Although not popular within Pakistan, being a citizen of the internet, I believe it’s okay to celebrate whatever suits you. So, if anyone is celebrating Halloween, may it be scary, spooky, full of screams and candy! And since there is growing interest in Halloween, it’s only fair we know more about it, and other ‘imported’ holidays that are gaining popularity here.
What Exactly is this Halloween?
Dating back 2000 years, Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, is originally a pagan holiday honouring the dead. Every 31st October, people around the world celebrate by putting on elaborate costumes and makeup to either imitate scary characters or famous pop-culture figures.
Americans have adopted Halloween as part of their cultural celebration, and that is what everyone associates it with. Children go door-to-door to various residences to display their scary look, scream “TRICK OR TREAT!”, and collect candy and sweets.
Grown ups wear comics inspired or sexy versions of whatever monster/celebrity is the ‘in’ thing, and party away! (This year’s trending costume: Sexy Minion.)
What does Pakistan have to do with putting on costumes and parading for candy?
In Pakistan, Halloween is one among many other western-imported festivals that are growing in popularity, and an increasing number of people casually entertain themselves by repeatedly insisting on dressing as Heath Ledger’s “Joker” from The Dark Knight (it’s been 8 years and there’s a new Joker now!!), having get-togethers and horror-themed parties.
This trend is especially visible and openly accepted by our local businesses, as restaurants and cafes appropriately decorate their premises and offer special Halloween-themed goodies and deals, the recent black colored bun craze that has caught Lahori restaurant circuit’s attention, comes to mind.
Will these ‘imports’ kill our culture?
Like Valentine’s day, April Fool’s day, Mother’s day, and New Year’s eve, we don’t exactly have any grounds to celebrate Halloween – culturally, religiously or socially. Still, we imitate such occasions and many others based on their global popularity, entertainment value, and the potential for profit making. But why do we pay any attention to such “special days” within Pakistan? Should we not? And if we do, what happens to our ‘culture’?
It’s human nature to imitate, adopt what you like, and make it your own. Fashion trends, “cool” behavior, slang vocabulary, dance moves, health regimes, car designs – all these things are constantly changing, and people constantly imitate one another to keep up-to-date with popular and current behaviors. Culture, religion, and society are also constantly evolving. And have always been doing so, since time immemorial. No one can stop the inevitable waves of change.
How should Pakistan embrace this change?
These festivals / celebrations / events seem to begin in an organic way, by us Pakistanis, through our experiences abroad, which we mimic within our homes. We invite family and friends, and it naturally spreads from there. Also, these special occasions are sought and utilised by our brands and corporations, who strategically market and promote the need to spend on said special days, hence better business! For example, at present, there is a plan to introduce “Black Friday” in Pakistan.
For those unfamiliar, “Black Friday” is not only a brilliant movie by Anurag Kashyap (his debut film, which was banned for several years before finally releasing), but globally, Black Friday has become one of the most anticipated one-day shopping spree where brands and marketers offer unbelievable deals and ridiculous discounts – simply to encourage spending! Customers need to buy, buy and buy some more. However, in order to buy on Black Friday, an ordinary customer must be ruthless – scream, shout, push, fight, wrestle, and beat other customers – before everything gets sold out. There is limited time, limited space, limited supply, and an unlimited number of hungry shoppers.
Hungry shoppers and Pakistanis? That does sound familiar…
As Pakistanis, such behavior is not hard to imagine. We get restless and rowdy all the time. For example, at weddings, a majority of us get increasingly impatient to feed ourselves. Once food is presented, we collectively rush at the buffet (or the ’one dish’ in Punjab), and grab at whatever we can… Every man for himself!
Similarly, during Ramadan, a quick outing for samosa and jalebi can be very risky, especially minutes before Iftari. Or bakra shopping before Eid-ul-Adha; animal markets are overcrowded, and an overwhelming need to acquire the best / most beautiful animal for sacrifice. Just chaos! And who can forget the infamous lawn sales and exhibitions? Anyone who has ever been to one of those sales will tell you tales of aggressive aunties, that scarred them for life.
Buy Pakistani, Export Pakistani
Foreign concepts and trends will continue to influence us, simply because those countries are effective at marketing and extending their culture all over the world because of their experience and resources. With globalisation, growing role of media and the Internet, nobody can control anyone’s reach or influence. However, maybe we as Pakistanis can rethink about our own reach – our own influence – and our own festivities. And create more ways of celebrating Pakistan.