Halloween pumpkins with scary faces

From ‘Widespread celebration of Halloween in S’pore is befuddling’, 31 Oct 2017, Voices Today

(Skye Tan Su Cheen):  I’m a Singaporean who returned home last December after living overseas for 11 years. When we visited kindergartens here last October in preparation for my six-year-old’s enrolment, I was surprised to see Halloween decorations — obviously handmade by the students as craft projects — adorning the school. There were cobwebs, ghosts, witches and pumpkins.

Fast-forward to this year: Every mall we go to these two months seem to have Halloween decorations, deals and even “fright nights” planned. When we dropped by a community library on Oct 28, Halloween decorations jostled for space with Deepavali decorations. There was even a Halloween-themed section showcasing horror fiction that came with a challenge, “Do you dare to read this?”.

The widespread promotion and “celebration” of this day is dumbfounding, whether in schools, libraries, malls, and even among communities in the heartlands.

…My homeland, a South-east Asian country, looks like it has wholeheartedly allowed Halloween to be a part of our communal consciousness, and I find this befuddling. One thing I absolutely love about Singapore is how we celebrate every religious festival in our multi-cultural, multi-religious society, but Halloween is not a religious holiday.

What is its cultural significance here when it has its origins in western countries? Why is it endorsed so openly here?

It has become so pervasive that I see less decorations and programmes in malls about Deepavali, which is a relevant religious and cultural celebration by one of our key races.

I’ve two children aged two and six, and personally, I very much detest that there are so many horror images around public spaces that have been put up since August. I much rather spend my time explaining to them what Deepavali and a rangoli is about, instead of the differences between vampires and zombies and why pumpkins have scary faces. And don’t get me started on those advertisements at bus-stops promoting Halloween nights at a certain resort here.

I don’t quite want to keep telling my daughter’s school principal that I don’t want her cutting out figures of ghosts and witches as art and craft. It’s all plain silly.

…There must be other ways to build a sense of community and fun among our neighbours, ways that do not include horror figures, props related to witchcraft, and so forth.

First off, Halloween isn’t a ‘HOLIDAY’. People go to work as usual on the 31st of October, some with early morning mugs scarier than those faces on pumpkins. Though the modern version of Halloween isn’t associated with any particular religion, it has ancient Christian roots. You also can’t blame Halloween entirely for taking the shine off Deepavali, with Christmas lighting being notorious for overshadowing a fellow religious holiday. Instead of pointing your finger at zombies and overgrown Chuckys, blame a fat old man in a red suit.

But you know what’s another silly, befuddling non-religious ‘holiday’? Instead of witches you have chocolate hearts, expensive bouquets instead of pumpkins, lacy lingerie instead of cobwebs. Yes, Valentine’s Day, I’m looking at you. The widespread promotion of pink balloons and rip-off roses is as befuddling as people dressing up as Pennywise the clown and hiding in longkangs.

Sure, people can go overboard with the scares, with hanging mannequins and such. But believe it or not Halloween used to be a classy affair and was celebrated even way back in the 1940’s, when it was the theme for a ‘fancy dress ball’, a social event where people dance and eat pumpkin pies. Today’s Halloween incorporates cosplay culture, a marriage made in hell. But hey, people go to silly extremes when the occasion calls for it. You can go around dressed like a zombie chewing on your own amputated arm on Halloween just as well as you zip around half-drunk on New Year’s punching policemen in the face.

As for young impressionable children, you don’t need to wait till Halloween to scare the bejesus out of them. Kids encounter scary images in movie trailers, books, advertisements all the damn time. I mean, parents willingly introduce a purple dinosaur and a train with a face (named Thomas) into their innocent lives. A TRAIN WITH A GODDAMN FACE! And you’re worried about them cutting out paper bats and spiders. Geez.

