Halloween, China Style


When we were packing to come to Shanghai we had very limited space for stuff so decisions had to be made about what to bring and what not to bring.  Halloween decorations, I thought, was an easy ‘leave behind’ category as nobody in China would celebrate this very American holiday.  Boy, was I wrong.

Halloween is not popular here with the local Chinese children but Shanghai has enough expats that it is still a rockin’ holiday.  Each apartment complex or housing development that caters to 50% or more of expats seemed to have a trick or treat night and some sort of party.  Because they don’t really have a strong tradition of halloween, though, they celebrated all the way from Friday night through Monday night depending on which complex you were in.  And being good American children who’s goal is to gather as much candy as humanly possible, many went from complex to complex over several days to fatten their take.

Our complex decided Sunday night was a good night to trick or treat and have a pot luck supper party.  There  was an age limit of about 10 on the trick or treaters and they had to sign up ahead of time.  The people willing to give out candy also had to sign up.  I signed us up for giving out candy and to go to the potluck dinner party.  But I had no idea how many kids would be coming to my door and there was no way to turn the light out on the porch, since i don’t have a porch, to signal the candy is all gone.  But I figured ‘how many kids could there be?’.  I went faithfully off to the local Carrefour to buy my chinese version of Halloween candy.  I thought I had plenty.  But what would I do for decorations?  A wonderful fairy from NY had sent me a box of magic and wonderfulness!!  There were some pumpkin gels to put on the window, a pumpkin mask, spider rings, and best of all American Candy!!!!!!!!  We saved American candy for us and gave the Chinese candy out to the trick or treaters.  S, this was an amazing surprise : D

Sunday night came and the trick or treaters gathered in the driveway outside the main office at about 4pm.  I can see this area from my balcony and heard the commotion so I took a peek.  Panic set in!  There were about 100 kids out there!!  I knew I did not have that much candy and there was no way to run out and get more.  (Hubby had left to go on a business trip and the kids were working on homework).  I was just going to have pray for the best.

The trick or treaters took the elevator to the top floor of the building and then walked down the stairs to go to each floor’s apartment.  You could hear their excited little voices echo in the stair well.  They were so cute!!  Witches were very popular.  I also had spider man, a lady bug, several fairies, and one vampire come to visit.  My complex is about 50% Japanese and they are much more into the cute factor than the scary themes we are used to in the USA.

To my great relief I realized that the trick or treaters had been divided up into groups and assigned a building so no one building would get all 100 kids 🙂  My candy held out :D.  At 6pm the trick or treating was declared over and the pot luck would start at 6:30pm.

My kids actually got a babysitting job for some kids in another complex.  That meant I was going to go stag to the pot luck.  My chili was made and I was determined to get out and meet people, but I was nervous.  I tend toward shy and going alone to a party where I would know no one is something I wouldn’t have dreamt  of in the US.  I took a deep breath and, chili in hand, went down to the pot luck.  As I walked in to the community room I realized I was going to face a double challenge, perhaps triple.  First, I didn’t know a soul. But this was the easy part.  Second, I don’t speak Chinese or Japanese well enough to carry on any kind of conversation.  And third, most of the people there seemed to be the Japanese expats from the complex.  They are a tight knit group and all seemed to know each other and were having a great time chatting in Japanese.  I put my chili down on the table and sort of stood to one side.  I am sure I looked like a lost puppy.  The staff here are really nice and introduced me to a few people.  We chatted politely but they were there with friends and their young children so an adult conversation was not really going to happen.  I texted my friend T,  who lives in my complex and is American, a quick SOS.  She was great and came down.  We hung out and got silly.  The staff arranged a showing of some Harry Potter for the kids.  Then some dancers came dressed as witches and grim reapers (but I think the version from scary movie so it was just weird).  They did a little dance routine and got some people to join in. T and I danced our own little dance in the back of the room.  T had to head out.  I actually started talking to a couple of people and in the end I met some nice neighbors.

I got back up to my apartment and still had an hour before my kids would be home.  Peace and quiet are a great gift.

So here are some pictures from my Chinese Halloween adventure:

3 responses »

  1. You’re a brave soul and it’s making things better there for you. Just think of all the things you’ve already done- walking adventures, food adventures, Chinglish. And now you can add the Halloween festivities to that list.

  2. Some of the kids in the class were asking if they trick or treat in China so the timing of your story was perfect. I would have freaked out too at the sight of 100 kids and limited candy, but it sounds like it all worked out.

    The kids are wondering what Chinese candy is?

    • Please tell the kids that chinese kids really don’t trick or treat. They may have a few halloween parties but that is about it. The whole celebration really happened with the expat community. I found many chinese people looking bemused and bewildered by the halloween display in the carrefour.

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