What is Halloween?: Other than being widely recognised as a commercialised American holiday, Halloween or Hallowe’en is observed in many countries on 31 October. It takes place on the eve of the Western Christian Feast of All Saints’ Day and is a time dedicated primarily to remembering the faithfully departed.
As a kid, Halloween used to hype me up so much. As a 21-year-old, it still does, but the hype looks very different now.
In South Africa, it’s safe to say that we’ve put our own unique spin on the traditional Halloween festivities. For most of us youngsters, our approach to celebrating Halloween differs greatly from the stereotypical portrayals we often see on TV and social media of how other countries mark the occasion.
No, we will not be doing the traditional trick-or-treating (we live in South Africa, this is self-explanatory if you think about it from a safety POV) but what we will be doing is congregating at our neighbourhood clubs and bars for Halloween-themed jols, in quirky, last-minute ensembles.
Though our brand of celebration may not fully capture the deeper meaning of Halloween, at least we are not romanticising Euro-centric forms of celebration like leaving orange pumpkins outside our homes for decorations or anything.
But what still drives people each and every year to attend these events?
I would say firstly, The desire for escapism. Escapism can be defined as a way of avoiding reality or the mundane aspects of real life, and with the opportunity to dress up as whatever you like, the psychology behind why we engage in Halloween, in large-setting such as club parties, might bring up some scary truths about our personalities.
And then of course there’s that need to stay current. Social media visibility has played a significant role in the rise of Halloween celebrations in South Africa. Polls and polls, that’s all I’ve been seeing on my Instagram feed. ‘Pick my Halloween outfit’ ‘What’s our plans for Halloween’ ‘My JHB people, where we are going for Halloween’ are all popular titles of polls that are happening on Instagram in preparation for Halloween. Everyone loves to showcase their costumes, their make-up skills and party experiences online and so the trend of sharing Halloween-themed content every year has fueled attendance to these club events each and every year just so they can join the frenzy and have something to post about.
From a commercial perspective, Halloween celebrations at bars and clubs represent a lucrative opportunity for venue owners. Even though you might still be drinking an over-priced cocktail- for businesses, it is an opportunity to boost their sales, create a buzz and increase foot traffic. Obviously, these venues are more than willing to invest in a couple of cobweb decorations, special drink menus and entertainment if it means that they reach a customer base that will support the business, even after Halloween is over.
The last reason I would say why masses flock to clubs for celebrations like Halloween is to avoid public scrutiny. If someone knows you as a religious person, or as someone who possesses spiritual views that are contrary to what the holiday symbolises, the chances of them questioning you for choice of participation in clubs themed events is probably much lower than if they were to see you hosting a Halloween party at home.
Here are a couple of pictures from Prime’s Halloween Party at the Hallmark House Hotel, in Johannesburg last week Saturday, 21 October 2023.