Being a communist state, China has severe restrictions on religious festivals or celebrations that are deemed too “foreign” to the country. Halloween is one of them. Usually, very few Chinese people have any idea of what Halloween is. Even when Halloween is celebrated in any way, it’s usually limited to the big cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai.
In China, Halloween became a notable celebration from the arrival of two groups – western expats and foreign English teachers. As such, you will mostly find Chinese celebrating Halloween if they hang around with expats or are studying under teachers from the U.S. or Europe.
Adults usually spend the night in bars where there are Halloween-focused parties. The more Western expats there are in the region, the more likely it is for nearby bars to host Halloween parties. As is the tradition in the U.S., bars often decorate the interiors with items like pumpkin lanterns, pictures of black cats, ghosts, and so on. Some also conduct masquerade parties.
In Shanghai, the “1933 Shanghai” building is known to conduct Halloween events every year. And for people living in Hong Kong, theme parks like Disneyland and Ocean Park also hold Halloween-themed celebrations each year.
Children are often exposed to Halloween from their foreign English language teachers, who often conduct games and Halloween costume events in the classes. However, such celebrations have been coming under intense fire from Chinese conservatives who see Halloween as some kind of a cultural invasion.
Concerns of ‘Western influence’
China’s issue with Halloween comes from a fear that their culture is somehow being eroded by Western influence. To put things in perspective, China has its own ghost-themed celebrations, like the Hungry Ghost Festival. But youngsters often show little interest in such festivals and have been showing greater interest in fun events like Halloween. This seemed to have rubbed off the wrong way among many Chinese who think that their children are being led “astray” because of American culture.
“These are religious festivals in the West, but they’re given prominence in our education system. But they’re given a shallow interpretation and instead turned into a carnival for kids, which is very bad for youngsters,” South China Morning Post quotes a popular television anchor, who also suggested that Western festivals be banned from being celebrated in schools.
Though the government has not issued any directive in this regard, some schools seem to have voluntarily made a rule of not celebrating Halloween and other Western festivals. And the number of schools signing up from having a fun time on Halloween is only increasing. But many Chinese believe that people are getting needlessly reactionary in banning Halloween and that children must grow exposed to cultures from all across the world, rather than being fed with only Chinese culture.
Some also blame the Communist Party for the children’s low interest in traditional Chinese festivals. Since the Party ruthlessly controlled and eliminated religious and cultural events, people have become accustomed to neglecting Chinese traditions. As such, no matter how much the Chinese communists blame America for “spoiling” their children, the truth is that it is the communist ideology itself that has led to a disinterest in Chinese festivals among Chinese children and youth.