Many of us come from countries where Halloween is a big deal. Every year on October 1, my uncle begins to work on the house. This includes dragging every nightmare inducing prop, toy, and decoration out of his second floor “horror” room to proudly display outside. And I don’t just mean a ghost here and there, my uncle has full out animatronic people sitting in chairs getting electrocuted, alien butlers, and Chucky Dolls. So, I can easily say that Halloween has always been a pretty big deal in my family.
Every year between the age of 4-12 I was some version of a cat: black cat, tutu cat, cat from CATS, sexy cat, cat that grandma made to put on a coat because I was “too sexy” for being 12- years-old cat. There was also one year that I was Snow White which went over surprisingly well considering I’m of half Trinidadian heritage and had caked myself in white powder for the night. Okay, I kinda looked like the Joker.
Coming to Shanghai I figured that Halloween was one of those worldwide phenomena that people just participate in everywhere. Turns out Shanghai kind of doesn’t. When I set to making Oren’s Halloween costume (a Kurosuke from Totoro or Spirited Away), our ayi asked: “What is that for?” So I explained about Halloween and then she said, “Oh! Yes. I know. But we don’t do this.”
I was kind of disheartened – no Halloween? Seriously? Thankfully though being an expat means that there are many expats here that are missing the occasion as much as I am. And even if you can’t walk downtown and see a million costumes like you can back home, many of the larger expat compounds as well as some malls like the Kerry Centre in Jinqiao keep the Halloween festivities alive. Last year the party just kept on coming and we ended up going to three different event’s including collecting candy from the GAP and H&M – random, I know. The only thing I truly miss is the lack of GOOD candy. Cause Halloween isn’t a recognized “thing” you’re kind of stuck giving out little bags of M&M’s or hawthorn candy instead of full sized chocolate bars and bags of chips. I’m pretty sure hawthorn candy is the equivalent to getting those little boxes of raisins. I mean sure, you’ll eat them…but you won’t enjoy it.
And thankfully there are options to buy Halloween costumes. Of course there is Taobao, but also there is the children’s market and fake market where you’re guaranteed to find a Spider-man or Cinderella costume in a pinch.
This year, Kai actually picked his own Halloween costume which means almost gone are the days when I can dress him in anything I please. Past awesomeness has been a hotdog and Totoro, this year it’s a fireman. Oren I still get to choose what he’s going to be and this year he’ll be a crab – just so my husband and I can pass him around and say: “We have crabs! HaHa!” I don’t care if that joke is only funny to me.
// Nicole Chia is Urban Family's mom blogger. Read all about this Canadian expat mama's adventures in Shanghai in her weekly posts.