Halloween in Taiwan: Then Vs. Now

Halloween Display 5
Halloween Display, Top City Department Store, Taichung, Taiwan

When I first arrived in Taiwan 15 years ago, Halloween only consisted of a few costume parties hosted by expats or at bars geared towards the expat population. Also, only a very small, very limited selection of Halloween décor and costumes was available at one or two retail stores. Yes, some English buxibans (cram schools) and kindergartens hosted Halloween parties for their students which consisted of haunted rooms, pumpkin carving activities, and costume contests. However, in all honesty, if you were not a foreigner or a person attending or employed at an English school, Halloween could have come and gone and you would have been none the wiser.

However, fast forward 15 years and the Halloween scene in Taiwan (well, at least the concept and idea of it) has become rather popular. No – children don’t go from door to door at night collecting treats. No – people don’t decorate their houses and windows with witches, ghosts, skulls, and Jack-o-lanterns. And no – retailers don’t stock their shelves with small ‘fun size’ chocolate bars, bags of potato chips, and candy.

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Halloween Display 6

But nowadays, there seems to be a lot more attention and focus placed on Halloween decorations and Halloween displays – mostly cute-faced Jack-o-lanterns, Casper-like friendly ghosts, and adorable smiling witches. For example, when I went window shopping last week in Taichung, I was surprised by the amount of care, effort, and money department stores put into creating smaller indoor displays and one even created a box display outdoors (all photos in this post were taken there). I have to admit that it was nice seeing the little kids entering the small house-like structure: some were rather curious and some looked completely terrified.

Also, there seems to be a lot more scheduled costumes parties held at department stores and big name retail stores. Maybe it is a sales tactic to attract more customers to their location or maybe it is a way to draw in customers to increase sales and profit, but whatever the reason, these children’s parties seem to attract a lot of children as well as a huge audience. And because of this, there are a lot more Halloween costumes and decorations for sale during the month leading up to Halloween.

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So, there you have it!  The concept of Halloween in Taiwan has definitely evolved over the years!!

Happy Halloween from Taiwan!!

Now, over to you! How about where you live? Is Halloween celebrated there? If not, can you see glimpses of Halloween in your city or town? Do you have any plans for Halloween?

 (Check out last year’s post:  Halloween in Taiwan: A Teacher’s Perspective)

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45 thoughts on “Halloween in Taiwan: Then Vs. Now

  1. So interesting to see how this kind of thing is developing in a country.
    In Germany the whole Halloween thing is still in its beginning stage for the past twenty years. There are few decorations, you can buy some costumes in stores and from time to time some dressed up children are running about but that’s pretty much it.
    Let’s see how it will evolve here:)

  2. That little house/display is very cute! ^^
    Japan has had a similar development to Taiwan I think, but in the last 5 years, Halloween has skyrocketed here! There’s children’s costumes parades, clubs with Halloween party nights, accessories in shops everywhere. There’s no trick or treating here, but I almost like the idea of the costume parades better as it means no random people coming and knocking on my door. (Maybe I’m a Halloween grinch! Nahh, just never grown up with that custom, though I think I did it once or twice. ^^)

    1. I agree – organized parades are way safer for all of those involved (the children as well as the people giving out the treats)! I have noticed a lot of posts of your facebook page about Halloween – it is awesome you get to experience it in Japan as well!

  3. Those are very lovely Halloween decorations. The houses look sizable, /like real life play houses. The pumpkins don’t even look that scary. In fact, they seem to have smiley faces 🙂

    Halloween isn’t celebrated that much in Australia. It’s as you said in Taiwan: there are pumpkin, witches and scarecrow decorations all over the place in Melbourne. Candy is put out right at the front of supermarkets, fun-size packs galore. Yet…no one really talks about it and costume parties are rare.

    My Chinese-Malaysian parents aren’t big on Halloween either, though I have no problem with it. I suppose in traditional Asian families, death is something not talked about and shunned. So maybe that’s why Halloween, with all the ghosts, witches and warlocks surrounding the festival, isn’t something some Chinese celebrate. I don’t know if you encountered such a sentiment in Taiwan, but it would be interesting to hear if you did.

