Back from the dead: Halloween sales spike for first festival since restrictions end

By James Lemon

Good mates Francesco Robins and Sasha Love in Tim Burton-inspired corpse bride costumes.Credit:Brook Mitchell

Halloween may be a relatively recent obsession in Australia, but it’s been a Mastrantone tradition for decades.

Lucia Mastrantone has been marking the festival in the Italian tradition – Il Giorno dei Morti, or Day of the Dead – since she was a child. Now an actor, she takes the festival more seriously than most.

“You reflect on all the people that have gone and you light candles, say a prayer for them, ask guidance … a mixture of celebration and mourning of the dead,” she said.

“It’s kind of cool, the fusion of cultures,” she said. “Halloween is one of my favourite festivals, even before it became Americanised in Australia.

“Growing up, we loved it … now I have two beautiful boys and I’m a performer – that’s why I’ve gone nuts with it at my house.”

Francesco Robins and Sasha Love, with help from mum Lucia (left) are looking forward to a party with 50 of their school friends and are also looking forward to tick or treating on Monday. Credit:Brook Mitchell

Mastrantone takes great joy from the community coming together for Halloween – meaning it wasn’t the same through COVID-19 lockdowns and caution.

“It’s been really strange [in recent years]. We’ve still decorated but we’ve had to think about how we’re serving lollies … you couldn’t really see people or meet face-to-face.

“My 15-year-old had a huge Halloween party to break the drought last Saturday – it was so extraordinary, the trouble they went to, it was brilliant.”

After so long out, one party was never going to satisfy the family. Eldest son Francesco, 17, is hosting 50 school friends for another Halloween party this weekend.

“We wanted to go for the corpse bride aesthetic… the blues, the wig from the dollar shop and the mad hatter,” he said. “Very Tim Burton.”

Come Monday, though, Francesco will be on the other side of the trick-or-treat bucket – handing out treats to the next generation.

“We’ll probably be sitting in, watching a horror movie [on Monday] … giving back to the community after taking for all these years.”

Good mates Francesco Robins and Sasha Love, with help from mum Lucia prepare for a night outCredit:Brook Mitchell

Supermarket sales data has shown steady growth across Halloween products in the last decade, but the first celebration since the end of COVID restrictions has coincided with some huge jumps in demand.

At Woolworths, home decorations sales are up 20 per cent year-on-year following the return of in-person celebrations.

Sacha Love prepares Tim Burton style props for Halloween ahead of the event on Monday. Credit:Brook Mitchell

Coles has sold more than twice as many mini-carving pumpkins compared with last year and 10 per cent more large jack o’lantern pumpkins.

It expects to sell 280 tonnes of the squash vegetable, and 19 million pieces of chocolate specifically for Halloween – a 14 per cent increase since 2021.

Francesco Robins and Sacha Love are looking forward to trick or treating on Monday. Credit:Brook Mitchell

Coles general manager for fresh produce Craig Taylor said buying a pumpkin to carve – or perhaps a large watermelon – was a great way for customers to support Australian growers.

“This year, we have worked with pumpkin growers from the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Far North Queensland … with family farms like Rocky Ponds Produce, located just south of Townsville, which grows pumpkins for Coles eight months of the year.”

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