Why We Need Halloween
Author: Michelle McCosker Date Posted:1 November 2018
Photo: sverhnova © 123RF.com
Is death really too hard to talk about?
Not on Halloween in Australia! People dressed up as zombies, vampires, ghouls, witches, Day of the Dead’s Catrina, and so much more. People inventing their own horror stories…
My son was a death dragon with two sets of wings and a chainsaw. My daughter a black moth – lovely sequinned wings and a torn black tutu.
And amongst others we saw ‘Climate Change’ and a ‘Needle in a Strawberry’.
Online was ablaze with inventive costume creations. Such a lot of fun, such a connection point for local communities, and such a gentle, humorous softening of otherwise intense topics.
There we were on October 31st joking about death! Laughing at horror stories, making bad puns, and donning as much gory fake-blood as possible. And it's funny!
But it hasn’t always been this way – Halloween hasn’t always been a thing in Australia. I remember being a kid in the 90s and my sister and I were the only ones dressed up on our street. We carved a Queensland Blue pumpkin that took days and days. It was so hard that we must have gone through our dad’s whole tool kit trying to find the right gouging instrument. The eyes had to be simple squares, and we stopped carving at the eyes as it was so hard. Honestly, I can say it now without my ego being hurt, it did not look that amazing.
In Australia, we still hear the ‘Americanisation of our culture’ arguments against celebrating Halloween. That seems to overlook the facts that this pagan festival has roots in Mexico’s ‘Dia de los Muertos’ and the Irish ‘Oíche Shamhna’, where instead of pumpkins, turnips are carved. And putting a distinctly local spin on the day, we saw quite a few carved watermelons this year…even a few pineapples – awesome with their spikey, spunky leaf hairdos! A little step towards making it our own.
Halloween’s a time when community comes together in an atmosphere of fun and openness. Out there on the street with your kids, neighbours chatting at their front gates, being mock-scared by the costumes, and the KIDS, all loving it!
So why is death so tricky to talk about, even laugh about, every other day of the year? What is it that puts us on-guard, tenses us up and stops the flow of natural conversation?
Is it fear? Mortality? Grief of our own loved ones who have died?
Probably all of the above. And here is where there is work to be done.
Speaking from the heart can become the norm in our society. We can be OK with sadness, and with the fear of dying. And we can feel comfortable with not knowing what to say. And if we can laugh about death, we can begin to talk about it and begin to heal.
This is where Halloween comes in… WhoooooooooOOOOOOooooo…
Let's get into it!