The University of Iowa

A Chinese Halloween

October 31st, 2013

By Siqi Wang for The Daily Iowan

Students in Halloween costumes
International students dress up in costumes and carve pumpkins during the annual Life in Iowa event on Halloween.

Carve pumpkins? Prepare a costume?

Are you ready for the annual Halloween party?

Americans are not the only ones excited about Halloween today.  I know I speak for Chinese students when I say many of us are really looking forward to the evening's festivities. My friends and I want to carve our own "jack-o'-lantern," dress up, and attend parties.

You may not be aware that Halloween is celebrated in some parts of mainland China. But while you might find lots of local restaurants featuring a Halloween-night theme or many shops ready to sell a variety of Halloween snacks in my home country, children will not go door to door for treats.

As the world becomes more international, the younger Chinese citizens like to celebrate this Western festival with their friends. In my  observation, the Chinese festival is more likely to be spent among families, staying and visiting with older generations. But the Western Halloween to me means young people having fun with their peers.

Chinese also celebrate a similarly "ghoulish" festival — it takes place on the 15th night of the seventh month in the lunar calendar, and the whole seventh month is called "Ghost Month." 

Chinese Taoists typically believe that July 15 is the birthday of hell's guardian. The guardian allows all lost souls back to the mortal world to enjoy one special day off. As for the people in the mortal world, they need to take out their most delicious foods and freshest fruits to serve these lost souls and also use candles and incense to convert a new "way" for the souls to come back.

Chinese Buddhists typically believe that the seventh month is the time for Moginlin — a disciple of Buddha Sakyamuni — to rescue his deceased mother from hell. Once again, on July 15, delicious foods are displayed in 10 different directions, so that the ghosts can come out and help Moginlin find his mother.

As for me, I have really enjoyed my Halloween experiences celebrating this special festival with my multinational friends here in Iowa.

My freshman year, I attended my first Halloween party, dressed as a shepherdess — and had fun watching Mario, Snow White, and Superman show up at my friend's home.

But this year, to be honest, I'm done with the costumes. I have more fun watching other people dress us than doing it myself. But I do admire the spirit of Halloween both here and at home.