Why China should celebrate Halloween

Updated: 2011-10-31 11:00

By Todd Balazovic (chinadaily.com.cn)

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Halloween is not what it used to be.

It’s no longer a Pagan holiday where the dead are believed to rise from their graves as frightened people huddle in their homes placing foods on their doorstep to ward off evil spirits.

The holiday has taken on an entirely different role in the US and across many parts of Europe, where children use the ancient tradition as an excuse to dress-up in costumes ranging from sinister to silly, before tromping across their neighborhood threatening neighbors with a trick or treat.

It’s a time of the year when adults also use old superstitions as a reason to dress equally outlandish before heading out to the bars to celebrate by drinking themselves into a stupor. If you’ve ever seen a scantily clad bumblebee passed out on a bar curb drooling, you know just how wild the celebration can get.

For US revelers, the true horrors of Halloween usually come in the form of a hangover the following day.

But the real celebrations should be taking place in China’s manufacturing heartland, where billions of yuan are pocketed each year as they churn out plastic goodies to support the US demand to dress up in dirt-cheap garments.

According to a 10-year study from the US National Retail Federation, American’s are expected to spend 43 billion yuan ($6.9 billion) on Halloween costumes, candy and decorations this year.

That’s more than 12 times the cost of Beijing’s National Stadium, which carried a price tag of roughly 3.5 billion yuan.

And most of that is going into the pockets of China’s manufacturers.

Check the tag on any given “Hippy chick” or “Scary Pirate” costume found in the bargain bin of one of the thousands of pop-up costume shops that appear across America this time of year and you’re guaranteed to see the “Made in China” label.

Considering a decade ago Halloween or Wan Shen jie as it was recently dubbed in Mandarin was meaningless to the average Chinese citizen - that’s quite a staggering figure.

For the hard working laborers in China’s manufacturing industry, the strange foreign holiday must come across as something closer to the costumes of a horror movie.

I would venture to say that China’s ability to provide disposable costumes has given legs to a holiday that would have otherwise fallen into the same celebratory category as Columbus Day (American’s falsely celebrate Columbus’ discovery of the US) or Lincoln’s birthday.

Because let’s face it - it’s hard to imagine Halloween revelers splashing out thousands of yuan to buy a Louis Vuitton sexy sailor suit which inevitably will be found at the bottom of a box or stuffed in a bin the following day.

As an American, the only ghoulish part I see about the holiday is the willingness of a nation whose economic outlook is in a quite frightening state to frivolously dole out cash in celebration of a 2000-year-old superstition that took place halfway across the world.

But then again, in the end, it’s those who dress the part that look the fool.

Todd Balazovic is a reporter with China Daily’s US edition