“Yeah So Win!”
If you ever visit Hong Kong from middle to late October, you may be surprised just how much this city has embraced the Halloween spirit.
If you ever visit Hong Kong from middle to late October, you may be surprised just how much this city has embraced the Halloween spirit. Everywhere – from shopping centers to schools to apartment buildings – there are decorations with jack-o-lanterns, goblins, ghosts, witches, bats and spider webs. One of the most popular events is the Halloween Bash at the themes parks which attract hundreds of thousands of young people to their haunted houses. Restaurants and bars join in for adult fun with parties, costumes and treats while elementary schools may have Halloween parties of their own.
There is even a holiday called Hungry Ghost Festival in the seventh month of the lunar year (around late summer) when the ghosts of the deceased are believed to visit the living. You will see people burning paper offerings during the month to appease the spirits of dead.
A few years ago, some churches in Hong Kong began to be concerned about the growing Halloween influence. They wanted young people to have a proper understanding and attitude about this holiday. The Methodist Church organized an event called “Pastor Win” to give Christian families an alternative to secular Halloween parties. Over 2000 people attended this year.
Building on their idea, the Women’s Ministry of Hong Kong Christian Council decided to sponsor a similar event for all churches on October 30which they called “Yeah So Win”. It’s a play on words with “Yeah So” sounding like the name Jesus in Chinese, and “Win” sounding similar to “Ween”. Yeah So Win was not billed as an anti-Halloween event. After all, there is a Christian connection to All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day. But the event, which took place at a Salvation Army elementary school, included dance, hymn singing, magic show, drama, inspirational message, African drums and a children’s angel catwalk. Not a ghost or witch in sight!
The Church and Halloween took an added twist this year when a Catholic priest made headlines with an off-hand remark after a Halloween party. The theme of his church’s party was what happens after people die and how God judges our lives. The priest joked that goblins and ghosts were not that terrible compared with the ‘real devils’ like rich tycoons in Hong Kong whose business practices oppress the poor. The comment got back to a tycoon who was mentioned and there was a big backlash. The Church retreated and apologized while the priest expressed dismay for being quoted out-of-context. In fact, the Catholic Church and others have consistently spoken out against injustices in the society that have caused the gap between rich and the poor to get wider and wider. Most people might not dare to go so far as calling Hong Kong’s richest man ‘a devil’, but surely Christians should ponder anew on every holiday what our faith means in a hurting, broken world.
Do we celebrate holidays just like everyone else or do we witness to the love of God?
Is it a victory for commercialism or indeed is it a “Yeah So Win”?
Judy Chan is a missionary serving with the Hong Kong Christian Council. She is responsible for communications for the Council. She is also in charge of ecumenical radio broadcasting ministry, English publications and ecumenical partnerships in Hong Kong and overseas.