Holidays In China Part 1: Our School Halloween Celebration

This is first of four posts about how I spent the holidays when living in China 2010-2011. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years: each offered a blend of America and China.

This first post was written five years ago, November 2010, after the school where I worked put on an extravagant Halloween celebration involving students–and us teachers in ways we didn’t expect… 


An American Holiday in China

Halloween is celebrated in China? That was my first reaction when seeing the merchandise for sale in stores.

I had assumed Halloween to be one of many holidays I’d have to miss out on living in China. Turns out, China has imported from America much more than just rock-n-roll and the computer. Children here exposed to Western style and entertainment have a ball with this holiday. And it’s no surprise that an English school was just the place to nourish this trend, particularly my school, which was fond of hosting festivals year-round.

For Halloween, they held a big event in a shopping center rotunda. In front of a slew of folding chairs stood an impressive stage and backdrop.

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Our education director Navid had asked me to participate in the celebration. He never said what I’d be doing…

Obediently, I had gone to the local department store, which had set some premium prices on cheaply-made costumes. I ended up getting one of those masquerade masks that had me looking like an effeminate superhero.

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Okay, time to party.

Several parents with their costumed children filled the seats in the rotunda while participants and emcees prepared offstage.

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Navid had us rookie teachers—Marilyn, Reynold, and I—sit in the front row so to be ready for our participation. I thought our involvement might be as costume contest judges. Nope.

Soon the lights dimmed, and the audience that had swelled to over one hundred looked on as the emcees—a teenage boy and two girls—opened the evening.

They then introduced the first performers: a dance team of 8-year-old girls.

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The TPR 2010 Halloween Celebration began with a “Little Miss Princess” pageant vibe, girls dancing with pasted-on smiles and moms making up their wee one’s faces.

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After these girls was another performance, one involving even younger children in a variety of costumes. It was chaotic: kids uncertain where to go, one crying, and parents encouraging them from the floor. In other words, it was great.

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Harry Potter pirate?
Harry Potter pirate?
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Well, at least Mom’s enjoying it.

Next was the costume contest.

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Wished I was the judge. I’d have voted for Boxboy. Well, I wasn’t, but I soon got my answer as to why I came…

The final event had three sets of parent/child pairs walk up onstage. Reynold, Marilyn, and I were then asked to join them, each of us matched with one of the parent/child combos. I accompanied a father and his ten-year-old boy. I still had no clue what for and hoped it didn’t involve speaking, because I couldn’t say ten words to the dad.

“Lucky” for me, I wouldn’t have to say a thing. In fact, there would soon be a moment when my mouth would be covered. For it was up to our teammates to mummify us teachers with toilet paper as fast as possible. I don’t know if they understood the tie-in to the American Halloween tradition, but yes, I had to make like a tree and get TP’d.


Hectic music and a vocal audience matched the energy with which father and son scrambled around me. They started with my legs and worked their way up. After a few minutes, I looked over at Reynold and realized that my guys weren’t doing half bad.

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Prior to coming here, I imagined a lot of different places to go, people to meet, and things to do—but this? I took it as a testament to the interesting places life will take you as long as you are open and willing. (Or perhaps it was just karma for complaining about bathrooms here never having tissue.)

Half-way around the world, up on stage as locals mummified me and a hundred more looked on. This is China!?
Half-way around the world, up on stage as locals mummified me and a hundred more looked on. This is China!?

Although my guys did a good job, Marilyn’s team took home the prize.

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Actually, we all won, right? Free toilet paper!


Next week, I’ll share my experience preparing a Chinese-style feast (Thanksgiving-like) with a family.

And now for making it all the way to the end, I have video from the Halloween Party:

What say you?