I guess like most things in life that kids are not prepared for, we as discerning adults should adopt a ‘PG’ approach whether it’s Halloween festivities or half naked bodies on bus ads. They need to figure out for themselves that a gaping pumpkin isn’t scary, that witchcraft isn’t all about devil worship, and yes, sometimes life is too short NOT to be occasionally, well, silly.

 

 

 

 

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Halloween hanging dummy glorifying suicide

From Halloween display of hanged woman taken down at *SCAPE after criticism, 27 Sep 17, article by Vimita Mohandas, CNA

A Halloween display showing a mannequin hanging from a tree at *SCAPE has been taken down in the wake of criticism that it was “distasteful”. The female doll, with long hair and a blood-soaked gown, had been tied on a tree near outdoor stalls at the youth-oriented hangout along Orchard Road.

Some netizens complained that it glorified the idea of suicide.

A post on the Facebook group Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family said the display was “extremely disturbing and done in very bad taste and traumatising to children”.

It urged people to write in to the National Youth Council CEO David Chua, who is the chairman of the board of directors for *SCAPE.

“In view of the rising suicide rate and prevalence of suicidal thoughts among young people, the image of a person who appears to have hanged herself being used to promote fun Halloween activities would surely trivialise the issue of suicide among young people,” the post said.

It added that it might encourage youth to attempt suicide “especially during this examination season where many already face stress, anxiety, or even depression”.

scape-insta

Yes it’s a disturbing display which could easily cause public alarm if viewed from a distance, but kids are not going to see this and suddenly think it’s cool to inflict harm unto themselves. Why? There are at least 13 reasons Why. 

People can find a bone to pick anytime when it comes to Halloween scares. 6 years ago, a Halloween Horrors event scheduled at the Night Safari was axed by management because it was not family friendly. More recently, a fake memorial wall to commemorate victims of a fictional shopping mall disaster was criticised for being ‘very inauspicious‘ in light of the Hungry Ghost festival.

Our Transport Minister Khaw would have cringed at events that were held in a mock-up MRT train wreck because they put the SMRT’s reputation in a bad light, though it’s exactly the kind of scenario that would occur in train stalled in a tunnel by a signalling fault during a zombie apocalypse. Moreover, paying money to get spooked out seems a bit – masochistic, no?

The only thing scaring the shit out kids taking their exams this year is not creepy clowns peeking out of longkangs nor bloody pontianaks hanging from trees. It’s when the goddamn MRT breaks down on the first day of the PSLE.

Should the good folks at the Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family ever decide to host a Halloween party of their own, this below is the only costume that you’re ever allowed to wear:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween Horrors axed for not being family friendly

From ‘Night Safari axes Halloween Horrors event after feedback’, 16 Sept 2011 and ‘Staff split over decision to cancel event, 19 Sept 2011, articles by Amanda Tan, ST

The Night Safari has canned a Halloween event – even though 1,000 tickets have been sold – because of feedback that it has no relevance to conservation. Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) has pulled the plug just two weeks before Halloween Horrors was to be held on weekends between Sept 30 and Oct 30.

On Thursday, WRS, which manages the Night Safari, said the decision was made ‘because of the negative feedback received from corporations, friends of the zoo, the public and the media about the event, especially over the relevance in relation to conservation’.

Ms Isabella Loh, director and newly-installed chief executive of the group, added that it agrees with comments made by President Tony Tan Keng Yam and that ‘WRS parks should have more family- bonding and wholesome activities’. On Sunday, Dr Tan was at the Singapore Zoo celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival when he said: ‘Such family bonding, I believe, is very important for Singapore because we need to create informal occasions where families, children can bond with their parents and grandparents. It is the best way of building a sense of unity and comfort within the family.’

….She said she had visited the event’s Haunted House on Monday and ‘got upset’ after that as she was ‘uncomfortable with the idea because it was too scary’. ‘I explained in an e-mail that that is a lot of money spent on an infrastructure (Haunted House) of devil worship,’ she said.

