I spent a year drinking my way travelling through Australia in my early 20s and during this time I became aware of many interesting customs. For example, did you know that a fried egg or beet (aka beetroot) on a hamburger is the norm? What about cantaloupe being called rock melon? Or mall Santas wearing Bermuda shorts? All kooky and all true.
The thing that amazed me the most was discovering the Aussies reaction to Halloween, which was basically: meh. The Europeans had a similar disdain for this great tradition of children gorging on candy as adults booze it up while dressed like idiots. Obviously, something had to be done to rectify this grave injustice. (Note: Did you see what I did there with the ghoulish pun? I was made for Halloween!)
I was working at a small backpacker’s resort in Airlie Beach (a beach town on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef and exactly as fantastic as it sounds) with a bunch of other Canadians* who were just as keen to introduce a proper Halloween to our pals.
We convinced the resort manager that a Halloween extravaganza was in order and once he understood that it was just another party, we were allowed to move forward with our plan. First step: costumes. Prizes would be awarded for best dressed in the form of bar tabs, so the competition was instantly fierce.
My travel bud and I went in search of something we could wear together. Everyone else was getting in groups to plan top-secret, themed costumes…it was all very Bourne Identity meets Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Airlie Beach in the early 90s had one main street of shops with nary a Wal-mart in sight and nobody was selling costumes. We would have to get creative.
It was a rope strung with jingly bells that determined our theme. All we needed after that was some sheer fabric and sports bras, and we were set:
Our fellow Canucks (along with a token Yank) were equally resourceful:
And the Aussies did us proud with their efforts:
As did the British:
But it was the Swedes—those nudity-loving, bikini-top-eschewing Swedes—who really raised the bar:
We decorated the bar with cut outs of black cats and bats, and in lieu of pumpkins (some people hadn’t heard of them…and yet they put beetroot on a burger…) we carved acorn squash and zucchinis. Everyone agreed that October without Halloween was like a backpacker without birth control: something essential was missing.
I have no idea if the resort repeated Halloween the following year (we left shortly after Christmas to avoid arrest see the rest of the country) but it remains the best Halloween party I’ve ever attended.
*You know who you are and don’t worry, you won’t be named…I’ll wait for the “How I Spent Christmas in Australia” post for that…