Halloween Howling through Cambodia

Anya Minko / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Cambodians painted their faces to look horrifying on Halloween last year. KT/ Anya Minko

Halloween, the annual celebration which falls on the last day of October, is becoming more popular with young Cambodians. This trick-or-treating event is a great excuse to dress up any way people want.
 
Over the years, Halloween has morphed into a massive commercial industry. Worldwide, millions of dollars are spent on Halloween accessories per year. Masks, fancy dress costumes, glow sticks, pumpkins and face paint to name a few. It’s a lot of fun, but also a lucrative market.
 
Typical festive Halloween activities include attending costume parties, pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating, decoration and scary movie marathons. 
 
When asked if she knew what Halloween was, 19-year-old student Noun Leakhana giggled and replied “Isn’t it when people dress up as ghosts? I don’t really see the point, but it seems like a lot of fun! I wouldn’t mind dressing up if my friends also dressed up with me.”
 
With no deep roots in Cambodian culture, the festival is often seen as a fun occasion to celebrate. In more westernized, touristy Cambodian cities such as Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap, during Halloween you will see strange looking creatures, locals and foreigners roaming around on Halloween night having a blast in their fancy, wacky costumes. 
 
Twenty-six-year-old local noodle seller Heng Sokleap thought Halloween was funny. “I have seen some strange outfits worn by Khmer people and foreigners during this occasion.”
 
“It is not my thing, and has nothing to do with my Khmer culture, but it is definitely changing our culture and the minds of young Cambodian people. It seems fun, so I will not judge,” he said.
 
Leng Pheakdey, 39, did not like the idea of Halloween. “People tell me it is a time when young people dress up and have fun, they are supposed to look scary, but I feel like it’s not just about looking scary. Young people can also use this occasion as an excuse to dress too sexy. I have seen some costumes which I thought were ‘too much’, and some were funny.” 
 
Glimpse of Halloween Past
 
Halloween hasn’t always been about trick-or-treating, candy, scary costumes, fancy make-up or spooky parties. Halloween has a history which goes way back in time. 
 
There is a religious and spiritual connection behind Halloween. The origin of Halloween can be traced to an ancient pagan festival celebrated by the Celtic people over 2,000 years ago. 
 
People offered sweets to the spirits to soothe them and people dressed in ghostly costumes so the spirits would mistake them for one of their own.
Everything “scary” – ghosts, vampires, zombies, werewolves and witches – have long been associated with the evil spirit world. During this time, the Celts believed that the dead could walk amongst the living. 
 
Halloween is shrouded in the mists of ancient tradition, but let’s face it; do people really care about this anymore? 
 

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