Nobody really knows the origins of Halloween, although some state it began in Ireland and not America as you would expect. It is sometimes referred to as All Hallows Eve or All Saints Eve is a celebration of the day before All Hallows Day on 1st November. There are contradictions in History that say it was a pagan festival originating from the Celts, whilst others will have you believe it started with Christianity as a festival to remember the dead. Either way it is now one of the most popular events around the world and is celebrated in many different ways, none more so that in Asia.
In some Asian countries they actually celebrate by carving out Pumpkins, particularly in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Singapore. In Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia they also celebrate with pumpkins or more ready to hand fruits such as watermelons. Over the past few years, children in Asia have taken to trick or treating. Again, due to the influence of western pop culture and the growing number of international schools in the region.
Halloween decorations are not necessarily evident in Asian homes but in the shopping malls, bars and restaurants there are decorations a plenty. Many schools will have celebrations, adult Asians will dress up in the office and of course the bars and restaurants will have parties that run into the early hours.
Here are the ways you can celebrate Halloween whilst in Asia.
1. Purchase Candles and Flowers
This is a big tradition, particularly in the Philippines. The Filipino people take the festival very seriously and will often return to their hometowns to be with their family at this time. They will decorate their homes with flowers and light candles. It is not just the Philippines where this happens, Korea and China also have this kind of decoration in celebration of the Halloween festival.
Asians love to dress up, especially East Asians. Japan and South Korea is the home of Cosplay and if you are there over Halloween you will see a variety of costumes. Over the rest of Asia it is more traditional but on 31st October people will tend to wear a scary mask or devil ears, even in the most uptight of offices. Into the evening a lot of the bars will have parties and offer prizes for the best costume.
3. Go on a Ghost Walk
This is becoming increasingly popular in Asia. Every year Singapore hosts a ghost walk, predominantly aimed at children but more and more adults are joining in for an evening of entertainment. Other Asian cities have followed suit with scary tours for tourists and locals alike. One of the best in Asia is Singapore’s Ghost Walk at the Woodlands Woodgrove.
4. Pay respect to the dead
In some Asian countries the traditional element of Halloween is taken very seriously. In China and Japan as well as Vietnam, lanterns are lit, special food is made and memorial services take place for those that have passed away. It is often the families will get together and remember loved ones at this time and say special prayers.
Asians love any excuse to party and in all the major cities in Asia the bars and clubs will be filled with special Halloween events. They are predominantly on October 31st but some will be for the weekend before or just after. The parties will be intense and the place will be very crowded. Some bar operators suggest that Halloween is a busier night of the year than New Year’s Eve.