Great, I thought, an opportunity to relate something current to a Christian message in my little article. I was wrong. Halloween does have its origins in Christian festivals (as All Hallows Eve, a festival of praying for saints and souls about to enter Heaven), but the frolics and parties in our neighbourhood streets have little to do with that, and I think it is best to not try and lever a connection.

What has evolved from a blend of pagan and Christian tradition, and fuelled by commercialism, is a social festival, a celebration of having the young amongst us and the joy that the laughter in little voices brings.

Tomorrow night, Gold Coast streets will be full of tiny caped and masked marauders threatening terror if their lolly buckets aren’t filled. Adults have already spent over-budget to be prepared to comply, not out of fear of the little monsters but instead of being known as “those” neighbours who have no lollies and therefore must have no hearts.

My wife and I have set a pattern of being a go-to stop for these costumed beggars, just for the joy of it. I set up spooky sounds in our garage, we hang spidery webs from our shade sails, and even occasionally dress up (me a ghastly clown, she a purple witch). I have found that I can inflict my own little horror on the urchins as they reach in to get their booty by snapping the bottom of the lolly bag which causes the items to dance crazily like little demons. Oh, the shrieks. I am judicious in my choice of candidates, most laugh, teens sneer and “phht”, but none have cried. Yet.

All of this plays out under the watchful eyes of the guardians of the ghouls. The parents and carers, some also in costume, many with their own sugary (usually fermented) confection - in liquid form – chat with each other in the street. They also often chat with us. We rarely know each other’s names, but what we do share is a sense, for this one night, of being a community.

And here is the point, Halloween in Australia in the 21st century is a celebration of neighbourhood. Where people who live close to each other share a sense of belonging to each other. Where children encounter adults who, though not related by blood or friendship, share the gifts of acceptance and laughter with them.

The fact that nearly every other message children receive is about wariness around strangers, and the hectic round of school, work, music and multiple sports obligations, means that real community is not often found in Australian neighbourhoods. We live in houses bounded by 6 foot fences, or on sprawling acreage, or in dense high walled apartment and unit blocks where no one plays in the street and community is sometimes only experienced as a shy wave and a quiet hello when there is a coincidence of arrival or departure at driveways.

Our desire should be to change this, and those who have turned their neighbourhoods back into communities will attest to the value of doing so, but for most of us we need to settle for what is offered to us. This weekend, it is a carnival of little people who know nothing of the history, and care not much for their loot, they just want to have fun and laugh. It is not time for the grown ups to judge or analyse, but for this night to become children too and marvel at the joy.

Subscribe to our newsletter