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Mim meets Montreal

by Mim Kempson October 21, 2014
Mim meets Montreal

Episode 4: In which Mim searches for the true meaning of Halloween

So, Halloween is on the horizon and pumpkins are everywhere. Back in Australia we love pumpkin, but we don’t carve faces into them: Halloween isn’t really a “thing.” Why, though? Mystified, I did some investigative research.

This weekend I went to the Jean Talon market with some friends for the pumpkin festival. The moment that I saw the pumpkin stalls I was flabbergasted. “Holy moly!” I exclaimed a little too loudly, a couple of people looking towards me. “Uhhh, it’s just an ordinary vegetable…” they were probably thinking.

Photo by Sara Baron-Goodman.

Yes, true, but in Australia I had only really seen the humble butternut squash or Japanese pumpkin. As for those cartoon-esque Halloween pumpkins, they’re just a day-to-day occurrence here, lining Montreal’s commercial streets and supermarkets. They’re everywhere in October, yet the jack o’ lantern is still, to me, a novelty.

According to Celtic history, Halloween is based on the rituals commemorating tasks demanded by the passing of autumn into winter. As each day gets darker and more foreboding in North America, we are reminded that winter is on its way, as apparently are ghosts. The 31st of October marked the division between the light and dark halves of the year. It marked the rift between the lands of the living and dead, whereby wandering souls could visit the living. I’m sure this information has left you fearing for your life and you’re wondering how you could possibly ward off these evil spirits. With costumes, of course. Over yonder in Australia it’s currently almost 30 degrees: wintery ghosts are nowhere to be seen. Surely that’s a legit explanation for why Australians don’t dress up for Halloween, right?

Clearly this wasn’t a sufficient answer, so I looked further. Apparently only two percent of Australians consider Halloween to be “very important,” according to McCrindle Research, an Australian social research company. This might explain the time when my five friends and I dressed up for Halloween, strolled the streets of Melbourne and were stopped by two giggling Japanese girls who wanted to take our picture because they thought we’d come straight from a cosplay. People looked at us oddly, me dressed as Little Red Riding Hood and another friend as a skeleton. Perhaps it was the fact that we were twenty-something-year-olds (and not “trick-or-treating” children) dressed in ridiculous costumes that confounded them.

Now at the end of my search, it appears that I cannot offer many answers as to why Halloween is not as widely celebrated in Australia. That just makes a better reason to join in with all the festivities while I’m here! Someone get me a pumpkin.

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