On Thursday evening we’re expecting trick or treaters to come knocking on our door. We’re not expecting many. Actually only one group of dressed-up children has ever arrived at our house, hoping we'll give them candy.

Halloween isn’t big in Australia. Of course the shops are all stocked with black and orange spooky stuff. They wouldn't miss a marketing opportunity. They’re hoping to make a killing. But people aren’t buying. There’s not much demand for hairy spiders and squishy eyeballs here. Next week they’ll be a huge post-Halloween sale. Half-priced dead men’s fingers. I can hardly wait.

Like most people we haven’t bought any Halloween candy. Anyone that comes knocking on our front door will be very disappointed.  I feel sorry about that but Halloween is just not something we do. I don't feel comfortable with it at all.

I'm not comfortable with strangers knocking on our door either. I’m a ‘no thank you’ kind of person. Even before a salesman has opened his mouth, the words have left my lips. Of course I smile. I’m polite. But I’m firm. Except when it comes to my Jehovah’s Witness lady. I smile and I'm polite but I don't mind talking to her at all. I guess she's trying to sell me something too, but she’s very friendly. And there's no chance she's going to persuade me. I’ll tell you about her another day… Salesmen I don't like but what about children? Yes, I can deal with them knocking on my door. I wouldn't say 'no thank you' to them. But Imogen would.

Last Halloween when our one and only group of spooky kids came calling, she opened the door and said, “No thank you,” politely but firmly.

“Are you sure, ‘No thank you’ was the right thing to say?” I asked her. “They weren’t salesmen. They didn’t come to offer us anything. They came to receive.”

Imogen shrugged her shoulders, “They didn’t protest. They just turned round and went away.”

"I guess ‘no thank you’ did the trick."

“Aren’t they the ones who are supposed to do a trick?” asked Charlotte. "If you don't give them candy, aren't they suppose to do something terrible to you?"

“Well, they didn’t threaten to do a trick,” answered Imogen. 'Even if we'd asked for one, I don't think they'd have known what to do."

It seems Australian children aren’t very good when it comes to Halloween, at least the few we've come in contact with. Their education is obviously deficient.

Talking about education, this week’s parish bulletin contained an article about Halloween. The bishop has noticed that it is trying to infiltrate our Australian culture. He's not saying our children shouldn't celebrate Halloween. But he wants to make sure our children know its real meaning.

It was quite an interesting article. I was aware Halloween has its roots in the celebration of All Saints Day, being celebrated on the eve of that day. I could have guessed the witches and devils represent evil. But I didn't know that trick or treating represents forgiveness and repentance. Or that Jack-o'-Lantern represents the self-centredness of man who thinks he can get to heaven by himself without any help.The bishop suggests our children dress up as skeletons and skulls, rather than evil witches. Skeletons and skulls at least remind us that one day we will die and that we should pray for the dead.

But I don’t think we’ll be dressing up as anything. We won’t be buying candy and spooky stuff. We'll enjoy all the photos of my American friends' Halloween celebrations instead. Our children will have to wait until All Saints and All Souls Days to do any celebrating and commemorating. We'll just do things our regular way.  

And if any ghost or witch or skeleton comes knocking on the door, hoping for candy, we’ll send Imogen to say, “No thank you!” Except that sounds rather mean. The kids might be disappointed if we don't offer them a treat. Do you think they’d like a prayer or a holy card instead? 




Image: Friendly pumpkin by Anders Lageras, (CC BY-SA 3.0)
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  1. I've had an education here today - thanks! I never knew that trick or treating represents forgiveness and repentance. Or that Jack-o'-Lantern represents the self-centeredness of man. Too bad these points are lost on almost everyone!

    Australian friends (the ones we stayed with in WA) visited us one October, and were SHOCKED at how many American yards were decorated with ghosts and ghoulies. Ours was not, but the neighborhood was full of such displays. Our friends said "we don't do that in Australia!!!" What a strange thing to celebrate, they said.

