Jottings on science, religion, technology, pop culture and faith from the Antipodes.

Faith & Religion

Through the looking glass

Today is, if you pay attention to children’s television (particularly on the US-oriented but locally adapted Sky channels) and retail outlets, Halloween. And I have to admit that I’m not a big fan, and it annoys me a many levels. The biggest thing that gets to me isn’t the ‘spiritual’ content that many people I know object to, but rather that the entire concept feels like an imposition from an alien culture. Halloween wasn’t celebrated much when I was a child (if at all), and I can’t ever remember my parents talking about it being common for them. So there’s no tradition of it being celebrated in my community or family, and so the inescapable barrage of messages to celebrate it, spend money on it and make it part of the community’s life grinds on me. It feels like another attempt to impose culture from the US (and lesser extent UK) into this one. Ah, colonialism, my old friend.

The ‘trick or treat’ thing also becomes bizarre too. Firstly, it’s still light outside being daylight saving. Secondly, with no tradition of doing this there are a stream of disappointed children walking up the road wondering why no-one has any treats for them. And lastly, I know the more elderly folks around here don’t like it because, again, there’s no tradition of Halloween so having costumed teenagers banging on your door demanding treats is pretty scary.

Thinking about the whole thing though has made me stop and think about those people who see Christmas and Easter as a cultural imposition. That the message of Christmas, whether religious or commercial, is the thin edge of the wedge, and who want nothing to do with it. In light of my experiences of the minor imposition of Halloween I have more empathy for how they feel, and hope that allows me to separate out what’s really important in those festivals from the stuff that isn’t. And also, what cultural impositions do I ignore or affirm because they resonate with values and traditions that I’m biased towards, and don’t see the damage or annoyance they might do to others?

Also, Steve Hollinghurst has some interesting thoughts on the role of Christendom in Halloween over at On Earth as in Heaven: Removing Christendom from Halloween, and Andii also comments on those thought,s and adds some other ones about how we deal with death at Nouslife: Removing Christendom from Halloween.


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  1. Tim

    Don’t include the UK, Guy Fawkes is the only “big” popular festival in late autumn where I came from. I had to learn what halloween meant to understand TV, though our school (being Anglican) did have special services on All Saints Day (Nov 1st) of which Halloween is the eve (All Hallows Eve).

    On a different but related topic, as a child I rather liked the traditional prayer:

    From ghoulies and ghosties
    and long-leggedy beasties
    and things that go bump in the night
    good Lord preserve us!

    But I don’t remember any association with this season…

  2. It may be that the cultural assimilation of the ‘American’ Halloween in the UK is further along than here. Certainly, from talking to family in the UK it seems to be stronger than it was.

    Of the links on this post, most are in the UK.

    For the record, we only had one (1!) ‘trick or treat’ party at the door this year – which is a stunning drop off from previous years. It was almost as if it didn’t happen. Maybe people’s energy was going into fireworks etc. on Saturday.

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