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Merry Halloween!


Celebrating foreign holidays in China is always a challenge. My first China Thanksgiving was spent in a Kunming KFC longing for pumpkin pie and candied yams. Since that first Thanksgiving I have learned to adapt to my surroundings through valuable lessons such as a turkey can be cooked in a toaster oven and Chinese brandy can be used to make decent eggnog. Yet unlike Thanksgiving and Christmas, which can easily be recreated with some cooking ingenuity and a strong circle of friends, I have always found Halloween the most difficult holiday to pull off in China.

While the expat community in major Chinese cities does dress up and party on Halloween, trick-or-treating is almost nonexistent. The international preschool in Beijing where I once taught tries its best to recapture the joy of Halloween every year. The school makes sure that students’ homes are prepared for the orchestrated trick-or-treating that takes place during school hours. And although walking around an apartment block, twenty children in tow, dressed in makeshift Halloween costumes involving face paint and trash bags did not invoke any of my own childhood memories of trick-or-treating, it was still fun.

The Chinese populace may never catch on to the joy that is Halloween, but the shopping have. Walking around the malls located at Dongzhimen this past Sunday, I was surprised by all the efforts they had taken to push the holiday. Raffles City hosted a costume contest and teenage girls walked around in masks scaring shoppers. Ginza mall managed to draw a much bigger crowd by providing a free performance by a Hong Kong pop star, which may not have had much to do with Halloween, but involved plenty of orange and black decorations.

China has enough holidays of its own and it seems more than eager to skip pretending that western holidays serve a purpose other than spending money. Christmas seems to grow bigger each year in the amount of Christmas songs I hear and decorations I see around town. Christmas trees and ornaments can even be purchased on Taobao.

I used to mock restaurants that kept Christmas decorations up year round, however last year while I watched the Christmas tree in front of Raffles City being transformed into a Chinese New Year tree I finally understood. China does not care about how western holidays are “supposed” to be celebrated and will appropriate them as they please, picking and choosing holidays based on their conduciveness to economic growth. If that means less of the Three Wise Men and more of Saint Nick, so be it.



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The Economic Observer's editorial staff are always on the look out for interesting, fresh and high-quality China-related content. Whether it's the latest buzz on Weibo, links to insightful articles or updates on the latest books and reports, through China Buzz we'll keep you in the loop about what's going on in the world of Chinese politics and economics.

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