Trick or Treat!

Posted: October 10, 2010 in Uncategorized

Halloween is fast approaching. 31 October is a mere 2 weeks away and many families in America are gearing up for Halloween celebrations, decorating their houses and purchasing sweets to give away. Halloween is the third-largest party occasion in North America, with candy sales during the period being second only to the Christmas period.

An integral part of Halloween as celebrated in America is the tradition of trick-or-treating. Trick-or-treating is a very simple practice in which children of various ages, dressed up in costumes, would go door-to-door, asking for treats (usually candy, or, at times, money). If the owner of the property does not have any treats to give, the children would then play a trick on him. These tricks are largely innocuous, as most kids are only out to have fun on the day itself.

The tradition of trick-or-treating is one that is only possible because of how low-context a society Americans are. In contrast, in a country that is as high-context as Korea or China, few would expect children to go knocking door-to-door, asking for treats. Fewer still would expect the children to play tricks on the homeowner if not given their treats.

Individuals in low-context societies are more individualistic; they go for what they want, whether or not their peers want the same thing. They tend to be more honest and in search of social recognition, frequently getting out of their comfort zones to achieve their goals. Halloween, as such, is a perfect opportunity for them to get what they want: free treats. The amount of effort that they invest (ie the number of neighbourhoods they traverse) would correlate to the amount of rewards they attain. As the American society is generally low-context, the concept of Halloween thus fits in very well with the society.

Compare this to a relatively higher-context society like Korea. Koreans are generally collectivist, with propriety being a significant part of their upbringing. Due to this, there will be more resistance to the idea of going door-to-door and asking for free handouts- even if it is just for fun. The Koreans would also be less willing to “rock the boat” by asking complete strangers for treats, which, again, is another hallmark of a high-context society: modesty.

The festivals and traditions that a country has is shaped by its culture. Singapore, a country that used to be quite low context, is now moving towards the higher-context end of the spectrum. A by-product (although not necessarily a resultant one) of that is the number of youths that are now going door-to-door trick-or-treating. A decade ago, it would be a rare sight indeed. However, in the past few years, many condominiums as well as community centres have started initiatives to get people into the spirit of Halloween by encouraging the practice of trick-or-treating. The responses have been fairly good, garnering the support of parents as well as children. Halloween, it appears, is here to stay. Let us enjoy ourselves by getting into the spirit of trick-or-treating!


Origins, Customs, and Traditions of Halloween

  1. prills101 says:

    Actually, i think the american culture is fast becoming a singaporean culture too. yes, its still different because of the high-context culture that we have been brought up in but as each generation evolves into another, i think we get more ‘globalised’ somewhat, and are also slowly becoming more low-context.

  2. F. Ismailov says:

    Interesting view on how the context of the culture could permeate into they way a tradition is celebrated!

  3. grace says:

    wow, i never thought of halloween in relation to communications concepts.
    now that you’re pointed it out,
    it’s true that halloween’s trick-or-treating is only evident in high context societies,
    especially with the value of ‘modesty’ in low context societies like korea.
    love the final evaluation on singapore’s context btw,
    indeed we’re becoming and encouraging more of such open behaviours and it’s here to stay. 🙂

    • Rawbeanladen says:

      Isn’t it somewhat strange that while our high context society does not embrace the culture of traditional Halloween celebration, our youths (not children) are the ones who party and celebrate Halloween?

  4. treenie7 says:

    WOW. I never knew Halloween could be sooooo deep. I guess Halloween has captured many in the world because everyone gets to dress up as something that they’re not without feeling like they are deviant from the society norm. On top of that, since Halloween originates from the US, it just goes to show another way how the globalization of mass media has affected the way of our lives.

  5. henalenah says:

    I am so for the festival of Halloween ! I enjoy the concept of dressing up and going around asking for treats, it sounds like a lot of fun, and best of all, one will get many sweets and chocolates !!! 8D

    That being said, it’s rather depressing that Asian countries like Singapore, don’t practice these kind of traditions because of how conservative we are. However, I think we are slowly opening up to these kind of concepts and celebrations. (8

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