Each year it comes around and regularly polarises the community. If anything is bound to raise the temperature around the water cooler/barbecue/hairdresser it is Halloween.
With almost clockwork regularity the banshee wails come out: “It is American!” “It is nothing to do with us!” “Kids shouldn’t accept candy from strangers!” (The Americanism in the last one always raises a chuckle.)
But an alternate viewpoint also raised is worth considering: Surely, say the Halloween advocates, there is nothing wrong with an event that gets kids and their parents out in the street meeting their neighbours and having a bit of fun.
Sure, it might be imported, but if it helps build communities it can’t be all bad.
And, really, so what if it is imported? So much of our film and music and even sport (cricket, golf, tennis, football are all from elsewhere) is also imported, why not a night of fun as well?
It seems Halloween has become a convenient whipping post with a lot of misinformation attached to it. While it’s become a big American tradition, its roots are traced back to Pagan Celtic times. The word Halloween is a contraction of All Hallow’s Eve, a time dedicated to remembering the dead.
Trick or treating can also be traced beyond America, to European tradition. So, too, the jack’o’lanterns – hollowed out pumpkins – which have become the symbol of Halloween.
Yes, it has been commercialised but the paraphernalia we see go on sale at the beginning of October would not be on the shelves if there wasn’t a market for it.
And in that sense, how different is it to Christmas or Easter? Those, too, are highly commercialised and technically imported traditions as well. We don’t hear the same outcry over Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.
So it’s probably time we all lightened up a little when it comes to Halloween and looked to some of its likely benefits.
Why pass up the opportunity to have a little fun? Why not get to meet the neighbourhood kids and their parents? And if we’re a little serious about it, why not pause to remember those who have gone before us?
It’s highly unlikely kids donning spooky outfits will lead to a sudden run on turkeys for an Aussie version of Thanksgiving, as some seem to fear.
Our culture is no more at risk than it is Christmas and Easter time.