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A ghost or a grinch, which one are you?

By Olivia Shying

In a few weeks it will be October 31. The spookiest night of the year.  People either love this night or hate it.

This contentious holiday is Halloween.

When I was a young child in the late 90’s, Halloween was not really a “thing”.

It was an American holiday that we didn’t really ‘do’ here.

Not anymore.

The past two years Halloween has exploded. In both 2011 and 2012, at my house we had over 40 trick-or-treaters knocking at the door.

All holidays are increasingly becoming commercialised. It’s only October and Target already has Christmas trees on display. But despite this comercialisation, no holiday seems to be more commercially driven than Halloween.

Coles and Safeway are currently selling carving pumpkins for over 20 dollars each. Little Jack-O-Lantern buckets, fake spider webs and ghostly lollies adorn the aisles.

Unsurprisingly, conversations about whether or not we should celebrate Halloween in Australia have been popping up everywhere online. Here is a blog post about the increasing trend.

Last year, News.com.au ran this story which included for and against arguments for celebrating Halloween. The for arguments were petty typical – all holidays are commercial, we happily embrace the snowy images of Christmas even though it is scorching hot here. The against argument put simply, Halloween is not culturally relevant here.

Alongside the article was a poll. 22% of people said they would let their kids trick-or-treat, but over 78% said they wouldn’t.

Given all the marketing and media attention that this holiday has garnered, Australia’s lack of interest in Halloween is somewhat surprising.

This raises the question: do Australian’s really want to celebrate Halloween, or have they been coerced into doing so by retailers, social media and television shows?

So where did our relatively recent interest in Halloween come from? Yes it is often in movies. ET, Hocus Pocus, Casper to name a few. It is referred to in The Real Housewives series and also in books and films like Harry Potter.

Another, perhaps more worrying influence, is the commercial influence. Brands like Cadbury, Allens and Mars all make special Halloween treats. You can buy ‘screme eggs‘, ghoul jelly lollies and witch chocolate bars. The first time I really noticed Halloween in Australia was a few years ago when my local supermarket  confectionary aisle was covered in fake spider webs and spiders.

A few days ago the IBT Australia published this article on the partying hotspots for Halloween 2013.

Last year Woolworths recorded a 30% increase in Halloween related sales, saying that they expected to sell over 100,000 carving pumpkins. Social researcher Mark McKrindle said the increased presences of Halloween was “largely retail lead”.

Halloween may not be all bad. Having kids trick-or-treating and running around in the street creates a nice vibe and community feeling.

But, shouldn’t we at least be aware when are being manipulated for the sole purpose of commercial gain?

Just in case you can’t get enough of Halloween, check out this twitter account. They’ve been counting down since May.

Oh, and this light up house may get even the biggest Halloween grinch in the spirit.

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