Expats and their children celebrate Halloween, Malaysian style.

DRESS up in your scariest costume, stock up on sweets and light the bonfire for the spookiest time of the year today — Halloween. Also known as All Hallows’...

DRESS up in your scariest costume, stock up on sweets and light the bonfire for the spookiest time of the year today — Halloween.

Also known as All Hallows’ Eve, it is celebrated on Oct 31 every year and originated from the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain to mark the end of harvest season.

On this day, practitioners believe the boundaries between the two worlds, the living and the dead, overlap and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc.

Costumes and masks are worn to blend in and appease the deceased, while bonfires are lit to chase the spirits away.

Originating from Ireland, this harvest festival tradition was soon observed in other countries such as the United States, Canada, Britain and even Australia in the 19th century.

Little girls trying to look as scary as can be while decorating their golden pumpkins

Having fun: Children in Halloween makeup, painting pumpkins at a shopping centre event.

Some Malaysians have embraced the festival but it is not so much about chasing away evil spirits. It is a social occasion where people dress up.

Some rent costumes or masks while others use make-up to make themselves look scary.

Bars and night clubs will usually organise their own events where youths dress up and party till dawn.

Younger children will dress up for costume contests organised by various shopping centres to get into the spirit of the occasion.

Halloween overseas

“Halloween is quite a big thing in my country and everyone dresses up for the celebration, including parents and their children,” said Colombian, Luisa Nunez.

The 34-year-old housewife, who came to Malaysia two months ago, said celebrations in her home country would start at 7pm.

Last year, she dressed her now two-year-old daughter up in a fairy costume and went from door to door trick or treating.

“We would say ‘If you don’t open up, your nose will grow long’ outside every house,” she added.

One of the shop's retailer giving out sweets to little children trick a treating around the Bangsar Shopping Centre

According to custom, if no treats are given, children will play tricks on the houseowner or his property, hence the term ‘Trick or Treat’.

Nunez recalled the fun she had as a child celebrating in Colombia, where spooky decorations and Jack-o-Lanterns lit up houses along the streets.

She said in Malaysia, the celebration was limited to friends and shopping centres.

“It is so sad as the condominium where I live does not put up any decorations and did not organise any events.

“Thank goodness there is something going on at the malls, which I can bring my daughter to,” she said.

Nunez attended the Halloween celebration organised by Bangsar Shopping Centre last weekend, where her daughter went dressed in a Snow White costume.

She added that this was the closest thing to a Halloween celebration here.

Echoing her thoughts is Carla Camiera, who said Halloween celebrations in Ireland were a massive affair.

“Every single person on the street will be dressed up for the occasion, adults and children alike,” said the Portuguese.

Camiera, who lived in Ireland for two years before coming to Malaysia, said everyone went all out this time of the year.

Restaurants, houses and buildings will be full of Halloween decorations while children will go trick or treating in their neighbourhoods.

“You just have to walk along the street or into any restaurant, there is bound to be a celebration somewhere.”

“In Portugal, no one celebrates Halloween at all,” said Camiera, adding that she only got to know about the festival while in Ireland.

“Now, I miss the festivities and seeing the creative costumes people come up with,” she said.

Costume joy for kids

Brazilian Gabriella Hortelio had never celebrated Halloween until she came to Malaysia almost four years ago.

“Where I come from in Bahia, there is no Halloween celebration,” she said when met in Bangsar Shopping Centre with her daughter. She will be going to her first Halloween celebration at a friend’s house today and her daughter will be going dressed as a princess.

“It is all very exciting. I never knew there was such a celebration,” said Hortelio.

“My children just love the idea of dressing up. They told me they want to do this every year as it is lots of fun,” said mother, Vanne Yat.

This year, she spent a whole day making two minion costumes from the movieDespicable Me for her two children aged nine and four years old.

Made out of styrofoam, coloured paper and felt, Yat said she had been designing costumes for her children for the past three years.

“We don’t celebrate Halloween, nor do we believe in this celebration, but we do it for the children,” said Rysher Kong.

The 39-year-old mother of three said Halloween was the only celebration which her boys looked forward to.

Her children love dressing up as their favourite characters and collecting treats in shopping centres that organise such events. “They think Halloween as a fun time to dress up and eat sweets,” she said.

Her children aged 10, seven and five years old, have been dressing up and trick or treating for three years in shopping centres.

Meanwhile, another mother, K Parvathi, makes Halloween costumes for her 10-year-old son as he loves to act. “He is very interested in dressing up and performing, and he gets to do this during Halloween,” said Parvathi.

This year, she spent about a week making a scarecrow costume out of a gunny sack for her son based on his ideas and suggestions.

Her son, Sree Raam acted like a scarecrow during the event at Bangsar Shopping Centre and won first place in the costume contest.

“Last year, I made him a Jack Sparrow costume and he won too,” she said.