s really only taken off quite recently in Australia, certainly when my children were small there wasn’t much around at all. And you’re right, after so much lockdown it’s nice to be out and about.

  6. This was such a fun read Chris, well done on the costumes and for getting involved. Your photos are fabulous and it all look like so much fun, even the guillotine!

    1. Haha, especially the guillotine! It was a hit with the kids, though not literally. The little ones had a whole lot of fun.

  7. I am so glad to see you and the family did enjoy this experience. I am a nay-sayer probably because of 1. too much interruption to our peace at home in past years with older kids who door knocked….2. kids who took all the treats I left out (I had asked take one, and please don’t ring the bell….and my dear Dad, way back not understanding the tradition said “trick” when he had no treats and the kids shot him with a water pistol!! It’s been great to have your blog post linked up for the week on Life This Week.
    Thank you so much. I look forward to seeing you next Monday too. The optional prompt is Sharing Your Snaps (photos).
    And a big thank you for showing your appreciation for guest blogger, Mr Whelan, in 2021.
    Take care, Denyse.

    1. Yes, some don’t want to be involved which is why it worked really well for us to distribute the notes and signs beforehand and then people are free to indicate whether they want to be involved and you don’t have to bother those that don’t. Win win – and no tricks required. We certainly haven’t even told our little ones that’s a possibility.

  8. I truly enjoyed the images from your pre-Halloween experiences and preparation. Talk about FUN. I know it must have been particularly good to get together in the community once lockdown was done…and yes, so done! The family all looked amazing, and I love how you have a treasure trove of dress ups. Glad it all went so well. Take care, Denyse.

    1. It certainly was a lot of fun. I think we might be the masters of fun actually, and of dress-up supplies. Though I am wondering where our witch hat and kimino have disappeared to. Hmmmmm

  9. I must admit I’m a Halloween grinch but it also brings joy to see kids having fun. Loved your pics !

    1. Halloween Grinch – there’s a term I haven’t heard before. I’m all for the fun – no matter the occasion.

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