Halloween in China: Festivals and Traditions to Celebrate

Published August 12, 2022
Halloween pumpkin on the background of the night city

Halloween is a time for spooky decorations, scary movies, and pumpkin spice everything. At least that's how the holiday is celebrated in the United States. However, not every country celebrates Halloween in the same way, if they celebrate at all.

If you're planning on spending October in China, you might be wondering if you'll miss out on the Halloween celebrations. Do people celebrate Halloween in China, and, if so, how can you join in on the festive fun?

Does China Celebrate Halloween?

Halloween is not celebrated in China. The majority of the population does not recognize the American holiday. However, there are still a few people who celebrate. For example, tourists and students from out of the country who attend universities in China often celebrate Halloween.

Halloween in Wan Chai

This means that areas near universities and high-tourist areas, such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, may be likely to celebrate, as well. However, it's important to keep in mind that these celebrations may be milder than full-blown haunted houses and pumpkin patches.

Although China doesn't celebrate Halloween, they do celebrate some spooky holidays of their own. They celebrate days of the dead and ghost days throughout the year. These celebrations have a religious background, and those that celebrate believe that during these days, the barrier between the living and the dead becomes very thin.

Hungry Ghost Festival

The Hungry Ghost Festival, also known as Ghost Festival is held on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar. In western culture, this would be somewhere in July or August. The Ghost Festival is a Taoist and Buddhist tradition celebrated in certain East Asian countries.

Launching of the Water Lanterns in The Chungyuan Festival

For the entire Ghost Month, it is believed that ghosts, spirits, and passed ancestors rise from the lower realm and visit the living. During this month, families will prepare food offerings for hungry ghosts that may not have had a safe passage into the afterlife.

In addition, people light incense, burn money, and leave other offerings to appease and show respect for any unhappy spirits that may travel their way. At the end of the month, people release lanterns and paper boats into the water to guide the spirits back toward the lower realm.

Qingming Festival

Qingming loosely translates to tomb sweeping in English. The Qingming Festival is a traditional Chinese holiday where people clean the tombs of their loved ones that have passed away. The holiday is usually celebrated 15 days after the Spring Equinox, which typically falls near the beginning of April in the Chinese lunar calendar.

Lighting candles for Qingming Festival

During the Qingming Festival, people also leave offerings for the dead, fly kites, spend time in nature, and eat special foods. Over time, the Qingming Festival and the Hanshi "Cold Food" Festival have come to be celebrated at the same time. During this period, people only eat cold food and refrain from using fire or heat. They do this in order to honor a man named Jie Zitui, a loyal servant of Duke Wen of Jin, who was accidentally killed in a fire around 771 BC.

The festival centers around showing respect for loved ones that have passed away. And, it allows families to reconnect with ancestors through offering and effort to make their final resting place peaceful.

Double Ninth Festival

The Double Ninth Festival is a traditional Chinese holiday that is celebrated on the ninth day of the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. It is also referred to as the Chongyang Festival, or as of 1989, the Senior's Festival.

Elderly People Welcome Double Ninth Festival In China

The festival signals the transition from summer to autumn. Long ago, farmers used to worship a bright star named Antares that they used to keep track of days and the seasons for their crops. Antares would appear in the summer months and disappear in the fall. The Double Ninth Festival offers the star a warm send-off.

During the festival, people climb mountains, eat special Chongyang cakes, and drink chrysanthemum wine to celebrate the start of fall. In addition, the festival is used to honor elders in the community.

How to Celebrate Halloween in China

Although the majority of people in China do not celebrate Halloween, that doesn't mean that you can't celebrate the holiday on your own. With a little creativity and some Halloween spirit, you can find a unique way to celebrate Halloween in China.

Plan a Trick-or-Treat Scavenger Hunt

It might be difficult for you to find a neighborhood in China filled with trick-or-treaters on Halloween. However, that doesn't mean that you can't bring the trick-or-treating inside your house. Set up a scavenger hunt around your home by creating a list of clues that lead to different candies you have hidden around your house. Give your kids the first clue, watch them work their way through the list, and help them out if you need to. This is a great way to get your kids moving and make them excited about spending Halloween inside. Also, it wouldn't be Halloween without some costumes, so encourage your kiddos to dress up just like they would if they were going from house to house.

Girls in Halloween costumes eating candy

Explore an Area That Celebrates

Were you hoping to celebrate more of a traditional Halloween? If so, you still can. Explore areas near universities or where a lot of tourists travel to. These areas are more likely to have Halloween decorations in stores, restaurants, and bars. It might not be as extreme as Halloween in the United States, but it can give you a taste of the festive fun that you are craving. Some areas even have dress-up nights in bars and restaurants at the end of October. However, it might not be as kid-friendly as a Halloween at home.

Have Pumpkin Carving Contest

Pumpkins are available in China year-round, which means that you and your family can partake in some traditional Halloween fun. Pick out your favorite pumpkins from a local store or market and carve pumpkins at home. For some friendly competition, you can make it into a contest to see who can create the spookiest or silliest jack-o'-lantern. If your kiddos are too young to crave pumpkins, you can still decorate them. Use paint, glitter, stickers, and construction paper to make uniquely decorated pumpkins. You can still hollow them out and bake the pumpkin seeds for a snack afterward.

Go Bobbing for Apples

Is your family always up to look a little silly and have a lot of fun? Bobbing for apples might be right up your alley. It's a Halloween tradition that was invented hundreds of years ago and still provides a lot of laughs. All you need is a large bowl, water, and some apples. You can bob for apples both indoors and outdoors. If you choose indoors, make sure to set up towels underneath the bowl to catch any water that might spill over. Fill a bowl with water and place a few apples inside. Then, have every member of your family that wants to bob for apples try and grab one using only their mouth. You might find that it's harder than it sounds! Afterward, you and your family can make candy or caramel-covered apples to add to the festive fun.

Celebrating Halloween in China

If you celebrate Halloween in China, chances are that it will look a bit different from what you're used to. Not many people in the country celebrate, but there are some tourist and university areas that do. Plan for a stay-at-home Halloween if you aren't near one of these places. With some candy, scary movies, and spooky fun, you can create a Halloween memory that you and your family will love.

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Halloween in China: Festivals and Traditions to Celebrate