Be Careful Not to Import Needless Change to our Culture

Ancient Gaels believed that on October 31st, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc. Masks and costumes were worn in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits in order to fool them. What was the Festival of Samhain evolved into present day Halloween.

I am surprised to learn of a Halloween Festival was held this year in Singapore, though here, Halloween seems to have been observed for several years now, with stores – including FairPrice supermarkets – stocking up on Halloween-related paraphernalia, complete with “bloodstained axes”, fake blood, chopped limbs and other scary stuff every October.

What further surprised me was parents making their toddlers up to look like creepy ghosts.

While Singapore may be a metropolitan state with people from all over the world working and residing here, I can’t help but wonder if a “festival” that can hardly be considered international in nature and one that traces its roots to paganism has a place in our predominantly Asian culture.

What is so edifying about skeletons, blood-soaked zombies, dead babies and scary ghosts? Are we desensitizing our young ones to gore and violence, even if they are all done in the name of fun? What next? Creepy clowns? It is a phenomenon already sweeping parts of the United States and has apparently just made its way here too.

We should be discerning in what to emulate and adopt. I don’t see how a fright fest adds value to our culture. Merchants should not simply jump onto the bandwagon just to make a few extra bucks.

Retailers love any occasion that can make them money. Given the current economic climate, that’s perfectly understandable. I have no statistics on Singapore, but in the US retailers rejoice during Halloween as they warm up their cash registers to receive a projected US$82.93 from each of the 171 million Americans celebrating Halloween this year.

Total Halloween retail spending was projected to be US$8.4 billion this year, a new record.

In my humble opinion, Halloween has no place in our society. In previous years lots of youngsters paid good money to be frightened out of their wits at the Night Safari. It has since done the right thing by scraping Halloween-related activities. Life is ugly enough and we can certainly do without more dark, ghoulish imagery. I am a firm believer that what you see becomes a part of you. What you see stays with you. Hence I do not open emails from people who have this irksome habit of sending me gruesome pictures of accidents or videos of beheadings and the like. Remember in our younger days, how our parents would tell us to turn away – “Don’t look!” – whenever we chanced upon sights that may scare us; our elders had good reasons to shield us from looking at things that may not be pleasant to look at. Indeed we need to seek that which is edifying. Let’s fill our lives with beautiful images, shall we? Let’s winnow out the wheat from the mountains of chaff in our lives.

Some may think Halloween is all harmless fun and Hollywood has added to the “fun” a wide assortment of fictional characters. But the fascination with vampires and werewolves for example, as glorified by mindless movies like the Twilight series, certainly isn’t improving our mind, but it sure is making someone a lot of money.

Let not get suckered into that.