Halloween is a whole different beast here in Korea. It seems to have spread to Korea through word of mouth and some sort of long-distance, cross-cultural game of “Telephone.” Some ideas came through and other ones clearly got lost in translation. In short, not many people dress up and there isn’t a lot of candy diversity, but let’s explore further!
Korea isn’t big on costumes
As I said, Korea doesn’t really do costumes. Korea is a culture that embraces modesty; ladies aren’t supposed to show too much skin and they should never show their shoulders. This idea is in stark contrast to the western idea of scantily clad Halloweiners, I may or may not have just made that word up. Most of my fellow teachers didn’t dress up for Halloween or, if they did, their costume was limited to cat ears and/or a witch’s cape. My students opted for similar costumes, so I spent most of Halloween surrounded by cat witches.
Since half of our students attend Monday, Wednesday, Friday and the other half attend Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, we celebrated Halloween on Wednesday and Thursday; October 30th and 31st, respectively. Lindsay, one of my fellow foreign teachers, dressed up as a Care Bear one day and a Librarian next. Conrad dressed up as a punk one day and Dracula the next day. I opted to go as a lumberjack both days with a pair of work boots and a giant construction paper axe. It was a great costume and my paper axe managed to keep my students in line. Jade, one of the awesomest Korean teachers at work, went as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and had an awesome costume complete with weapons.
In the afternoon, my academy has younger students in elementary grades. We made little Halloween boxes with them and went trick-or-treating around the academy to other classrooms. During their last class of the afternoon, we had a mummy-making contest. This was one of the highlights of my day. Normally, our school looks down on wrapping the students in toilet paper and marching them through the hallways. I know because I checked my contract. It’s a big no-no in Korea. HOWEVER, on Halloween it’s perfectly acceptable, nay, its required.
Twice a day for both Halloween and Monday/Wednesday/Friday Halloween, I got to help my students cover one of their peers with toilet paper and turn them into a mummy. The younger kids loved it. I have a class of about six 8 year olds who look like the Korean Cabbage patch kids and they went bananas for it. We had a blast and covered one student, Dan, with enough toilet paper to stretch to Seoul and back (3.5 hours by bus…each way).
The older students were less enthused. They’re in that awkward teenager phase where practicing ancient Egyptian burial customs is considered uncool. I was disappointed because as the teacher, it’s usually a bad sign if you’re the most enthusiastic person in the room. I thought for sure they would love it since the middle schoolers’ only interaction with paper products is writing essays and using the bathroom between classes.
P.S. sorry for the delay in writing. More to come soon!