Young people in Hong Kong and Shanghai celebrate Halloween in Chinese style
Published: Oct 31, 2023 12:25 AM
A large-scale Halloween parade lights up the nightlife of Shanghai on October 29, 2023, with local residents' costumes becoming a new highlight of the street. Photo: VCG

A large-scale Halloween parade lights up the nightlife of Shanghai on October 29, 2023, with local residents' costumes becoming a new highlight of the street. Photo: VCG

This year's Halloween is particularly special for Chinese people as it is the first in four years without pandemic-related restrictions. Streets have become a stage for young people, who have dressed up as ghosts, monsters, or other social figures. As well as including foreign customs, they turned the whole festival into a carnival of youth subculture, filled with laughter and applause.

In the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), Halloween celebrations have been exceptionally lively. As early as September, Halloween decorations started appearing on the streets of Hong Kong. In the Central district, an entire pedestrian street was adorned with masks of ghosts, and pumpkin lanterns were lit. Nonetheless, apart from the common Halloween elements, it is worth noting that a new theme emerged among the young population in Hong Kong: Chinese horror.

On the nights leading up to Halloween, Chinese ghosts and monsters could be seen appearing among the crowds on the streets of Hong Kong. Many people dressed up as mythical creatures from ancient Chinese legends, such as Pixiu, Qilin, nine-tailed Fox, or Qing Dynasty zombies.

These characters are derived from Chinese mythology but also reflect people's individual interpretations. These unique roles have formed a distinctive street scene during this year's Halloween in China.

"These characters from Chinese mythology have left a deep impression on me," said a woman surnamed Yin, who has been living in Hong Kong for years. She mentioned that when she first came to Hong Kong years ago, people tended to dress up as classic characters from European or American movies or cartoons during Halloween.

"In recent years, it is evident that the prevalence of traditional Chinese culture has spread from the mainland to Hong Kong. The attitude of Hong Kong's young people toward traditional Chinese culture has become increasingly positive," she said.

Apart from Hong Kong, another major Chinese metropolis, Shanghai, also attracted widespread attention with its Halloween celebrations. Many netizens said that the costumes of young people in Shanghai were even more creative than those in Hong Kong.

In the festivities in Shanghai, young people dressed up as characters from movies, TV dramas and comics, and even included elements of beliefs. This diversity and creativity has transcended the distinction between Chinese and foreign cultures, turning the festival into a higher-level cultural experience.

At an open-air Halloween party in Shanghai, many young people dressed up as characters from popular memes, wearing exaggerated costumes and carrying various special props. Others dressed up as characters or animals from contemporary Chinese TV dramas or cartoons. Some impersonated well-known internet celebrities who were live-streaming through masks or exaggerated facial expressions. Many costumes were related to current social events, expressing the attitudes of the wearers.

Creative costumes were captured by onlookers and went viral on social media. For example, someone dressed up as Lu Xun, a famous modern Chinese writer, wearing the Zhongshan suit from decades ago and holding his famous quotes. Another man painted thick dark circles around his eyes, claiming to be a programmer. Additionally, someone dressed up as a bottle of Lao Gan Ma, the famous chili sauce brand.

Photos and videos circulating online showed crowds filling the streets. These young Halloween celebrators took photos together, hugged, and laughed, releasing the pressures of daily life during this festival. Many even traveled from other places to Shanghai specifically to join the grand Halloween celebrations. "Halloween might be the Spring Festival for young people," wrote an opinion leader on Sina Weibo, which was echoed by many netizens.

"The creativity and diversity of these young people are admirable," wrote one netizen. "This is something very precious."

Another netizen wrote that these young celebrators have a sense of vitality, with each person confidently being their unique self.

In the context of globalization, cultural elements can flow anywhere, and young people have creatively transformed foreign Halloween traditions into localized celebrations, observers noted. They not only incorporate various elements into entertainment but also express deeper thoughts and concerns within it.