Raising kampung spirit on Halloween

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Oct 23, 2013

THIS Halloween, walk along a ghostly trail at the Bukit Brown cemetery, play dodgeball in Kovan dressed as a zombie or explore a "haunted house" in Taman Jurong.

These are some of the events lined up for Halloween, which originated as a time to remember the dead, and is now celebrated on Oct 31 in some Western countries with trick-or-treating, costume parties and visiting "haunted houses". Some communities may frown on such festivities as being pagan or too frightening.

Organisers here, however, say the events are not meant to instil fear but to encourage community-bonding and integration.

For the first time, the Dunearn Neighbourhood Committee is organising a Halloween night walk through Bukit Brown cemetery this Saturday.

Spooky as it sounds, the event is part of efforts to integrate new citizens into the community and tell them more about the heritage of the place, said committee vice-chairman Audrey Wong.

About half of the 55 people who have signed up since registration opened a month ago are new citizens moving into the Bukit Timah area, she added.

"During the trail, we'll tell them about our cultures, superstitions and customs," she said.

HomeTeamNS is also organising its first Halloween-themed laser quest games and horror movie screenings at its Bukit Batok and Sembawang clubhouses this weekend. They are open to the public.

"We have events every weekend for NSmen. Since Halloween is around the corner, we thought it would help create some buzz," said spokesman Priscilla Leong.

Safra members, too, can look forward to scavenger hunts, lucky draws and Halloween best-dressed competitions at its five clubs this weekend.

Meanwhile, the Dodgeball Association of Singapore is holding a Halloween Dodgeball competition at Kovan Sports Centre this Friday, when members of the public can come in costume as their favourite ghoulish characters.

Attendance at at least three heartland events this month has increased as Halloween becomes part of the landscape.

Taman Jurong Community Club's Hell 'O' Fear carnival on Oct 11 and 12 drew 1,200 people - four times the turnout last year.

Jurong Green Community Club, which is holding a party called Fright Night 2 this Saturday, is expecting 50 per cent more people this year over last year's 800, said Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng.

Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah attended Halloween celebrations at Lentor while it was part of her ward. The events were initiated by residents and were for community-bonding, she said. "I guess very few people delve into the origins of Halloween. They just find it fun to dress up and scare each other."

Jurong GRC MP David Ong said: "It's like watching a horror movie - you go there for the thrill. It's more of a social event than the worship of the Devil."

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Oct 23, 2013

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About Halloween

WHILE the origins of Halloween are unclear, it is said to have roots in Celtic and Christian traditions. The Celts celebrated Samhain, a harvest festival held on Oct 31 and Nov 1. They believed the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped on that day and the dead would come back to life. Costumes and masks were worn in a bid to mimic the evil spirits or to appease them - a tradition that carries on till today.

In Christian tradition, Halloween - a shortened form of All Hallow's Eve - marks the day before All Saints Day on Nov 1, and All Souls Day on Nov 2. This is when some Christian faiths, such as the Catholics, honour saints and pray for souls who have not yet reached heaven.