Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy little pumpkins

I posted this photo (below) of my latest (ie, second-ever) effort at pumpkin-carving on Facebook last night, and my wonderful niece Lisa, who's been raising her family with her husband Ken in Calgary, Canada these last two and a half decades, made the comment that even though she's been living all that time in Canada, where they celebrate Halloween with gusto, she's still not into it. Calls herself the Halloween Grinch. If you knew what a sweet person Lisa is, the last word to ever describe her would be 'Grinch'. The only "G" word she answers to now is "granny", because she is one, but Grinch she ain't.

That's the thing about Halloween in Australia. The older generations not only are not into it, many of them are very actively "bah humbug" about it. It wasn't part of their childhood, so they often say the current batch of little Aussie kids (most of whom love celebrating Halloween) can bugger off. This attitude usually comes parcelled up with a dose of anti-Americanism, to give it a bit of ideological or political respectability (even though Halloween's traditions originated in Ireland and parts of Scotland). 

After Pammy and I spent all of October 2011 in the USA, we changed our minds about Halloween. We loved the way people everywhere we went treated it as a whole month-long harvest festival. Houses were decorated weeks in advance of the 31st, either with the traditional 'harvest' themes of haybales, pumpkins and corn cobs; or the 'spooky' themes of ghosts, skeletons, witches etc. And I guess the fact that we celebrated our first real Halloween in Times Square, New York was the perfect way to wrap our change in attitude to Halloween with fond memories that are still happy and vivid to this day.

However, apart from getting to know and appreciate Halloween for what it really is, I have another reason to carve pumpkins and buy Chupachups to give away to the kids who come knocking at our door tonight. 

It's simply that I feel sorry for our kids, in general, in how 'un-free' they are these days. My childhood might have lacked Halloween but I had so much freedom to wander, to explore the local bushland and to live out my childhood fantasies of cowboys and indians and anything else that seemed like dangerous fun that was on TV back then. By comparison, kids are on a tight leash because the consensus is that this is a more dangerous world these days. Sad but true, but I do think urban kids in particular are missing out on the freedoms I knew, and that's why I sometimes feel sorry for the little ones.

So I see Halloween as a rare chance for kids to wander around their neighbourhood with their parents (if they're little) in the evening, or at night by themselves (if they're a bit older). In many cases it's the closest thing to a community event for kids that happens in ordinary suburban streets. It gives the littlies a chance to do something very different for one night a year. And just because this new 'tradition' wasn't part of my childhood isn't reason enough for me to say "bah humbug go away". I'd rather say "welcome, Happy Halloween kids, have a great night." 

Finally, to finish, my second-ever attempt at baked pumpkin seeds.
This year, as I did last year, I saved the mass of pumpkin seeds
which is mostly what you find inside a hollow 'Jack O Lantern'.
pumpkin. Then I washed them to get the stringy flesh off, and
dried them for an hour or so on paper towels. Meanwhile I turned
on the oven to 140°C (285°F) to preheat fully.
Then I put the seeds in a bowl, sprayed them with olive oil
and sprinkled on a spice mix. Last year I simply used garlic
salt and the results were a bit bland. This year I used totally
non-traditional Moroccan seasoning mix, and for all these seeds
only a teaspoon or so is necessary. Not too much. I spread them
out on a sheet of baking paper in a single layer, then baked
them at 140°C for 25 minutes. This year's batch was much
nicer, crunchy and more-ish to eat. So it isn't just the kids who
get to have fun around Halloween time.


Allison Tait said...

I understand your reasoning, but I still say Boo Humbug.

Jamie said...

You're not alone, Allison. In fact Pam and I are definitely in the minority amongst the rest of our friends on this one, too.

dirtgirl said...

We did a quick survey at our gym yesterday and 90% of us were anti-Halloween. I have an American daughter in law living here with 2 half American grandsons, she actively participates in celebrating it, but I still can't get my head around it.
Kids trawling the neighbourhood begging for lollies from strangers, with many of the kids already obese and on their way to Diabetes, no sorry, it's all wrong!
Baa Humbug from me too, I won't even open the door to them either.

Jamie said...

Dirtgirl/Allison: it was fantastic here in Marrickville last night. Like a street party, with the adults wandering around with their kids.

Lots of parents came up to me and introduced themselves, told me where they lived (most were from our street) and thanked me for making the carved pumpkin and getting into the fun.

This year the kids were much more into the fancy dress side of it all, including the right make-up.

So as far as I am concerned it's a fancy dress street party for kids and their parents, and that's a healthy development as far as I am concerned.

Happy grinching, all!