    Our family didn't celebrate Halloween when the children were growing up. We would leave the house for the evening, darken the house (which lets trick or treaters in the US know not to stop at that house... or it's supposed to, anyway). We'd go to vigil Mass and then out for dinner and some candy treats (after all, in the kids' eyes, everyone ELSE was "having fun"). Now the little grandchildren and their parents trick or treat, and I happily oooh and aaah over costumes (princesses and elephants... the 'scariest' thing they ever did was a friendly dragon) and bring out my camera.

    Oh, and I do taste test a bit of candy. After all, someone's gotta do it..... .

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    1. Nancy,

      I was reading about Halloween online earlier today. It seems the tradition has changed over time. Originally children used to ask for a treat or cake in return for them saying prayers for the dead. At one point children used to perform (like carol singers) in exchange for their treats. Guising or dressing in disguise originated in Scotland if I remember correctly. And trick or treating began in the US around the 1930s.

      Our bishop was concerned that our children don't glorify evil by dressing up as devils and witches. I think that's what I don't like. Maybe if the emphasis was more on defeating evil...

      Yes, Halloween has only recently arrived in Australia. Perhaps it has been encouraged by retailers who want to make more money. Not a lot of people are responding though.

      We could darken our house on Halloween too! That would avoid having to send Imogen out to say, "no thank you."

      You are quite right that dressing up and candy are lots of fun. It does sound sad that little children have to miss out on these when everyone else is out enjoying themselves. And I think you're such a great grandmother for taste testing the candy. Who else would want that job?

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  2. Sue, like you and Nancy, I don't care for all the Halloween stuff either. My son did go trick or treating...one year dressed as a Franciscan monk :) He was so cute. The only decorations we ever had were a pumpkin or two. Once he was about 12, that was the end of Halloween for us. Now my husband and I do what Nancy did and just leave the house in darkness and go out to dinner somewhere until it's all over.

    In the U.S., Halloween is really out of control. It's a much bigger deal than when my son was growing up 30 years ago. You see hideous decorations everywhere, and the costumes they sell for little kids are truly offensive. I think the secular culture is really pushing it and trying to compete with Christian holydays. I'm looking forward to All Saints and All Souls Days. And, I have given out holy cards, accompanied by a piece of candy to the trick or treaters before. But, I'd much rather skip the whole deal. Stil, like Nancy said, no harm in feasting on some candy. I just buy it for us :) Congratulations to Australians for having better sense than to dress up their children as ghoulish and evil characters. Yuk!

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    1. Patricia,

      I can just imagine a Franciscan monk costume! It seems lots of people have saints parades on All Saints Day rather than celebrate Halloween. We haven't done this for a long time but I do remember a year when Felicity won a prize for her saint's costume. She dressed up as St Margaret Clitherow and then had to give a short speech about that saint.

      I wonder what the children thought of your holy cards. When I was a child and didn't know anything about religion, I yearned for some holy cards. A friend had some which she kept in her Bible and they fascinated me. I thought they were very special. I would have loved to receive some cards!

      There is an old church at the cemetery where Thomas is buried. It is only used on All Saints Eve or is that All Souls Day? I forget and as I'm tired I can't work out which is more appropriate! Anyway, the priest blesses lots of tea light candles which the children place on the graves. They then pray for the Holy Souls. Thomas' birthday is in November, and although he doesn't need prayers, I was really touched to see a candle on his grave one year. I think that's a lovely tradition.

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  3. Sue I am with you in saying no thank you to Halloween. Inmfactnyour post got me to blog about this topic even though I don't give Halloween much attention. Thank you! And don't reply with no thank you, okay?

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    1. Anabelle,

      You are so funny! Never 'no thank you' to you. Always 'no thank you' to Halloween. I'll be over to read your post. Can't wait to see what you were inspired to write after reading my little story.

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    2. We just leave a note on the post box, saying that we do not celebrate it. Thank goodness it is not a big thing here, but it is on the increase.

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    3. Natalie,

      A note on the post box? That's a great idea! Actually we might put such a note on our front door this year. I'm sure the kids would just read it and then go try another house.

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