When I was growing up, all we knew of Halloween (a.k.a. All Hallows Eve, 31st October, a.k.a. Samhain, the ancient Celtic festival of the dead) came from watching American TV shows like Happy Days. Although Australia has a large Celtic component to its population, Halloween seems not to have translated itself into Australian culture. Now I notice that Coles, one of Australia's largest grocery store chains, is heavily promoting Halloween, replete with extra large pumpkins for sale for carving into jack o' lanterns and staff dressed as ghosts and ghouls. No doubt they've cottoned on to what a boon Halloween is for US retail sales (2nd only to Christmas in profits, by all accounts; even in post-Christian cultures it's surprising how retailers are parasites on the church year) and are hoping to replicate some of that cash register action down here. Somehow, there's an air of artificiality about it all, though, and while Australians don't generally need much of an excuse for a party, I'm not sure it's taking hold in the public imagination. I suppose the proof of the pudding will be found in how many "trick or treaters" we get tomorrow night (not that I'll have anything prepared for them), but I suspect that guising around the neighbourhood on Halloween is more than most Australian parents, Christian or not, are prepared to negotiate (not to mention that "neighbourhoods" don't really exist anymore; what we have instead are atomistic households with real and virtual commitments elsewhere). Southern Baptist theologian and social commentator Al Mohler might be expected to take a neo-Puritan approach to Halloween, but he is surprisingly cautious about issuing a blanket condemntaion. I do appreciate his conclusion, though:
"On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther began the Reformation with a declaration that the church must be recalled to the authority of God’s Word and the purity of biblical doctrine. With this in mind, the best Christian response to Halloween might be to scorn the Devil and then pray for the Reformation of Christ’s church on earth. Let’s put the dark side on the defensive. "