Halloween

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One of my students models my Halloween costume. Can you guess what it is?

I had meant to write about Halloween before, but apparently never got around to it. Oops! Nothing like some Halloween in January though, right?

I never really liked Halloween as a kid, I think because I could never come up with good costume ideas. But then in university I discovered the amazingness that is Halloween in New York, and that I really like to make things, and since then I’ve been all about it. And as far as teaching holidays to my students goes, Halloween is definitely the most fun.

Halloween isn’t really celebrated in Korea, although it seems to be gaining popularity from all the foreign English teachers telling kids about it and throwing parties at school. All of the big supermarkets have small Halloween sections with witch hats and devil pitchforks, but it seems most kids don’t dress up unless they have a Halloween party at their private schools. Most of the kids are aware there’s a Halloween-candy connection though, which is all they really care about. Many of my students came by the English room on Halloween to say, “Teacher! Trick-or-treat! Candy, please!” Haha, nice try kids.

Some decorations from home made for a nice festive atmosphere in the classroom–

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I hadn’t put little plastic spiders in cotton cobwebs in years! It’s pretty fun.

In my weekly “English Cinema” class we watched The Nightmare Before Christmas and made Halloween masks. I was a little worried about whether they’d be into the movie or not, as they don’t really celebrate Halloween or Christmas, but they seemed to like it. Especially the music.

The Halloween masks came out pretty cute, and gave me a good use for all the disposable chopsticks I’ve accumulated from over a year of take-out kimbaps and delivery.

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We should’ve used some paint or something more vivid, but they were still all right. I especially liked this project because I got to spend my “deskwarming” time making samples:

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The best part about teaching in a school is getting to wear my costume there, even if I am the only one.

Last year, I had had a rather raucous Halloween exploring downtown Daegu on a bar crawl with mobs of foreigners. This year, I stayed in Ulsan, where there were plenty of parties at the foreigner bars, but nothing quite like Daegu. I was really surprised to find a Korean-hosted party at one of my favorite bars, Showtime, in Ulsan’s old downtown. I was the only foreigner while I was there, and so forced to play the pass-the-paper-mouth-to-mouth game between two ajosshis, but also got a free cocktail. 아싸!

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An American Halloween in Korea

My first real taste of homesickness in Korea came with Halloween. I really don’t think there is any place in the world to be on Halloween other than New York City. The parade, the mobs of people on the streets and subways in costumes, the decorations.. no one does Halloween like New York (at least, not that I know of).

Halloween isn’t really celebrated in Korea. Very few kids dress up. There is no trick-or-treating. There are no decorations. It seemed like the main reason stores sold any costumes at all (the biggest stores had a stand or two of Halloween-y things) was because English schools celebrate the holiday.

In school, being ambassador of Western culture, I took it upon myself to spread Halloween festiveness. I made a big Halloween presentation for all of my classes, showing a clip from The Nightmare Before Christmas (which never got old – not even on the 19th time). I also distributed candy corn to some of my students and some teachers, in costume. It seemed that no one had seen or really heard of candy corn before, but the verdict was that it was quite good. My co-teacher and I dressed up for the Friday before.

Halloween in School

Halloween in School
With some of my 6th graders.

On Halloween, I headed to Daegu (Korea’s 3rd biggest city) with my English-teaching friends to join a bar crawl. As Koreans don’t really celebrate Halloween, the bar crawl was pretty much entirely foreigners. Most of the locals we encountered on the streets of Daegu seemed to know what was going on with the costumes though, and seemed mostly amused.

I believe the evening is best told in pictures (which I have borrowed from my friends).

Halloween in Daegu - heading out for the evening
Headed out for the evening.

We walk the streets at night...

...we go where eagles dare...

...they pick up every movement...

Mr. Muscle on the streets of Daegu
Mark aka Mr. Muscle (some British thing)

Alan from the Hangover
Dave aka Alan from the Hangover (apparently The Hangover is quite popular even in Korea)

Firework photo op in front of Gogo Party
The first bar we went to gave us sparklers and set off fireworks while they took pictures.

Halloween in Daegu

Cocktail a bag at Gogo Party
They also served drinks in bags.

Harlem Globetrotters

Halloween in Daegu
Eddie the vampire and Ellen the fairy

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The best ajumma costume of the night.

Halloween in Daegu

Halloween in Daegu

We stayed at a ‘love motel’, popular to stay at because they are usually the cheapest option. They’re also rent-able by the hour and come ‘fully equiped’:
Love Motel - fully stocked and ready for action
Me and three of my friends decided it would be a good idea for all four of us to try to fit in one room, in one bed. This wasn’t the most comfortable decision, but it was definitely the cheapest.

The weekend ended at The Holy Grill, a western restaurant, for breakfast. Nothing beats an American diner breakfast after a night out!

So, while nothing can quite compare NYC when it comes to Halloween, celebrating in Korea can be very festive as well.