Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Do we actually need days (or nights)

like Halloween?
We used to have Bonfire Night, November 5th. My father would use it as an occasion to burn some rubbish. My mother would somehow find enough money to spare to put an extra potato each into the ashes and we would eat these half cooked on one side and cinder black on the other. My paternal grandfather would come with a small quantity of the least noisy fireworks. I can remember the first time I was actually permitted to hold a "sparkler" on my own. It was a momentous occasion - and no I did not set fire to myself or anything else.
Bonfire Night was abandoned years ago. Fireworks are only available under very strict rules and supervision in South Australia. It is designed to prevent accidents. Now we have other sorts of accidents instead.
We also have other sorts of nights and days. Many of them seem to come from the United States. We have "Mother's Day" and "Father's Day" and "Valentine's Day". Last year, for the first time, I saw mention of "Thanksgiving".
For some time we have also been treated to Halloween. About twelve years ago some of the previous neighbour's children knocked on our door to "trick or treat". They did not do it the following year. It is likely that they got short shrift or blank looks in most places they tried. Twelve years on however commercial interests are making a more determined push to turn Halloween into an event.
The Whirlwind was offered the opportunity to go 'trick or treating' this Sunday with the other children in her street - under adult supervision. She declined. I heard all about the invitation not long after it was issued. She wriggled with embarrassment even as she told me about it. You do not, in her opinion, go knocking on people's doors asking for anything for yourself - except for help if you need it. I have to agree.
Halloween, as it is 'celebrated' here, is a purely commercial event. The same can be said of Mother's Day and Father's Day. There used to be "Mothering Sunday" - a non-commercial church based event. By no means everyone goes to church so the argument is that Mother's Day is needed and that we also need Father's Day for gender equality. Mother's Day and Father's Day are now designed for commercial interests to tell us we should be giving parents expensive presents. Valentine's Day requires bunches of roses and boxes of chocolates - at least according to the commercials. I do not think Thanksgiving will get too far in Australia but we do have Australia Day, Anzac Day, Easter, the Queen's Birthday, Labour Day and Melbourne Cup Day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day to name a few. All of them, according to commercial interests, are for the express opportunity of throwing a party or buying a present for someone.
I like giving presents to people. I admit I watch anxiously as people unwrap things - have I chosen the right thing? Most of the time my immediate clan give books, occasionally something for the garden, or something we have made. We do not do big, flashy or expensive. We do not fuss. We do not need commercial interests to tell us what we want to celebrate.
Now, how do we handle Halloween?

6 comments:

Joanna St. James said...

ha ha I would keep on giving the kids blank stares (one of the rules of trick or treating is you go to houses decorated not just anybody's door). As fun as it is for Americans I just never got into it, I lived in a university town and all I remember is the morning after, everywhere would be TPed (toilet papered)and just dirty.
But I guess its fun for them and if it makes you happy then by all means celebrate it.
In Corsica the towns Xmas lights have been strung up.

Frances said...

In N.S.W. "bonfire night" was Empire Day, 26th May, until it was banned. No November 5th, although I remember a teacher once mentioning Guy Fawkes.
Btw: I persist with N.S.W., but I understand that, for whatever reason, it is now NSW.

catdownunder said...

Lights? Already? Way too early - although there are other reminders. I have no intentions of celebrating - I think we might be "not at home".
We did not have Empire Day Frances - although I remember a Commonwealth Day (which might not be a bad idea - give our young ones an idea that they belong to the world rather than just Australia?)

Frances said...

Perhaps I am older than you, Cat: Commonwealth day, which pretty well fizzled, came here later. Empire Day was in the 1940s. We used to be given a small cardboard Union Jack to wear, plus a pin to pin it. I seem to think that it was Queen Victoria's birthday, or some such.
My parents, Depression survivors, thought that fireworks were like burning pound notes, so we didn't indulge at my home.

Donna Hosie said...

I cannot abide this dreadful tradition of Halloween. For 364 days of the year, I teach my kids not to take candy from strangers, but apparently dress like a witch and it is suddenly okay?

Not in my house! Bah humbug!

catdownunder said...

It does make you wonder about the mixed messages - quiet night in at our place I hope!