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Halloween’s Humble Beginning in Myanmar

Halloween is not an unknown concept to Myanmar people but very few celebrate or know how it started. It’s origin was the festival of Samhain. It was part of the ancient Celtic religion in Britain and other parts of Europe. At the end of summer, the Celts thought the dimension or barrier between the human world and the world of ghosts and spirits got really thin. This meant weird creatures with strange powers could wander about on Earth which made the Celts organize a big party. The purpose was to scare away the ghosts and spirits. 

Later, with the Christian religion, the day was said to be set as the evening before the Christian holy days of All Hallows’ Day (also known as All Saints’ or Hallowmas) on November 1 and All Souls’ Day on November 2, thus giving the holiday on October 31 the full name of All Hallows’ Eve (meaning the evening before All Hallows’ Day).

According to Country Living, the reason why Halloween falls on October 31 was because the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain, considered the earliest known root of Halloween, occurred on this day.

Currently, the only few places that celebrate Halloween actively are the restaurants and bars. Nonetheless, the international schools in Myanmar…

It marked a pivotal time of year when the seasons changed, but observers also believed the boundary between this world and the next became especially thin at this time, enabling them to connect with the dead. 

This belief is shared by some other cultures; a similar idea is mentioned around the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, which also typically occurs in October and involves saying prayers for the dead. This is also where Halloween gains its “haunted” connotations.

The reports stated that Halloween was once considered as a tradition which is mostly celebrated in the Western and had a connection to religion. However in recent years, it has become a global event with people enjoying parades, costumes and trick or treating. Nowadays, it has morphed into a purely secular holiday. It is celebrated to have fun, dress up in a costume, and either trick-or-treating, or going to a party.

And as a secular holiday, Halloween has come to be associated with a number of activities. One is the practice of pulling usually harmless pranks. Celebrants wear masks and costumes for parties and for trick-or-treating, thought to have derived from the British practice of allowing the poor to beg for food, called “soul cakes.” Trick-or-treaters go from house to house with the threat that they will pull a trick if they do not receive a treat, usually candy. And those who like to stay at home, watch horror movies.

Halloween parties often include games such as bobbing for apples, perhaps derived from the Roman celebration of Pomona. Along with skeletons and black cats, the holiday has incorporated scary beings such as ghosts, witches, and vampires into the celebration. Another symbol is the jack-o’-lantern, a hollowed-out pumpkin, originally a turnip, carved into a demonic face and lit with a candle inside. Since the mid-20th century the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has attempted to make the collection of money for its programs as a part of Halloween.

Motion Elements stated that people in Asia consider the occasion as a special time to remember their loved ones who have passed away. Even though, the decorations and lights are not equally popular like in western countries, adults in Asia, on the other hand, also celebrate Halloween costume parties at clubs. The people in China, Japan and the Philippines offer various kinds of food to the dead in order to guide and show the spirits where their loved ones are, Chinese and Japanese light their lanterns while Filipinos light candles. 

According to Forbes, Delahorne of DDB Worldwide said, “Only children dressed up in earlier days. But now adults have hijacked Halloween from kids and there are several reasons for adult popularity. There’s no stress to it. You don’t have to travel or deal with relatives. There’s not the holiday pressure to find a date if you are single. You can wear whatever you want and not be judged. There’s the fantasy, role-play element. If you think about it, it’s surprising that 90% of people don’t feel it’s their favorite holiday.”

Even though, in Myanmar, it is widely known yet people did not usually take part in celebrating. However, it has not been very long that Myanmar people, especially among youths, actually started adapting the experience of the party. When asked a parent, he/she said the Halloween is not a new thing to be heard since it is also quite mentioned a lot in the movies. Yet, to be celebrated here in Myanmar, it will still need a long time to be fully recognized or accepted for many elderlies might not be able to grow used to with it.

Most of the university students also claimed that Halloween sure is quite a holiday to have fun since the celebration occurs at night and as a youth, they enjoy having fun outside just as how the students from all over the world are. They also believe it is a given to have fun while you are still young and active. One student said he would literally take part in any school activities and follow his heart utmost as a young person. And he has faith that one day Halloween would be widely celebrated all around the country which youths like him would still have to be patient.

Currently, the only few places that celebrate Halloween actively are the restaurants and bars. Nonetheless, the international schools in Myanmar have also begun to take part nowadays as an event for the youngsters to be able to have fun and enjoy the entertainment from how Halloween is celebrated. Additionally, it would be also an inspiration on the students believing the adults of Myanmar would accept the occasion eventually. 

Even though it is a matter of time for the event to be fully recognized in urban areas, on the other hand, it might take a lot more time than expected for the rural parts of Myanmar.