Sunday, October 31, 2010

Anti-Halloween Aussies

Halloween decorations in the U.S. consist of golden and amber colors representing the foliage of Fall. Orange pumpkins and gourds adorn tables and porches, as the smell of caramel apples, pumpkin pies and candy corn permeate the air. All of these press certain buttons (so to speak), in children of all ages, which cause for an uncontrollable excitement to creep up in them, and thoughts of dressing up begin to invade their minds. "What are you going to be this year?" is a commonly heard question in schools and playgrounds.

October 31st falls smack dab in the middle of Spring in the southern hemisphere. Flowers bloom, birds mate and people suffer from hay fever. But, even if it were Fall, Australia is 'a baby' in the whole game of Halloween. People know of the holiday because of TV and films, and I'm sure Aussie kids must have been wishing long and hard for the 'dress up, candy holiday' would hit Australian shores and take off in viral popularity, because if my daughters' school friends are any indication of the average Australian kid, I'd say that this is very much the case.

Our first trick-or-treating experience in Australia was in 2008. A hand full of little girls, all dressed as witches (they're still new at this... they don't know that the costume possibilities are endless) invited my daughters to attack specially marked houses in their neighborhood, and shyly request 'lollies' from their neighbors.

It was very cute.

I trained the girls to say "trick-or-treat" when knocking at the door, and to ask for candy (assertively). Some people, even though they had marked their house to welcome the little ghouls that night, ran out of sweet treats; they simply were not well prepared for the avalanche of kids. I told my group that in this circumstance, we were almost 'allowed' to egg these people's houses; explaining the reason for "trick or treat" = "we will spare you a trick on your house, if you give us a treat". As the girls got very excited about the prospect of trashing someone's house with eggs (it didn't take much to get them roweled up - a bit scary), I had to calm them down, and explain that only 'naughty' children do that in America, so... NO! We would not be doing this.

In 2009 we persisted in our 'attack' of the neighborhood, and even found a gem - an apartment complex - where people were super excited to have trick-or-treaters, come knocking.

This year we noticed that the two large supermarket chains (Coles and Woolworth) had orange pumpkins, eyeball candies, party plates and costumes-a-plenty. I think that someone in marketing must have sensed that the kids of Australia were ready for Halloween and money could be made for the stores.

My family and I have been counting down the days to the 31st. We even planned a great big party with fun activities. Then... the rain came in, and destroyed all hopes of any of it.

So, here I am, listening to the rain bombard the roof of my house, and sighing in disappointment that we could not venture out in the night, with our jack-o-lantern candy buckets, showing off our creative costumes (baby Gaga, Katy Perry, she-devil and a clown). I thought of finding a place indoors where my girls could enjoy some games and fun food, in the spirit of all hallows eve, and as I Googled "things to do in Melbourne on Halloween", I came across some rather negative posts about the holiday. Here's an example from Yahoo Answers:

"This isn't America and we don't want to be like America so we don't do the halloween thing here. What sort of irresponsible parent would let their kids go knocking on the doors of complete strangers anyway? Have you considered there could be pedophiles behind any of those doors waiting to grab your child?

I also think it is completely wrong allowing a child to wander the streets begging for lollies. It is a joke. I have even seen kids who haven't dressed up just walking around with a bag scabbing food from people. I really hope Australia wakes up soon and bans this American junk."

This was just one, of several comments like it, that i came across. I was a little bummed out about it. It reminded me of the many times I was told by my father that "insert pretty much any Western holiday here" was not 'our people's, so we didn't do that'. At the risk of being labeled a 'globalist' and attempting to homogenize the world, I thought I'd say: Hey! If it's not hurting the child, why not let him/her celebrate Festivus... who cares! Spread joy around the world. Propagate fun in life. Why is it 'bad' to celebrate "an American holiday"?

I'm glad I will be doing my part in spreading the joy of Halloween, one week late (we re-scheduled our party for next weekend due to the rain out). This year apparently 20% of the Australian population planned to celebrate Halloween... I'm going to campaign hard for next year... to make it 100%... mwahahahahahahahah!!!!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Footy and Me

When I arrive in a country foreign to me, the first thing I like to do is turn on the TV and start watching local news, commercials, talk shows... whatever comes on I'll watch it. That's how I learned English, when I arrived to the U.S. way back in 1977. I learned vital phrases watching 'Bewitched', 'I dream of Jeanie' and 'Lost in Space'. From Samantha, I learned to say "wellllll..." when something had gone awry and no excuse was good enough; from Jeanie "Yes, master", but to this day I refuse to use it, and Dr. Smith "Help! Somebody help meeee."

