Did you know that Australians donâ€™t do Halloween? Well, they celebrate it, but they donâ€™t actually do Halloween. They dress up a little bit and thereâ€™s been talk of candy the last few years, but the overwhelming impression is that Australians just donâ€™t get Halloween.
See, in America, Halloween is an expressive time. You can become anything or anyone in the universe. For a seasoned American, this limit is regularly taken to extremes with obscure, absurd and complex costumes. Itâ€™s a truly beautiful thing. The thrill of walking into your 3rd Halloween party for the year dressed in your best costume yet and seeing a room filled with characters and objects and scary things â€“ only some of which you can make sense of â€“ is hard to put into words. Itâ€™s a natural high. Itâ€™s purely wonderful.
In Australia, Halloween is â€¦ how can I put this nicely? Itâ€™s awkward. According to my research, less than .005 percent of Australianâ€™s will go into full-Halloween mode because thereâ€™s 75% chance that the company they keep will not participate at all. In America, 98% of the country participates, both in the personal and professional realm and if you donâ€™t dress up or at least hand out candy or watch a scary movie, youâ€™re the weirdo.
So participation is a problem in Australia, to say the least. And on the off chance that semi-interested Australians do participate in the best holiday ever brought into existence, all but that brave .005 percent will wear half-hearted costumes, many unfinished â€“ clothes but no makeup, makeup without proper attire. In fact, at least 10% of costumed Australians will wear only a single accessory such as a hat, a headband, or sunglasses. A portion will simply wear a colored T-shirt.
Which is really outrageous because in a country where an entire costume can rely on a single, inconspicuous item, there are a lot of costumes that are actually frowned upon here.
Has anyone in America have ever said to you during your Halloween costume brainstorm session, â€œYou canâ€™t be that for Halloween. Thatâ€™s not a costume.â€ Absolutely NOT. There is nothing in the universe that is NOT a Halloween costume. There are costumes that are not good costumes, sure, and pretty much all of those can be found in Australia.
Which brings me to what I believe is the root of the problem: costume selection.
Imagine if Halloween came around and the only stores stocking retail costumes were Biglotsâ€™ and local grocery stores. Otherwise, you could rent a costume from a theatre company.
Well, thatâ€™s life in Australia. You can pretty much be a witch, a pirate, a nurse or an unidentified bloody thing if you go shopping or, if you can locate a party hire shop within a 100km radius, you can fork out a bunch of cash and enjoy your Victorian Woman costume for a single day.
Okay, well, the party hire places in Australia do offer more than just theatre costumes. You can be like, an Easter bunny or Santa and I hear thereâ€™s an assortment of hats and glasses and character costumes too. But theyâ€™re expensive and the options are limited, not to mention, the sweaty bunny costumes are kind of, well, already sweated in.
I think thatâ€™s why 99% of all Americans who participate in Australian Halloween make their own costumes. I have literally never met an American who has not had a DIY costume whilst celebrating in Australia, but I have to leave room for error with my statistics, thus the missing 1 percent.
This year, the best DIY costume was Party Hard Andrew W. K. nose-bleeding some of the best homemade blood Iâ€™ve ever seen. I stopped the girl in costume to compliment her artistry and shower her with admiration for being the only Australian that I had ever met who seemed to really understand what Halloween is all about, but I was sadly brought back to reality when she thanked me with an American accent. Just when I thought I had finally met an Australian who had really done Halloween proud, I was reminded that itâ€™s only 2017 and Halloween still doesnâ€™t exist here.
And of course, the girl who won the costume contest was American. She was a gory Queen of Hearts with exceptional DIY blood work and an extravagantly modified rental costume. I met a British Chucky who really nailed it, right down to the Good Guys patch on her overalls â€“ a feature that mostly prompted a â€˜What does that mean?â€™ from all who encountered her. There was a New Zealander dressed as John Wayne Gacy who was also misunderstood and merely referred to as â€œa scary clown.â€
And then I would say that aside from the unfinished pirate costumes and half-hearted accessory displays, about 40% of Australian Halloween goers wore sugar skull makeup.
Now, my Australian sister-in-law believes that this is because Australians donâ€™t want to support â€˜American Halloweenâ€™ and would rather pay homage to â€˜Mexican Halloween.â€™
I have trouble entertaining this idea, mostly because 90 percent of all Australians pronounce queso as â€˜kway-sohâ€™ and tortillas as â€˜tor-till-uhsâ€™ just like Napoleon Dynamite. Iâ€™ve also been to Mexican restaurants advertising Buffalo Wing Night (and buffalo wings donâ€™t even exist here). And while I totally accept that Spanish is not the most prevalent language in the world, I have to tell you that most Australians cannot speak a lick of it (which is why it so profoundly affects their English) so itâ€™s hard for me to take any of them seriously when they tell me theyâ€™re celebrating Mexican Halloween.
I guess the strongest argument I have is that I donâ€™t actually think Australians understand that â€˜Dia de Los Muertosâ€™ isnâ€™t just Spanish for â€˜Halloweenâ€™. Iâ€™m also under the strong impression that most Australians donâ€™t actually know that Day of the Dead celebrations are actually in November. And then of course, you know, thereâ€™s the fundamental difference of our American Halloween tradition being specifically based on fearing the dead while Day of the Dead is more about celebrating, welcoming and remembering the dead.
But aside from misinterpreting the very essence of Halloween and being ill-prepared in the costume sales department, there is one other main issue I need to address: the parties.
In America, hereâ€™s how Halloween parties work:
The costume theme for the night is, above all, Halloween. Depending on the type of party you attend, there might be a contest for the scariest costume, the funniest costume, the sexiest costume or the most creative costume. If itâ€™s an annual party with the same crowd, themes might emerge to encourage creativity, but generally, you can be whatever the fuck you want and the decorations are creepy and bountiful.
Hereâ€™s how Halloween parties donâ€™t work:
80s night Halloween in Australia. In America, I would allow this. But you must first learn the rules before you can break them, and in Australia, the basic concept of Halloween is so far out of touch with reality that itâ€™s completely unacceptable for this level of specificity in a Halloween party. And yet, on October 31st, I attended an 80s and/or Halloween party.
I saw ONE girl who nailed the brief. She was a zombie wearing unmistakable 80s workout gear. Everyone else was confused and disappointed. Girls wearing ugly, 80s garb with sugar skull makeup were embarrassed by the girls wearing sexy pirate costumes and normal makeup. But again, 75% of the crowd wasnâ€™t even properly dressed up. So in a nutshell, the vibe was â€¦ off.
They did play some really great 80s music so there was plenty of dancing. And there was also a screen on the wall showing Childâ€™s Play, though I donâ€™t think anyone actually realized it. But hey, at least there was a Halloween party to go to this year! I even heard that there was a community effort to allow a group of kids to pretend they were trick-or-treating like normal children (though I also heard residents were complaining that kids were taking more than one â€˜lollieâ€™ at a time and itâ€™s since created some tension.) Anyway, thereâ€™s progress here, but things are still pretty bleak.
And in case you were wondering â€“ which I know you were – I dressed as Nightman from Itâ€™s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and forced my sister-in-law to ditch her slutty ring leader party-hire costume to complete the duo as Dayman.
P.S. My husband read this and he “didn’t get it” to which I replied, “No shit.”