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Origins of Halloween and should we have it in Australia?

Halloween Pumpkin

Some might argue that Halloween is an American tradition and an overly commercialised by-product of a consumer driven society and economy. Others argue that it's an older tradition than that, of religious and cultural significance too. Others-still see it simply as a chance for frivolity and a time to celebrate and dress up in spooky costumes, just for fun.

Should Australians celebrate Halloween and how does it fit into our multicultural society? Understanding the origins of Halloween may help.

The origins of Halloween are Celtic in tradition and have to do with observing the end of summer at a time called Samhain. It was the beginning of the Celtic year, a time between the bountiful harvest of summer and the harshness of winter, and it was a time of feasting as livestock was culled for the winter months.

Some say that the during this time, the Celts believed that the veil between worlds grows thin and evil spirits of the deceased could enter the mortal realm and wreak havoc. It became tradition to disguise oneself as an evil spirit in order to go undetected - hence the tradition today. Believe it or not most Halloween practices can be traced back to old pagan rites and superstitions.

But what’s with all the pumpkins?

Well, the answer is that no one knows. We know that the tradition of carving grotesque faces into gourds, turnips and ground vegetables probably began in Ireland but no one knows whether they were to simply represent the evil spirits, to ward them off, or to trick them in some way.

Halloween Children Costumes

Christians also celebrate All Hallows Eve the day before, a remembrance of the dead and of faithful saints.

Fast forward to a young America. As immigrants from Ireland and Europe poured into the country, the tradition of celebrating that time of year with costumes caught on and the idea of "trick-or-treating" became prevalent. Since then it has become a commercial driving force with every business and brand trying to get in on the Halloween celebrations.

So, what does that mean for us in Australia in a modern world and in the southern hemisphere where summer and winter are reversed?

Some Christians believe that Halloween should be avoided on religious grounds, while others allow their children to participate with more innocent costumes such as pumpkins or superheroes. Others, religious or not, refuse to participate in Halloween because they see it as over-commercialised or as a distinctly American tradition. Then there’s the people who just love it for what it is.

Whatever your persuasion, we hope you have a fantastic Halloween this weekend!

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