Halloween is considered a distinctly American phenomenon but its traditions, such as carving vegetables and jack-o’-lanterns and dressing up in scary costumes, came over with Irish and Scottish immigrants in the late 19th century.
While Australia experienced the same kind of immigration, the larger numbers in the United States meant the tradition could take hold.
Halloween has particularly caught on in Australia in the past decade because Australians – especially younger ones – look to the United States with greater frequency and accessibility, with global popular culture taking many of its cues from North America.
Halloween will only continue to entrench itself as an event in Australia each year. It has become a part of Australian culture and has become normalised by its repeated appearance on American television, film and social media.
Not only has social media made American culture more accessible beyond the United States, it also demands content from its users. Halloween provides an opportunity to dress up and share photos in a competitive and trackable way. It is also easily identifiable by hashtags; a common point of reference about which people, brands, and venues can participate.
Australians have increasingly grown up on watching American film and television, and the universal popularity of teen films such as Mean Girls cannot be overstated. The scene featuring a Halloween party shows how to do it right (and wrong) according to the complex mores of American high school culture. This scene has cemented Halloween in the minds of its global audience since the film was released.
Films like Hocus Pocus (also set on the night of Halloween in the United States) have also achieved cult status internationally, with Disney announcing plans for a follow-up of the film some 26 years after its premiere.
Each year, Halloween in Australia inspires media and cultural commentators to question whether we should celebrate what has become a very American holiday. Each year that resistance diminishes further as global youth culture continues to be increasingly centred on the United States.
The event has been taken up by retailers as a recognisable point in the year around which they can launch advertising campaigns, and that is even further evidence that Halloween is here to stay.