As far as modern historians are concerned, there is no enough knowledge to explain the origin and history of Halloween due to lack, if not absence, of historical evidence. However, it cannot be disputed that this has become one of the oldest holidays celebrated every year by people all over the world. In fact, majority of the countries around the world observe the significance of Halloween, which according to the earliest documented customs, grow out of the tandem observances of All Saints Day (November 1), a day of prayer for saints and martyrs of the Church, and All Souls Day (November 2), a day of prayer for the souls of all the dead.
Despite the obvious thematic similarities, Halloween is celebrated in various and creative ways depending on each country’s cultural influences. In Asia, alone, Halloween has continued to gain tremendous popularity and is certainly much awaited. Some people celebrate it in a festive way, while others prefer to observe the holiday in a more meaningful manner of celebration by remembering the spirits of their deceased loved ones through a solemn prayer. Originally spelled Hallowe’en, the name Halloween is a contraction of All Hallows Even, the day before All Hallows Day, which is popularly known as All Saints Day.
It is evident that Halloween is a result of American pop culture influence because Western practices are now done in some, if not all, countries in Asia. This could probably be the reason why many people believe that Halloween is a western tradition. One thing is for certain – Halloween is not entirely American although there is no problem embracing other cultural traditions.
Carved pumpkins and corn stalks are common sight during this holiday especially in the western countries. They are also visible in Asian countries that go all out with Halloween celebrations like Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. However, in other parts of Asia like Thailand and Vietnam, watermelons or whatever random vegetable will do. Trick or treating originated in Ireland and the country continues to celebrate Halloween by asking sweet treats especially the children. Children in Asia go trick or treating, too, in exchange of candies and other sweet treats. Like in the United States and Canada, children wearing their scary costumes also roam door to door for treats. However, buying an attire or costume for the holiday is not necessarily needed. In Asia, Halloween decorations and lights are not equally popular like in western countries. Adults in Asia, on the other hand, also celebrate Halloween costume parties at clubs. These images from around the globe has been captured by a number of film enthusiasts who take out their cameras and take footage of the celebration.
What is different in Asian culture of celebrating Halloween is that Asians consider the occasion as a special time to remember their loved ones who have passed away. The people in China, Japan and the Philippines offer various kinds of food to the dead in order to guide and show the spirits where their loved ones are, Chinese and Japanese light their lanterns while Filipinos light candles. These dramatic scenes encourage many photographers and film enthusiasts to take their cameras along and join in the celebration. In China, pilgrims are also visiting Buddhist temples. The Chinese also make paper boats to carry their deceased loved ones to peace. The Japanese families clean the memorial stones of their deceased loved ones. This is similar to the families in the Philippines and Korea where many return to their home provinces so that they can visit and tend the graves of their loved ones. In the Philippines, horror-themed films and television programs are also shown.
Recently, the Halloween Parade in Kawasaki, a suburb of Tokyo, has become one of the attractions in Japan and is known as the country’s biggest Halloween parade. There are also many special Halloween events happening in many places such as Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan. In Tokyo, home of Cosplay, Japanese wear elaborate Halloween costumes and paint their faces with blood. Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park host Halloween presentations every year. There are numerous spectacular shows in Hong Kong that people from abroad look forward to. In Singapore, Halloween-themed events take center stage at Universal Studios and the Singapore Flyer. These festivities are indeed picture perfect for avid film makers who take various footage for posterity’s sake.
To sum it up, Halloween in Asia is not limited to trick or treating and wearing spooky costumes. The celebration, which shows the Asian’s connection to the supernatural, is meaningful to the people as it not only serves as a venue for family reunions but also allows them to take a look at their spiritual journeys. Clearly, the highlight during this holiday is their deceased loved ones and one of the most common activities during the Halloween celebration in Asia is people offering food and prayers to their departed loved ones.