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Halloween in China

Halloween in China: a thriving celebration and branding bonanza

Halloween in China has transcended cultural borders and evolved into a widespread celebration, rivalling other major Western holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day. As for many other holidays, Halloween has far-reaching implications for brands and businesses, from unique food and beverages to pet costumes and large-scale theme park festivities.

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Chinese people want to learn more about Halloween

Halloween: the Western festival transcending borders

Halloween in China has become an important day, even surpassing other major Western holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Valentine’s Day. The reasons behind this phenomenon can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, today’s Halloween celebrations have weaker ties to religion than other Western holidays, making it a more accessible and inclusive celebration. Secondly, the return of Chinese expatriates who have spent years living overseas has also played a significant role in the surge of Halloween’s popularity in China. These individuals often bring back with them not only cultural experiences but also a genuine fondness for Western celebrations like Halloween. The holiday is prominently celebrated in first-tier cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. These cities have a higher concentration of expats and greater exposure to Western trends, leading to a higher interest in Halloween.

Halloween searches on Baidu
Data source: Baidu Index, search for “Halloween”, “Christmas”, “Valentine’s Day” and “Easter” on Baidu (09.2018 – 10.2023)

Netizens’ curiosity towards Halloween

On Baidu, rising searches associated with “Halloween” include “Halloween movie”, “Scary Halloween makeup” and “Halloween customs”, indicating Chinese netizens’ growing interest in understanding and celebrating this holiday. Some searches are misconceptions, such as “Why does China forbid Halloween?”, which is not the case. Moreover, some netizens wonder if Halloween is the same as the Hungry Ghost Festival, celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month in China. This day is dedicated to honoring the ancestors, by engaging in special rituals to appease the spirits, which may involve placing the family’s ancestral tablets on a table, burning incense, and preparing three meals as offerings for that day.

Halloween SEO Baidu Index
Data source: Baidu Index, keywords netizens search for along with “Halloween” on Baidu

Halloween in China’s food and beverage industry

During Halloween in China, various establishments in the food and beverage industry take advantage of this holiday to introduce exclusive products and offers that capture the spirit of that day.

Coffee chains’ limited-edition products

Leading foreign coffee chains in China have embraced the spirit of Halloween by releasing limited-edition products. Starbucks, for instance, has introduced its beloved Pumpkin Spice Lattes, a popular seasonal beverage. Moreover, this year, they have released some exclusive Halloween merchandise, including thermos bottles and cups. Similarly, this year, Costa Coffee partnered with the Chinese company 52TOYS to sell cute Halloween cups at RMB 188 a piece, featuring a panda in a pumpkin. This partnership highlights the blend of Chinese symbolism and Western festive traditions.

Halloween costa coffee collaboration
Image source: Weibo, Costa Coffee’s Halloween mugs

Pastry shops and bakeries’ spooky treats

Renowned brands like Breadtalk and 85° have seized the opportunity to craft Halloween-themed pastries and desserts, providing customers with distinctive treats to savor during the holiday. 85° offers themed cakes shaped like cats, pumpkins, or ghosts. Meanwhile, Breadtalk features a wide array of Halloween treats, including themed cookies, donuts, large cakes, cupcakes, and choux pastries. These companies have adeptly encapsulated the spirit of the holiday, harmoniously blending the spooky and sweet elements that make Halloween so special.

Halloween bakeries
Image source: Weibo, 85° and BreadTalk’s Halloween products

Fast food’s buzz-worthy Halloween creations

Fast-food giants in China have embraced the Halloween craze, using the holiday as an opportunity to introduce seasonal, spooky, and fun items to their menus.

On Halloween 2022, KFC China made a memorable entry into the seasonal festivities by unveiling a unique offering: candy egg tarts. These sweet treats captivated the curiosity and taste buds of customers across China. While some were initially disappointed by the deceptive appearance of these egg tarts, which did not resemble the pictures, others were in for a delightful surprise. The unconventional and amusing appearance of the egg tarts encouraged customers to share their experiences and pictures online, creating a buzz on Chinese social media. Some customers were tempted to try their luck and purchase a box of egg tarts, adding an element of fun and excitement to Halloween.

Halloween KFC
Image source: Sohu, KFC’s candy egg tarts

Spooky culinary adventures on Dazhongdianping  (大众点评)

Many bars and restaurants, not necessarily part of large chains, have joined in the Halloween festivities by offering unique “Halloween packages”. These packages might include a few cocktails and snacks or feature themed dishes like black burgers and pumpkin desserts, adding a spooky twist to the dining experience.

