In Tam O’ Shanter, a farmer named Tam staggers out of an epic drinking session in a tavern and stupidly rides home past a haunted churchyard. Tam sees a witches’ dance with corpses bearing candles and the devil playing the pipes.
Halloween balls and revels appeared across Australia, from Alice Springs and Parap in the Northern Territory to Launceston in Tasmania. You’d find Halloween celebrations in every state including Rockhampton, Brisbane and Cairns in Queensland; Adelaide, Mount Gambier and Balaklava in South Australia; Bendigo, Melbourne, Williamstown, Sunshine and Dandenong in Victoria; Kalgoorlie, Perth, Fremantle and Dangin in Western Australia; and Broken Hill, Glen Innes, Lithgow and Lismore in New South Wales.
Halloween Balls remained popular across Australia into the 20th Century. In 1937 in Mudgee, there was a grand Halloween Ball held in the Mechanics Institute Hall. This was a masked ball with a prize of half a guinea for the best costume. A witch was advertised and a real Scots ‘spaewife’ – a fortune teller – would read your future. The advert reads: “Midnight is the hour of mystic spell and weird enchantment when ‘ghaists and bogles’ are about.”
World War II saw American GIs arrive in Australia. They chewed gum, played basketball, danced the jitterbug and brought their own version of Halloween celebrations. But it’s American movies and TV shows that have made most Australians think that Halloween is a recent import from the USA.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Mean Girls, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Friends, The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror, Brooklyn 99, John Carpenter’s Halloween, Stranger Things and Halloweentown are just a few of the US Halloween TV and movie imports you might have seen.
But Halloween is not some American thing that only arrived in Australia a handful of years ago. Halloween has been celebrated in Australia for more than 160 years; before Australia became a nation, before Waltzing Matilda was written, before Vegemite and thongs, before Ugg Boots and Mad Max, AC/DC and Kylie, and before the first Aussie Rules football was kicked.
Sure, it’s taken us a lot longer to embrace it than the Americans, but more and more people are starting to realise that Halloween is a fun celebration that the whole family can take part in.
You can get to know your neighbours and wider community through well organised, and of course, fully supervised, trick or treating events and what kid (or adult!) doesn’t like to dress up in a cool costume?!
They don’t have to be horror themed either … you can go as a superhero, a TV or movie character or a famous person in history. Heck, you could even go as your next door neighbour or boss if you wanted to – it’s all about having fun! And well, the lollies too 😉