The argument that Australian children getting into the spirit Halloween is an example of American cultural imperialism is dubious at best.

The argument that Australian children getting into the spirit Halloween is an example of American cultural imperialism is dubious at best. Photo: Reuters

Next Wednesday is Halloween, and we all know what that means: it's time for trick or bleat.

Already the curmudgeons have started their campaign against this ''damned Yankee invasion'', this blight of ''American imperialism'', this carapace of ''rampant commercialism''. By the time the day actually rolls around, surely they'll have had it banned.

The argument that this is an example of American cultural imperialism is dubious at best. In fact, as our American friends might say, it's a crock. 

Well, bully for them.

I'm all for taking a stand against American imperialism — cultural or otherwise — where it is demonstrably not in our interests, but exactly who is harmed by a bunch of kids in scary costumes wandering the streets begging for chocolates and lollies?

Get off your bums and get on the bus to Pine Gap, you old sourpusses, if you really want to take a stand. Leave the little buggers alone.

The argument that this is an example of American cultural imperialism is dubious at best. In fact, as our American friends might say, it's a crock.

Halloween is widely accepted as having its roots in a pagan Celtic festival called Samhain. According to the University of Wikipedia, it originated in Ireland, it marked the turning of the seasons (from harvest to oncoming winter), it involved bonfires, and it may have included some form of ritual — possibly even human — sacrifice. It's not hard to detect how this might have informed the much-later Guy Fawkes night (celebrated on November 5), but let's not digress too much.

Some time around the seventh century, the festival of Samhain was subsumed into the Christian All Saints Day (celebrated on November 1). The name Halloween derives from the phrase ''all hallows even'' meaning the evening before the day in which all of the hallowed (ie, all saints) were celebrated.

Not even the much-derided custom of trick or treating is American in origin. The practice of ''guising'' — in which children in costume went door to door in search of money or food — was first recorded in Scotland in 1895. An even earlier practice of ''souling'' — in which the munchkins doorknocked and sang or prayed for the dearly departed in return for food — is another British tradition and dates back to the Middle Ages.

So the grumps are demonstrably wrong about the Halloween tradition being an American import. But they are right in claiming that American popular culture has fuelled its rise in popularity; the interest of my eldest child, for instance, was sparked by the annual Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simpsons. He's taken delight in scaring the neighbours for close to a decade now.

But not every pop culture moment is as American as some would imagine. This morning, a 10-year-old caller to ABC 774 proposed a link between the imminent release of a new version of the zombie and skeleton-filled computer game Minecraft with the upswing of interest in the event. Bless his cotton socks (as they might say over there), but the game was actually developed in Sweden.

But let's leave all the fallacious origin myths aside for a second. Let's consider instead what the growth of Halloween in this country means for us.

Well, first and most crucially it's an hour or two in which little kids get a small glimpse of what life was like before stranger danger poisoned their world (or, more accurately, before it poisoned their parents' view of the world). They get to roam in packs, squeal in delight and act like, well, like kids, (often) without a helicopter parent over their collective shoulders on permanent safety alert.

For parents, it's an hour or two when the kids are out of the house (peace and quite at the neighbours' expense — yay!), filling their bellies with sugar and fat (no need to cook dinner tonight — double yay!), and forging a sense of community on the street (but don't knock at number 36; that Mrs P— is a right old cow).

And what's the downside? A few extra fillings? That's great news for the dentists. A bit of noisy life on the street? Buy some ear plugs if you don't like it. An unexpected knock on the door from a zombie wielding an axe, resulting in an elderly resident's fatal heart attack? Sad, yes, but at least it helps free up housing stock, and we all benefit from that, right?

OK. That last one is a joke.

But nowhere near as much as all the bleating.