According to sources, Ms Loh said she had heard that ‘zebra heads were chopped off as a scare tactic’ as part of Halloween Horrors. Employees told her this was definitely not the case.

…On social media platform Facebook, netizens posted stinging comments on WRS’ page, while others had doubts over the reason given for the cancellation. One user, known as Jolyn Chia Yiling, wrote: ‘Maybe you guys would consider giving us a better excuse than we want to concentrate on Deepavali. Halloween in and of itself is also a great bonding activity for the whole family.’

The cancellation at the Night Safari has also come as disappointing news for 17 Singapore Polytechnic students. The third-year integrated events and project management students had conceptualised the theme, developed characters and designed costumes as part of their final-year project. They held their first full-dress rehearsal on Monday.

‘We’re disappointed. The students have done 90 per cent of the work and everyone was hyped up,’ said lecturer Jacqueline Ho, although she added that their grades would not be affected by the cancellation.

WRS chief isn't a FAN of Halloween

For an organisation that prides itself in conservation of endangered species, WRS is BLOODY cruel to Homo sapiens in the form of SP students . Isabella Loh’s knee-jerk reaction to Tony Tan’s comment during the Mooncake Festival among other anti-Halloween public complaints about Qing dynasty zombies in 201o  demonstrates how easily organisations crumble under mounting pressure at the expense of wasted resources, logistics and broken hearts all round. Pulling the plug on some ghoulish fun is like a parent spanking a child for making funny faces, and as much as WRS has good intentions of keeping the Safari wholesome, it just goes to show that WRS is to a sense of humour and fun as a silver bullet is to a werewolf. The WRS chief also appears to be hiding behind the clout of Tony Tan as justification for the ban, when TT DID NOT STATE for the record that he disapproved of the spookfest in the first place. Not only does one flush the SP efforts down the toilet, but gives the impression that it was the President who gave the orders to do so.

Caving in to terrified parents who want to protect their children from being cursed with demonic possession is ignoring the simple fact that people have a choice of participating in Horrors or not, and surely there would have been precautions in place to ensure that the faint-hearted or scaredy-cats were warned well in advance before accidentally landing themselves on the Tram Ride to Eternal Hell. Organisers could have also toned down the event to just a few days over the weekend or raised the age limit, thereby arriving at a compromise between customers and dissenters. Banning this altogether is like driving a wooden stake through a someone’s chest just because he has a pale complexion and speaks with a Transylvanian accent, but more importantly it leaves a bad taste of dried blood in the mouths of 1000 customers who signed up for the event.

Halloween here has been a gleeful excuse for ladies to dress like Catwoman and men to put on make-up once a year, and is more a modified Cosplay event than traditional Jack O Lanterns or trick or treating, meaning it doesn’t necessarily have to be all freaky ghouls, goblins or ‘devil worship’. People can come dressed as Hitler, Batman and Joker, or members of ZZ Top if they want to. Unlike the ethnicity-specific Mooncake festival or the proposed  ‘Horrors’ replacement Deepavali (Festival of FRIGHTS? hur hur), Halloween is a more ‘informal’ event which brings all ages together, not to mention it’s more FUN.  It’s also one of the few ‘festivals’ we have that’s racially and religiously neutral (The others are New Year’s Day, May Day, National Day and of course April Fools’ Day), though it needs some time before Halloween becomes universally accepted as a legitimate family-fun activity rather than a weekend of  drunken pranking and cheesy  fake blood.

David Gan should do charity work

From ‘ Money should have been put to better use’, 6 Nov 2010, The New Paper

(Sebastian Tan Gee How): While I have no issues with celebrities and ordinary people dressing up for Halloween fun, I am somewhat perturbed that hairstylist David Gan spent about $3,400 just for this purpose.

Does he know that this amount can feed a poor family in Singapore for months?

If I remember past news reports correctly, this is not the first time he has spent extravagantly on such items.

