Hallowe’en traditions from Scotland and Ireland evidently did not transplant easily to the Australian colonies. If anywhere in Australia there are long-established Hallowe’en observances, they must be limited to small sections of the population. In recent years some Hallowe’en customs (pumpkins, dressing up, trick-and-treating and the like) have become more widely adopted under American influence, but without the depth of tradition characteristic of the occasion in Britain in former centuries.
From old newspaper reports it is evident that even in Britain customs were changing. There are reports describing how Queen Victoria enjoyed watching the local villagers at their Hallowe’en celebrations, and we learn that she preferred the ‘new style’ celebrations, which apparently involved more bonfires. Descriptions of the occasion at Balmoral Castle were reproduced in the colonial papers in January or February, months after the event, owing to the slowness of communication, but readers were presumably no less fascinated by the details.
In 1867 we find Mr. W. Storrie giving an address at a December meeting of the South Australian Institute on the subject of Hallowe’en. We may surmise that he was sharing his extensive knowledge with an audience that had largely lost touch with the traditions. It seems that his account, like the Balmoral reports, is principally concerned with customs in Scotland. He explains the belief that, with good and bad spirits at large on All Hallow eve, it was possible by certain rituals to provoke them into revealing something of the future, especially with respect to people’s marriage prospects. It is clear that, amid the games and simple customs, the occasion stirred not only a sense of festivity but a frisson of romantic hopes and expectations.
The name ‘Halloween’ was given to a very fast, iron-hulled sailing ship that plied the tea trade between London and Shanghai from the early 1870s until 1887, when she was wrecked on the Devon coast in a gale, carrying over one and a half thousand tons of tea. Her maiden voyage (1871) was to Sydney, and she took back a load of wool. On that occasion she sailed from the Channel to Sydney in 69 days, an extraordinarily fast time, and 67 days in 1872. The State Library of Victoria has a postcard showing the ‘Halloween’, and there are photographs (not many) in some other state libraries.
‘Miscellaneous extracts’, South Australian Advertiser Saturday 9 February 1867, p. 3 (‘Hallowe’en at Balmoral’); ‘South Australian Institute’, South Australian Advertiser Saturday 21 December 1867, p. 3. Cargo of tea: cf. The Treasures of Salcombe (diving information; 1600 tons). 69 days: Submerged (diving website); 67 days: Sydney Morning Herald Monday 9 September 1872, p. 4 (description of ship and cargo).
Recent literature includes: Jason Bivins, Religion of Fear: The Politics of Horror in Conservative Evangelicalism, New York – Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008 (on fear, Evangelicalism and American culture).