It’s Halloween. A decade ago I wouldn’t have known that, but in the past 10 years, not only have I been exposed to daily American culture through the Internet, but Halloween has become an Australian festival (if festival is the right word).
I first glimpsed some children trick or treating in my neighbourhood about six years ago. At the time, I had a toddler who was totally unimplicated in that sort of behaviour, so I could afford to think of it purely in a critical way, as the importation of an American custom — as cultural imperialism.
Nowadays, I have a child who enjoys dressing up, going door to door and getting sweets. I enjoy his enjoyment. I enjoy seeing the gangs of kids, always accompanied by an adult or two, roaming the neighbourhood in costume on Halloween.
In the back of my mind, I still think it’s cultural imperialism, not to mention seasonal imperialism — Halloween is very much an autumnal festival (or Fall, as the Americans say.) The English have municipally-run bonfires and fireworks at this time of year. I wonder why Australia didn’t stick with Guy Fawkes night (at least there’s some historical continuity in relation to the Westminster system of parliament and it’s a rebel’s story) or a wintry Bonfire Night celebration — a communal get-together that’s not based around commercial junk food.
But the Halloween horse has bolted, at least in our neck of the woods.