Though he is spending his own hard-earned money, I feel that Gan should spare a thought for the many poor people living in Singapore.

Perhaps he should look into doing more charity work or donating more to charitable causes.

Lady Gan Gan

Who the hell are you, Sebastian, to tell David Gan, hairstylist extraordinaire, what to do with his money? Not all celebrities need to be automatic philanthropists, or pull crazy stunts at charity shows and gesticulate to viewers to dial in 1800 numbers. Some celebs, like David Gan, just want to enjoy a lavish lifestyle because he feels he deserves it and the occasion calls for it. It’s no longer a question of taste, it’s a statement that goes ‘Hey world, I can do whatever the hell I want baby’, and just as it is his personal choice to look like a ragdoll in a petticoat, likewise it’s up to us whether we want to pay any attention to it or not. Why target him when there are so many rich people out there, celebrity or otherwise, who spend more frivolously, maybe less flamboyantly, than anyone would possibly know. Like the folks who buy English Premier League clubs, who buy front row seats for F1, who take business class flights to Bali, who splurge on airflown Iranian caviar, who collect antique cars, who buy new striped golf pants every month, who blow their savings at RWS and MBS? Shouldn’t all their excess money go to charity as well? Why bother with bling at extravaganzas like Star Search? Why not have our best actor nominees come on stage in pasar-malam pyjamas and snuggly slippers, since their thousand dollar wardrobes ought to all go into charity? He’s David Gan, not Gandhi, so unless he comes to a Halloween party with thousand dollar fresh roadkill draped over his shoulders, blood dripping everywhere, there’s no reason to sound the guilt alarm and remind us of what miserable  impoverished lives some people in our midst lead, especially when such tirades against how people spend money naturally begs the question: What exactly have you done for poor people yourself, Mr Tan? I think it’s safe to say complaining about someone’s Halloween costume isn’t doing shit really. More Halloween spoilsports here

Western ghosts are friendlier

From ‘What’s the big fuss about Halloween?’, 1 Nov 2010, My Paper

(Madam Lye Yin Fong): WHY do we not celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival with as much merriment as we do Halloween?

Is it that Western ghosts are friendlier?

…What puzzles me is how this year’s Halloween seems to have been more widely celebrated here, as reported in the newspapers.

…Are Singaporeans attracted only to the fun element of Halloween, being unable to resist the shelves of chocolate eyeballs, witches’ hats and party booze, while neglecting the significance behind it all?

Or do property moguls have stakes in the media, and they do not wish to see October become another quiet month for property transactions?

Isn’t Halloween a pointless, hedonistic excuse for people just to dress up and celebrate all things ghoulish and macabre, just for the heck of it? What significance are you talking about, that Halloween is really a time to worship The Great Pumpkin in a pumpkin patch ala Linus in Peanuts? The fact that Halloween continues to exist today is simply because Western monster culture has more colour and variety than your standard Qing dynasty eunuch vampire in Chinese folklore.  Even Death has a persona in Western mythology, so a Chinese spin on Halloween would probably be a miserable exercise of people prancing about dressed like those demon figurines in Haw Par Villa.

There’s also no lack of ‘merriment’ during the Seventh Month celebrations by the way, as hooting uncles who slot angpows between getai singers’ boobies would tell you. In fact if you want to talk about tradition, there’s nothing more traditional than the sheer pointlessness in the version of Halloween being celebrated here. It’s getai culture instead that has morphed from its more reverent roots into the campy cleavage cabaret that it is today. The argument of crass commercialism doesn’t apply, because Halloween never pretends to be anything other than what it’s intended to be, unlike say, the insidious con job that is Valentine’s Day. Nobody’s going to call you a spoilsport for not dressing like the Wolfman, but snub Valentine’s Day and your devotion to your spouse is called into question. Besides, since most people are too mature or too ugly for cosplay,  and the only occasion any of us even consider donning something festive is during Christmas (even then, not much stretch of the imagination beyond Santa suits or, if you’re more sporting, the Grinch), please, let us have our Halloween. The seventh month, and the stage atrocities that come with it, are here to stay.

