HY­BRID HOL­I­DAYS

As Western hol­i­days grow more pop­u­lar in China, many young­sters are com­bin­ing cus­toms

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - FRONT PAGE -

Walk­ing on the streets in Bei­jing this time of year, you may bump into a ghost or a witch or even a zom­bie. You will also see smil­ing pump­kins on doorsteps and pic­tures of gob­lins and ghouls in win­dows. But don’t be afraid! This is

just Hal­loween, a weird Western hol­i­day that cel­e­brates spir­its and other spooky stuff. Most Western fes­ti­vals and cel­e­bra­tions, such as Christ­mas and Hal­loween, were first in­tro­duced into China back in the 1990s and have been en­joy­ing in­creas­ing pop­u­lar­ity ever since. Chi­nese peo­ple’s at­ti­tudes to­ward Western cul­ture have grad­u­ally changed in re­cent years, with more young Chi­nese get­ting dressed up in cos­tumes on Hal­loween and go­ing shop­ping on Christ­mas. Some Chi­nese are even in­te­grat­ing Western hol­i­days into their own cul­ture and cus­toms, cre­at­ing unique hy­brid hol­i­days not found any­where else in the world.

In a dimly lit room adorned with blood-red lights and the Chi­nese char­ac­ters for “hap­pi­ness” pasted up on the walls, women dressed up in form-fit­ting cheongsam (Shang­hai-style miniskirts) and men dressed in old-school man­darin jack­ets dance to­gether to spooky mu­sic play­ing on speak­ers. Tak­ing in the bizarre scene, you might think that you have just en­coun­tered a movie pro­duc­tion. But no, it is ac­tu­ally a Hal­loween party done up in a Chi­nese way in Bei­jing.

“It’s a nat­u­ral process that cul­tures from dif­fer­ent coun­tries merge within lo­cal ones, es­pe­cially in met­ro­pol­i­tan cities like Bei­jing and Shang­hai, where peo­ple from di­verse so­cial and cul­tural back­grounds gather to­gether,” said Fan Yang, founder and CEO of a pri­vate space-shar­ing app named ELSE­WHERE.

“Chi­nese young peo­ple are very cre­ative and they be­come bored cel­e­brat­ing Western fes­ti­vals the same way year af­ter year. In­te­gra­tion of Chi­nese and Western cul­ture is a grow­ing trend as they too grow their cul­tural con­fi­dence,” Fan told Met­ro­pol­i­tan.

With a “bloody-red wed­ding” theme and in­spi­ra­tion from the 2014 Chi­nese hor­ror movie The House That Never Dies, the venue is filled with el­e­ments of a tra­di­tional Chi­nese wed­ding: red veils for the brides, red-cloth flow­ers for the grooms and red spoons and chop­sticks for the cou­ples to feed each other with. The mu­sic and lights help cre­ate a creepy at­mos­phere, which was well re­ceived, at­tract­ing around 100 at­ten­dees, both Chi­nese and ex­pats.

“It’s quite dif­fer­ent from other Hal­loween par­ties I have at­tended be­fore. It was more like a ghost mar­riage in tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture, which res­onates with me,” a par­tic­i­pant sur­named Li said, ex­plain­ing that cel­e­bra­tions with Chi­nese el­e­ments are more ap­peal­ing to him since they echo his “cul­tural codes.”

A spooky new world

“Oh, no! What is this? Do not come near me!” Shang Ling’s voice trem­bles with ten­sion and ex­cite­ment as she bat­tles a war­rior in a black cloak with a jack-o’lantern for a head. The cloaked war­rior was in fact one of the Hal­loween-themed char­ac­ters re­leased in Over­watch, a video game de­vel­oped by US-based game de­vel­oper Bl­iz­zard En­ter­tain­ment just in time for Hal­loween.

Shang, a graphic de­signer based in Ji’nan, Shan­dong Prov­ince, was among the early ex­pe­ri­encers of the game. “The over­all color and tone were dark and scary; the sup­ply crate was in the shape of a pump­kin, and a hero even had a pump­kin head,” she said. “The spe­cial ef­fects were amaz­ing! It re­ally felt like Hal­loween.”

In re­cent years, many Chi­nese young­sters like Shang are start­ing to cel­e­brate Western fes­ti­vals not with cos­tumes and props but by us­ing vir­tual tech­nol­ogy and dig­i­tal plat­forms. On­line games, live stream­ing and vir­tual re­al­ity (VR) videos are most pop­u­lar due to their abil­ity to recre­ate real-life fes­tiv­i­ties, reach more peo­ple and boost the en­joy­ment of mil­len­nial view­ers.

Shang used to dress up in cos­tumes and at­tend par­ties to cel­e­brate Hal­loween while she was study­ing for her bach­e­lor’s de­gree in the US. But as few peo­ple in China cel­e­brate Hal­loween, it was im­prac­ti­cal for her to con­tinue the cus­tom upon her re­turn to China.

One week be­fore Hal­loween in 2015, she ac­ci­den­tally opened a web page to a new gam­ing site that had just launched Hal­loween-themed of­fer­ings. Out of cu­rios­ity, she logged into the game and im­me­di­ately en­tered a spooky new world. In or­ange and black graph­ics, the game of­fered tra­di­tional Hal­loween ac­tiv­i­ties like trick-or-treat

in the form of

mis­sions where play­ers could play a trick or wreak havoc if they do not get candy. Shang was in­stantly en­chanted by the

game. She played it for at least three hours at a time ev­ery night af­ter com­ing home from work. It took her back to the Hal­loween at­mos­phere of her col­lege days in Amer­ica, which she en­joyed. “But it was even bet­ter than when I was in the US, where most peo­ple just cel­e­brate Haln loween for one night,” she said. “In the vir­tual world, how­ever, the creepy at­mos­phere is greatly pro­longed, and I can take part in which­ever ac­tiv­i­ties

I like most about the oc­ca­sion,”

Shang told Met­ro­pol­i­tan, adding that the game also helps her feel less lonely at night be­cause many other Chi­nese play­ers join the game with her either as part­ners or ens emies on their ghoul­ish mis­sions. “Either when I am fight­ing for candy with my part­ner or try­ing to play tricks on my op­po­nent, I feel we are cel­e­brat­ing Hal­loween to­gether in our own Chi­nese way, re­gardf less of where we are phys­i­cally.”

Photo: Li Hao/ GT

Hal­loween par­ties with Chi­nese el­e­ments at­tract not only Chi­nese young peo­ple but also many ex­pats to ex­pe­ri­ence a dif­fer­ent hol­i­day at­mos­phere.

Pho­tos: VCG

Many Chi­nese youth en­joy fes­ti­valthemed vir­tual games for their rich fes­tive en­vi­ron­ment and sen­sory ap­peal.

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