Happy Halloween, all! Are you celebrating this year?

Last night while out walking Andy The Dog, I saw a few houses decorated for Trick or Treating. Halloween does seem to be catching on here in Australia, though as I wrote in my latest post on A Beach Cottage, I wonder if some of the nicer bits are being lost in translation. It's certainly the more garish, commercial elements of Halloween that have made it over from North America to Oz, and I've found myself more than once this month in the 'seasonal decorations' aisle of my local Coles wondering, where did all the old fashioned fun go?

First, lets talk about the costumes. I grew up in Toronto and in my neighbourhood, costumes didn't come from a big chain store. My mom would help my brother and I cobble together our disguises from the dress up drawer and our grandparents closets, we'd pick up the odd accessory from a party store (it's tough to DIY a wig or a comfortable pair of Dracula fangs!) plus there was always something custom made by mom. Her bed-sheet ghost costume with cutout eyes and a baseball cap stitched into the top of the head so it wouldn't slide off as I ran from house to house was a work of pure engineering genius! Creatively, I reckon her best work was the Monster-Indian getup pictured above (I wanted it all... feathers and a cape... monster and Indian... 1987 was an indecisive year for little me.)

Second, there's the Jack o'Lantern. For us it's the totem around which Halloween happens, (kinda like a Christmas tree in December) so I'm always surprised how few Australians have heard about them. I wrote about this in my post on Sarah's blog too, but basically carving the Jack o'Lantern is where the best family fun time is at... it's messy, it's arty-crafty, and it also serves a key function on Halloween night. Sitting a carved pumpkin with a lit candle burning inside by the front door is what signifies the your house is participating in Trick or Treating - it's kid code for 'friendly neighbours & free candy here'.

Let's face it, every holiday and festival in the calendar can become super commercialised (and lose its real value in the process) if we let it, but it doesn't have to (completely) be that way. I hope this afternoon you'll buy a pumpkin to muck around with, pull out the old dress-up box and have a play, or even look up a not-too-scary ghost story to tell while the family sits around the kitchen table... Traditions have to start somewhere, right? And it's so much more fun when we take charge and make them our own way.

Catherine Roberts