Qing dynasty zombie petrifies niece

From ‘Educate, not spook, kids at zoo’ and ‘Halloween theme spoils real magic’, 31 Oct 2010, Your letters, Sunday Times

(Dr Heng Yee Kuang): …Recently I took my two-year old niece – who loves animals – to the Singapore Zoo. To my dismay there were big posters advertising Halloween activities, complete with life-size cut-outs of a Qing dynasty zombie. Needless to say, my niece was petrified.

I fail to see how such Halloween events advance the zoo’s lofty aim of conservation and education the younger generation about natural wonders…We take our children to the parks to learn about and appreciate nature, not to be frightened by people dressed in ridiculous costumes.

Night Safari of the Living Dead

(Lim Hui Yi): …In recent years, the desire for even greater profits has led to increased commercialism, of which the totally inappropriate Halloween celebrations are a good example.

The outcome of the vulgar commercialism is the increased noise and crowds, so the Night Safari has totally lost the magical quality that once made it my favourite place to take our family’s overseas friends to.

The same wish for ‘enhancements’ has turned the once outstanding Waterfall Aviary at the Jurong Bird Park into an African-themed park, with African motifs everywhere.

Would a visitor from the African continent be amused to see this, just as a Chinese visitor might be amused to see fake Chinese motifs in a European country?

In my childhood,  having been exposed to Michael Jackson’s Thriller video way before Scooby Doo and Shrek,  shrieking like a sissy at cut-outs of zombie vampires would have earned the ridicule of my peers. Today, the fear of the unknown and creatures in the closet have been sanitised into cuddly Pixar icons. As a result, our kids, naive to the shock of the paranormal and brought up by parents who fail to see the humour of the walking dead, become easily tormented by the sight of anything that doesn’t match their ideals of furry monsters and smiling Caspers, wetting their nappies even if one drapes a curtain over one’s head and goes ‘Wooooooo’. The Night Safari has been ‘educating’ children and entertaining tourists for so long, is there anything wrong really with cashing in on Halloween just for one month out of 12 in a year? Zoo maintenance incurs heavy costs, and with recent flailing tourist numbers, there is perhaps a need to generate revenue from the local populace in order to keep the Safari and its inhabitants afloat, which is ultimately, what animal lovers want isn’t it. It’s easy of course for people to complain about how their favourite zoos are succumbing to freakish faddism when they patronise on a, what, biannual basis at most? I mean, what better way to have a spookfest than in the Night Safari? It just wouldn’t work if you launch this at the Singapore Philatelic Museum. Furthermore, given the wide publicity of the event, wussy parents should jolly well stay clear of the Zoo in the first place, and you can’t fault the management for intentionally inciting Qing zombie phobia in your children. If being spooked is such a major concern, let the kids stay at home in the comforts of a brightly lit room and let them watch Animal Planet, with the scenes of lion eating gazelles’ bloody innards filtered out.

As for nitpicking on African motifs at the bird park, this is nothing more than the ubiquitous propagation of the myth that is the Dark Continent, just like the exotic Orientalism of Chinese culture exported overseas. It’s the kind of sunny Waka Waka myth that sustained the World Cup 2010. I mean, it’s a tourist attraction, for gods’ sake, so ‘vulgar commercialism’ and harmless deception in a bid to survive, whether it’s having hornbills flock around totem poles or perched on a fake pagoda, is inevitable, especially if these once ‘magical’ places are only frequented during public holidays. And we never had that many to begin with. Perhaps the writer should be thankful that the Bird Park standards of today far surpass that of the 70’s, as seen in this letter ‘The Bird Park, diesel noise, and unwanted parrot’, 3 March 1971, ST. Be thankful that today wire meshes won’t appear in your photos.