    I have no plans for Halloween, too swamped with work lately! Halloween is usually a few days out from Melbourne’s annual Spring Racing Carnival (horse racing event, it’s a public holiday here). Many Melbournians are more focused on this instead of Halloween, betting on horses, planning racing parties and dressing up fancy for it 🙂

    1. My husband thinks that the little house was purchased at Costco – they sell them as small garden sheds. And yes, Taiwan seems to take a cute and happy take on Halloween. The majority of children dress as angels, princesses, butterflies, cute animals, superheroes, etc. There is not many costumes around displaying the ‘darker side’ of Halloween.

      I think the scariest part of Halloween I ever encounter is the haunted rooms we made for our students to walk through. We would hide and scare them – most teachers considered it as a few moments of revenge, especially against the naughty kids!

      1. “cute and happy take on Halloween”. I think that’s what many Asians aim to do during Halloween – dress up nice and cute in their costumes. Maybe it’s something to do with being more conservative and the fact that they like looking young.

        Haha, that sounds like a fun way to spend Halloween – giving your students a fright. I hope not too bad of a fright until they shed a few tears 😉

  4. We are in Berlin at the moment and we can tell that Halloween isn’t huge here, it’s just another excuse to have fun, go out and put on some scary costumes and gruesome make up. I’m not sure but I don’t think children (or adults) go door to door asking for “trick or treat”, not yet at least. 🙂

  5. In Spain I never celebrated Halloween when I was a child, I only knew about it from American movies. We celebrate November 1st as “All Saints Day” and we go to the countryside and roast chestnuts.

    I think in China it is also getting easier to spot Halloween themed things. Last weekend when I went to the supermarket they had masks, pumpkins, witch hats, etc. And yesterday in a mall they had Halloween decoration (but not as nice as your pictures) and one cake shop was selling Halloween cupcakes.

    1. I haven’t seen much in the way of Halloween cakes or pastries (but then again, I didn’t really pay attention), but they do sell a lot of cakes with Christmas decorations on them in December.

      In Canada, I always looked forward to Halloween, especially as a child. But, I also remember many of my friends suffering from toothaches as well.

  6. Same is the thing in India. Though the small towns don’t care about the festival, the people in the big cities are sure all hyped about it. There are those planned themed parties, people tend to organise a bonfire with their friends and all that scary movie marathons… But honestly speaking, people who celebrate Halloween now tend to brag about it a lot. Considering them closer to the western world and culture, people truly show off a lot while celebrating Halloween here… But I guess as time will pass, the Halloween wind will sway throw the towns as well…
    Well that’s it about India. Have a happy Halloween too…
    🙂

    1. Thanks for dropping by and sharing how Halloween has become popular in India. I think costume parties are big everywhere as well as scary movie marathons, but I think bonfires are not as popular as they once were for safety reasons (in Canada, anyway).

      1. 🙂
        Oh, well bonfires are a new concept here, so there a only a few people who do it… But even without Halloween, due to the chilly winters, bonfires are a lot common here.. 🙂
        This year I saw something new. In my city schools took the initiative of hosting a Halloween party for the students.. 🙂 This can’t be a bad sign now, can it? 😉 🙂

  7. I’m in Toronto, so Halloween is definitely celebrated here! I think it gets a little too crazy, but who am I to judge? We also have Halloween Haunt and Screamers at the large theme parks here. Personally, I’m not a big Halloween fan – those things scare me – so I don’t really celebrate it. I love seeing people in costumes though 🙂

    1. I am not really into the scary side of Halloween either – maybe that is why I like Halloween in Taiwan (it is all cute and happy)! I remember going to the movie theater when ‘I know what you did last summer!’ was playing on Halloween and I was terrified walking back to the car that night.

  8. In South Africa, Halloween has never been a big thing, but I ahve noticed that the past couple of years, there has been more interest in it. It will never be as big as in the USA though. I was up in New York last week, and saw so many gardens and houses decked out for Halloween.

  9. Hallowe’en isn’t huge in Korea in the same way it is at home. However, there are several zombie runs, trick or treat runs, and some websites and shops dedicated to costumes. You can find pumpkins and some decorations in the Daiso and Homeplus stores but they aren’t in huge abundance where I live.
    Usually in Seoul there is a night where people go out all dressed up. I am missing it this year, though.

