There are some weeks when I just think a lot. This week I’ve been thinking about all kinds of things. A lot of them have been Halloween related – for several reasons. The first reason is that I have a short story in the anthology The Cat the Crow and the Cauldron which is by a group of authors who befriended each other online. Clearly it’s Halloween themed, and as it’s free, it’s been picked up by a lot of people, and has attracted a number of rather nice reviews.
Roast Pumpkin, my short story, tells Anna’s story. She was forced to move to the US from Australia by her parents (work!) and is experiencing her first Halloween – and ends up with more of an out-of-this-world adventure than she bargained for.
Secondly, I live in Australia, and until recently, Halloween has been a non-event here, with most people ignoring it. Due to what I’d describe as the power of commercialism, combined with a more connected world, Halloween is now in every shopping centre and major retail outlet, and has now made its way to pretty well every corner of Australia.
I have pagan friends who celebrate Halloween (you can check out Janis’ blog post here) as part of their yearly celebrations, much as Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter, and there are others who have chosen to hop on board the traditions brought here from other countries. We are a multicultural society.
I have mixed feelings about Halloween. As a kid, I grew up in a culture that didn’t celebrate Halloween or Valentine’s Day at all. In fact, I remember looking them up in an encyclopaedia (yes, I am that old) to find out what they were, after reading a Nancy Drew or Three Investigators book. (Or it may have been the Peanuts cartoons.) For my overseas readers, you’ll probably be incredulous that I had to do that, but it might put into perspective why various Australians feel very differently about the 31st of October.
You see, I’ve been following the local community Facebook pages having ‘discussions’ about whether kids should trick-or-treat, and whether we should be opting in or opting out. I live in a rural town in New South Wales, Australia. It’s not particularly large, or even particularly small (you can drive across the town in ten minutes) but there’s about 16,000 or so people living here. The community Facebook pages have had a variety of comments left on them over the last week or two.
One began something like “If you’re not going to want trick-or-treaters, leave a note on the door.” A discussion ensued. It was full of the “It’s not an Australian holiday!!!!!!!” and “I just want my kids to have fun” extremes. Elsewhere I’ve had friends post about the evils of Halloween (as in spiritual evils) and others posting about celebrating Samhain, which is celebrated between summer and winter, while of course it’s currently between winter and summer here. (If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, look up what Beltane and Samhain are.)
My personal opinion is that if people wish to celebrate Halloween, by all means let them do so. Having said that, I don’t believe that I need to ‘opt out’ of it, as it’s not a well founded cultural or traditional celebration (yet) in this country. It’s probably more about people ‘opting in’ and indicating in some fashion that they have done so. I also have mixed feelings about taking your kids to knock on the doors of perfect strangers, looking for lollies…
Having said all of that, if my neighbours had wished to celebrate Halloween, I would probably have wandered over to admire their decorations, just as I admire Christmas decorations. At this point, it’s still quite polarising here in Australia, so it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years.
I’ve also been thinking about being a nerd/geek. Clearly I like science fiction and fantasy, but a confession: I like Halo. Ever since our youngest son introduced me to the first Xbox game, I’ve liked it, and of course Halo 5 came out this week. Needless to say, I played Halo today. Apart from shooting aliens, Halo has a great story, which I’ve followed not only in the games, but I confess to having read a couple of Halo books. I also confess to playing Runescape. 🙂
I also like talking about Star Wars, Dr Who, Pern, The Stormlight Archive, YA Dystopia, Stargate, Marvel Movies and I’ve recently become addicted to both Teen Wolf and Orphan Black.
I am clearly a nerd, or a geek, or whatever combination of the two you’d like to subscribe to. (I just looked the definitions up and they seem to be poorly defined.)
In the end, the one thing that all of the above have in common is stories. Stories are powerful. They enthral us, teach us, and provide hours of enjoyment. I’m reminded each time I read one, play one, or watch one, that stories remind us of hope, humanity and the idea that how it is, isn’t how it always has to be.
Stories are powerful. For as long as humanity has been around, we’ve told stories. We’ve used them to maintain our histories and our traditions, to illustrate faith and science, and for pure enjoyment. They are, in every way, wonderful, and I’m very happy that my own storytelling has made people happy.