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Celebrating Halloween is becoming increasingly popular in Indian cities over the last few years.
Earlier, only families that lived in the US or Europe for some time knew about this festival. Groups of such expatriates or returning NRIs would get together for a costume party, and have the children play ‘trick or treat’.
However, things are changing rapidly. With satellite television beaming Hollywood flicks, and a growing number of Indian families returning from their stints to the US/Europe, this festival is fast becoming a permanent fixture in the festival season.
Most restaurants and eateries are serving up Halloween-themed menus. Family entertainment parks and play zones are organizing dress-up parties for kids, and in some cases, for adults as well.
If you have not heard about Halloween, here’s a quick primer
Halloween or Hallowe’en is a celebration observed in many countries on October 31, on All Saints’ Eve, the time of the year when Christian communities remember the departed family members, including the Saints (hallows), and martyrs.
Remembering the departed ones is common across all cultures. In the Indic tradition, we have ‘pitru paksha’ during September. What makes Halloween different is the amalgamation of several Gaelic/Celtic (pre-Christian culture in Ireland, Scotland and parts of North Western Europe) traditions, especially harvest festival traditions such as Samhain. Halloween grew in popularity in the US, especially after the large scale Irish and Scottish migrations in the 19th century, and has become a cross-cultural national festival during the 20th century. In the US and Europe, Halloween is today a secular festival, though some groups continue to celebrate it as a religious festival.
Halloween activities include trick or treating, Halloween costume parties, carving pumpkins into Jack-O-lanterns, apple bobbing, playing pranks, visiting haunted places, and of late, watching horror movies or telling spooky stories.
On Halloween evening, children wear scary costumes (dress up play), and visit the neighbours’ homes, knocking the doors and asking for ‘trick or treat’. The grown-ups are then supposed to treat the kids by giving them different types of candies/lollies.
Celebrating Halloween in India
Halloween celebrations are limited to the metropolitan cities in India till now. Family entertainment parks, Kids’ play zones and activity centers organize Halloween Costume parties for children. Restaurants serve Halloween-themed dishes (mostly vegetarian).
Due to the association of this festival with violent images and horror in American popular culture and practice, there has been some criticism in India as well. A couple of reasons given against celebrating Halloween in India are:
- It is not a tradition in India to observe a remembrance of the departed souls and saints, by highlighting horror, ghosts, and violence. Indic traditions generally observe a remembrance by fasting or prayer and charity.
- We already have too many festivals, and especially after Dasara and Diwali – we need a little break before the Christmas and New Year holidays! 🙂 🙂
The above reasons do sound valid. But as we all know, there will always be good reasons in favour of having fun!
Let’s look at why celebrating Halloween in India is a good idea.
Firstly, any festival is an occasion for family and friends to meet and have a great bonding time. And Halloween is a festival primarily enjoyed by kids, across cultures. So, why not give in to the temptation of candy and some spooky fun? One can never have enough of a good thing, right?
Secondly, celebrating Halloween with costume parties, spooky storytelling sessions, and special delicacies – has to be seen as an instance of quaint cultural cross-pollination. It doesn’t replace our Indic traditions of remembrance. We could celebrate it as yet another seasonal festival – when the monsoons give way to winter.
Of course, like all festivals, Halloween could also become commercialized with deals, special offers, and distractions. One should keep in mind that not all children enjoy pranks being played on them, especially the spooky ones.
Have a spooktacular Halloween!!