Via this instant mode of social / language immersion, I have learned a lot about the people whose country I vacation or live in. When we arrived in Australia a couple of years ago, I applied myself to the same learning experience. I switched on the TV, and to my joy I realised that we did not have satellite, so we were forced to watch local programs (husband was very upset about this, he missed CNN). That's when I learned about The Footy, watching 'The Footy Show'.

Before I go on, I must explain that Australians will refer to a professional sport with a THE before the said sport (e.g.: TENNIS is to be played casually among amateurs and THE TENNIS is played professionally). THE FOOTY is Australian Rules Football. This is not Soccer, not Rugby, not even American Football, though their ball resembles the U.S. sport slightly.

I will not attempt to explain the game to you, as I am not an enthusiast or a follower of any organized sport; I'm not going to scoff at anyone who is... it's just not in my genetic makeup to be into sports. I will sit through a session of watching and cheering for a team (oh, by the way... never, ever say ROOT in Australia, as in "root for a team", this word means 'to fornicate' down under), but that's it. Even then, I will watch the athletes run, admire the design of their uniforms, wonder why certain colors were chosen for that particular team, and comment on the grass being a lush and vibrant green, but during that whole time, I will be oblivious to the score or the status of each team playing.

'The Footy Show' was loud, brimming with testosterone and they spoke a language totally unfamiliar to me, all about scores, plays etc., and I don't mean the Aussie accent laden English, assuring me that I would not be watching it a second time. That night I became aware of the most followed national game, set it aside in my memory banks and promised myself to pursue further knowledge on the subject, so to be better informed about my new home-country and its inhabitants.

During the time I have lived in Melbourne, plenty of people have volunteered to educate me about The Footy, and I have tried, really tried to understand it, alas... I have tossed my towel in, and given up on all hopes of grasping it. I can tell you that it is played on an oval shaped grassy area, the players are incredibly fit, handsome (they really are), don't wear padding and are often caught in sexual scandals... some incredibly scandalous affairs at that, but are still HEROES in the eyes of their devoted followers, and I might add that they are kind of "excused" by the adoring public with comments like: "that's how those guys are... you know... they're just stupid, fit, handsome guys, who have women throw themselves at them"... which is probably true, but...

...moving right along...

Another interesting bit about the teams is that, each team represents a "type" of person. I'll be honest and admit that I don't remember them all, but one description or stereotype in particular, I was told about stands out. A local friend explained to us that we should at not time ever become fans of the Collingwood Football Club, also referred to as The Magpies (a Magpie is a black and white bird, indigenous to AU, whose colors now represent the team).

He went on to give many reasons but the one which was most memorable was the fact that - in his words: "Collingwood supporters are, what you would call knuckle draggers." As I don't follow any team, I didn't care about his comment, and as I knew no one who was a supporter of the Collingwood team, it mattered even less to me. And then the unthinkable happened... my daughters, out of the blue, started to cheer for Collingwood. What's a mother to do? Let them, of course. Why was I going to let the "knuckle draggers" comment influence me?

Actually, I realised a couple of months back that most of my co-workers are Collingwood supporters, and they are all lovely and very well educated, artsy people... so the "knuckle dragger" stereotype is tossed out the window for good now.

Here's a real 'titty twister' for my 'Collingwood hater' friend: Collingwood won the Grand Final this year (it's like the Super Bowl). In yer face mate!

Though it may appear on the surface that I have become passionate about a sport, I will deny it to the grave... I’m only supporting my daughters’ new found love of sport, and if they choose to go for (be fans of) Collingwood, well doggone-it I back their decision 110%.

An excerpt from an article about the win:

Collingwood wins AFL premiership
AP | 07:24 AM,Oct 02,2010

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Collingwood won the Australian Football League premiership by crushing St. Kilda 16.12 (108) to 7.10 (52) in Saturday's rare grand final replay.After the teams drew last week — only the third drawn grand final in the history of the Australian Rules competition and first since 1977 — the Magpies left nothing to chance in the replay.