What does Halloween look like outside the US?

Halloween is now a huge US business and the traditions surrounding the event are spreading as a commercial trend in Asia. 

Kin Cheung/AP
A group of tourists dressed as Chinese ghosts pose at Ocean Park to celebrate the Halloween festival in Hong Kong, Saturday. Asian countries have begun to import parts of American Halloween celebrations commercially in recent years.

The holiday many Americans celebrate on Oct. 31 is rooted in European traditions. But today, Halloween, like the rest of American pop culture from movies to music, now runs amok the world over.

And as in the US, commercialization is driving – and altering – the holiday dramatically as well. In the US, Halloween sales - on candy, costumes, decorations, and parties – now generates $6.9 billion annually, or almost $75 per person, and businesses can get scary in their tactics to cash in on it, The Christian Science Monitor reported.

Halloween has emerged an American tourist attraction for British visitors, the BBC reported. 

Thousands of British tourists are drawn to haunted houses and mazes at some of the 80 different Halloween attractions in Florida, the second-largest tourist destination for people visiting from the United Kingdom, the BBC reported. The state drew 23.7 million visitors around Halloween in 2014, an increase of 8.5 percent from 2013.

America's commercial tastes have not only transformed an autumnl celebration into one of the year's most expensive events, they have also exported Halloween to other countries.

Pumpkins decorate department stores and parks in Taiwan, and children now celebrate Oct. 31 at school with treats and traditional Halloween costumes, such as witches and fairies, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

An October, ghost-oriented celebration is a very new import, says Sarah Zimmerman, who was born in Taiwan but moved to the United States as a child. Some people who lived near foreigners might have exchanged a few treats during her childhood in Taiwan, but there were certainly no costumes. Ms. Zimmerman compares the Chinese "Ghost Day," celebrated in early July to Halloween (or Mexico's November holiday, Day of the Dead) when people leave treats so that "ghosts" don't bother them.

"It's kind of like trick-or-treating, but in America we flip it around," Zimmerman tells The Christian Science Monitor in a phone interview. "So we're like the ghosts, but in Taiwan you give (the ghosts) treats so they don't trick you." 

In Japan, the American Halloween has been adopted as an occasion to celebrate fall by decorating one's home and self, according to The Associated Press.

Japanese Halloween fans have little interest in ghosts or witches, and most don't know what "trick-or-treat" means, but on Oct. 31, they are ready to party. Teenagers, especially, dress up and parade in costume, and plaster the resulting photos all over social media. The revelry can last for the entire month of October, and it costs at least 20 billion yen, or $170 million, per year, the AP reports. 

"Businesses are eager to use something that's this well-known to everyone as an opportunity," Yasushi Senoo, who has been studying the economics of the spooky season as chief research analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting in Tokyo, told the AP. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to What does Halloween look like outside the US?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today