Halloween Mubarak! Is it Time India Stopped Hating on a “Foreign” Festival?


Halloween Mubarak! Is it Time India Stopped Hating on a “Foreign” Festival?

Illustration: Siddhakanksha Mishra

October is a month full of festivals. Over the last four weeks, we’ve celebrated Navratri, Dussehra, Karwa Chauth, Diwali (both badi and choti), and Bhai Dooj. But now, on the final day of the month, we have a festival that is often given the stepchild treatment compared to its fellow October holiday: Halloween. Compared to the fervour that grips households across the country for other, homegrown festivals, Halloween’s following is tiny. It’s celebrated by a few people in the big cities, and even those few, wearing elaborate costumes and splatters of (hopefully) fake blood, are often the subject of ridicule from those who don’t get why Indians want to celebrate an “American” festival.I don’t want to get into how the pagan traditions Halloween is derived from are centuries older than the United States, who said being scared, having fun, and doing both together were experiences meant solely for Americans? Maybe it’s time we realised that Halloween makes a great addition to our celebration calendar and embraced it wholeheartedly instead. Other nations besides the US have adopted the holiday, like Australia and the UK, and their culture hasn’t collapsed overnight. (If anything, it’s definitely less spookier than Brexit.)

Yes, Halloween might have started off as an “imported” festival, but if foreignness equates to good quality when it comes to duty-free alcohol and Rafale jets, then why can’t we apply the same principle to a festival? Still, people continue to accuse those celebrating Halloween of mindlessly aping the West. While The Joker and Count Dracula aren’t exactly characters from the Ramayana or Mahabharata, that doesn’t mean they don’t have any Indian fans. We’ll pore over newspaper spreads and click through photo galleries of New Year’s fireworks displays from across the globe, but point and laugh at Halloween festivities in our own neighbourhood. All Halloween does is really allow people to have a bit of harmless fun, so why not get dressed up as a pirate for one night? At least you’ll have an excuse for why you drink so much rum.

Despite the haters, Halloween is a tenacious little festival. Every year, even as thinkpieces about how outlandish Halloween is in the Indian context pepper timelines, there are parties at lounges, clubs, and people’s homes on October 31. Halloween is a lot like its imported cousin, Valentine’s Day, in how the faithful celebrate it each year despite the predictable headshaking taking place on the sidelines. It’s almost like people enjoy festivals or something. Absurd, right?

A smart idea for a Halloween costume that also evokes the spirit of Diwali and thus feels more Indian would be to go as a box of soan papdi.

At this point, it’s clear that Halloween isn’t going anywhere. The masthead of Times of India was festooned with pumpkins today, and that’s not even a joke. So perhaps it’s time for the Halloween haters to admit defeat and stop complaining about one more festival in October.

Maybe in the coming years, we’ll see the festival enmesh itself even further into Indian culture. Something that will help the process along will be some specifically India-centric Halloween costume ideas. If you’re planning on celebrating Halloween this year consider one of these, all in service of the great cause of making Halloween an Indian festival.

A smart idea for a costume that also evokes the spirit of Diwali and thus feels more Indian would be to go as a box of soan papdi. The best part is, you can now attend multiple parties, because nobody keeps a box of soan papdi around for too long before re-gifting it. Or, to bring in some Dussehra flavour, go as a haunted Ravana effigy, and spend the night trying to dramatically set yourself on fire. And if you’re still nursing a Navratri hangover, why not go as zombie Falguni Pathak and chase after other guests with flailing dandiya sticks while singing “Yaad Piya Ki Aane Lagi”. If none of these appeal to you, we hear the Indian economy costumes are selling like hot cakes. 

Halloween is the one night of the year when it’s possible to dress ridiculously with no consequences. Let’s try and make the most of it, shall we?