    1. A trick or treat run sounds like fun but I am not sure about the zombie one. My husband was telling me that there is a zombie run in the city close to where we live this weekend and people were dressing up as zombies during the days leading up to Halloween and scaring people in dimly lit areas. It happened so often that it made the news.

  10. I am super jealous Taiwan celebrates Halloween, or at least they do more than in Australia. I haven’t seen any costumes in the stores, and only one grocery store selling pumpkins carving and minis out of a big box near the produce. Other than that, the holiday could come and go and no one would know. I think it is becoming more popular here as the country becomes more Americanized, but it’s my first Halloween here and I don’t know anyone celebrating.

  11. My kids spent their childhood in the Philippines, so they didn’t experience Halloween until they were teenagers and we moved back to the US. They did get to dress up every year for UN Day at the International School. I suspect things have changed a bit in the Philippines since then.

      1. Yes, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are huge in the Philippines. People stay all night at the cemetery, playing cards and eating with their family.

  12. When I lived in Germany for 17 years they only celebrated at very, very few locations (mainly for Base military families) and I was not affiliated with the Base, so I never went. There are so many Holidays to celebrate in Germany in the fall and springtime, I never did miss American holidays. Now that I’m back in the US, people find it odd that I could careless about our major holidays (and rarely celebrate, even if friends invite me out of “pity”).

    But, Halloween decorations still remain my favorites! Thanks for sharing your photos!

    Check out the pumpkin photo I made, from the pumpkin I carved… the light gave-off such an eerie glow! Nope, it’s not photo-shopped! http://tucsonblonde.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/pumpkin-carving/

    1. Yes! I know Oktoberfest draws the crowds to Germany – did you ever attend one of the celebrations?

      Actually, I am like you. I don’t really miss the holidays such as Christmas. I find in Taiwan that is has much meaning that it did before. I enjoy the Christmas displays around the city, I decorate my house, my friends come together and enjoy a big meal, and exchange a present or two (nothing extravagant). I have to admit that I don’t miss the endless shopping and Christmas lines at the check-outs.

      I am off to check out the pumpkin you carved!

      1. Naw. Oktoberfest is mostly for tourists and the Bavarians! 😉

        As much as I’ve never missed shopping at the holidays (in Germany we have fabulous Christmas Markets that are the most *cold* fun ever!) I’ve always liked decorative lights. I’ll try to post good pictures of holiday lights/decorations from here in the desert in the coming weeks! It’s always fun to see a Saguaro cactus wrapped up in tree lights!

  13. Halloween has been celebrated/marked in one way shape or form in Ireland and other ‘Celtic’ countries for centuries. It really only took on its present form in America during the 19th Century through the thousands of emigrants. While in China I am constantly asked about certain non-Chinese festivals and I find myself having to explain over and over that I am not so familiar with and don’t celebrate the American ones – I’m from Europe, and so I don’t have the cultural attachment to it as many of my American colleagues have. The response I always get is ” but you’re foreign, you should know”, “Why aren’t you telling us about Thanksgiving?” I would usually be unaware when Thanksgiving occurs every year, except for an invitation to dine out with other Americans.
    When i begin to talk about the origin: i am equally interested in the origin of any traditional festival, I get a blank stare. I find that there is very little curiosity about the different festivals that individual countries have, and there are as many as there are countries in the world.
    Although there are a lot of decorations in China for the major festivals like Christmas, what I really miss, as other posters have mentioned, are things like the Christmas markets in Germany and Austria, and other countries, not because of the shopping, but because they were part of the social life on my family and friends.

    1. I know what you mean. When I taught in Taipei, I had to explain Halloween to some of my colleagues as they were unfamiliar with the customs and traditions associated with this festival. Thus, they found it hard to teach it to the students.

      I feel in some ways Christmas is more special for me in Taiwan as it is more about getting together with friends and having a huge feast. There is no stress with regards to shopping and finding the perfect gift!

      Happy December! I hope you are getting into the spirit of the holidays!!

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