Spooky spectacles: how Halloween took over theme parks

A magical month for Disneyland Shanghai

Disneyland Shanghai hosts an extensive month-long Halloween celebration, spanning from October 3rd to November 4th. This event features a special parade, beloved Disney characters wearing Halloween costumes, meet-and-greet sessions with Disney Villains, thrilling trick-or-treating experiences, and many other activities. To enhance the festive atmosphere, the food offerings are thoughtfully themed, with a Halloween afternoon tea.

The ticket prices during this season are notably higher than usual. The Halloween one-day ticket bundle is priced at RMB 1,489. It is a stark contrast to the RMB 475 cost of a standard off-season ticket, marking a 213.5% increase. This reflects Disneyland’s commitment to offering a magical experience to their guests, as well as the heightened demand during this enchanting season.

Local theme parks join the festivities

Local theme parks, such as Window of the World in Shenzhen, also actively participate in the festivities. This widespread enthusiasm for Halloween is evident through numerous posts and reviews on platforms like Dazhongdianping (大众点评) and Xiaohongshu (小红书). Many influencers seize this opportunity to get into the Halloween groove, dressing up and capturing memorable moments to share online.

Halloween theme park
Image source: Dazhongdianping  (大众点评), Halloween decorations at Window of the World in Shenzhen

Paws and claws in costume: Halloween for pets

Costumes for “fur babies” reflect Millennial parenthood shift

Halloween in China also became an occasion for people to dress up their pets. On Taobao, many Halloween costumes for dogs and cats have over 1,000 sales, with many satisfied comments filled with pictures of pets modelling their new costume. This reflects China’s population’s notable shift in the realm of parenthood, not towards having children, but towards adopting pets. Driven by the climbing costs of housing and child-rearing, Chinese Millennials are increasingly opting for “fur babies” over human offspring.

Pet costumes during Halloween
Image source: Taobao, pet Halloween costumes

China embraces Halloween pet events

Besides Halloween pet costumes, Halloween pet events are also happening in China. A few years ago, Pawsome, the Shanghai-based pet food company, organized a Halloween brunch for pet owners and their “fur babies”. This highlights the evolving dynamics and the creative approach taken by Pawsome in catering to the changing consumer landscape in China.

Image source: GMA, Pawsome’s Halloween event

Special Halloween events are flourishing in first-tier cities

How Halloween boosts brand recognition for local businesses

Halloween events in China often receive sponsorship from a variety of sources, including small businesses and well-known brands, highlighting the branding value of Halloween. In first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai, various events, ranging from boat parties, trick-or-treating, haunted houses, plays, and club parties, are sponsored by local businesses like restaurants, bars, and breweries, as well as hair and makeup salons, to name a few. This is an opportunity for them to promote their brand to a wide range of potential customers, leading to increased brand exposure and recognition. Moreover, Halloween parties are community-driven events that provide local businesses with a chance to connect with their immediate customers. This fosters a sense of belonging, enhancing the business’s local reputation.

Budweiser’s Halloween Villain Night: inspiring authenticity in China

Bigger global brands also recognise the value of this holiday, by hosting Halloween parties. In October 2021, Budweiser successfully exemplified this approach with their Halloween Villain Night campaign, encapsulated by the empowering slogan “Dare To Be”, encouraging people to express their authenticity and individuality.

Budweiser Halloween celebration in China
Image source: Social Beta, Budweiser’s Halloween event

On social media platforms like Weibo and Xiaohongshu (小红书), KOLs posted pictures of the event, playing a crucial role in attracting traffic to Budweiser’s WeChat mini program and Tmall flagship store.

The children’s Halloween economy in China: costumes and candy galore

The children’s Halloween economy is thriving in China, primarily revolving around costumes and candies. These products have a significant presence on e-commerce platforms like Taobao and Children’s costumes offer a wide array of choices. It ranged from portrayals of classic Halloween figures like witches or pumpkins, complete with a selection of accessories. On the other hand, there are cute costumes that mirror beloved cartoon characters or adorable animals. Some of these costumes are also available in adult sizes. Thus. such opportunities allow parents to coordinate outfits with their children, creating delightful matching ensembles. On Taobao review pictures, children proudly showcase their Halloween attire at various places, including schools, theme parks, and even the mall. This underscores the integration of Halloween traditions into everyday life and the heart-warming spirit of familial togetherness.

The economic value of Halloween in China: key takeaways

  • Halloween has become a widely celebrated holiday in China, even surpassing other Western holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Valentine’s Day.
  • Halloween’s popularity is most pronounced in first-tier Chinese cities. The higher concentration of expats and greater exposure to Western trends drive interest in the holiday.
  • Food and beverage establishments in China introduce exclusive Halloween-themed products and offers. This includes coffee shops with limited-edition items and pastry shops with creative Halloween treats.
  • Disneyland Shanghai and local theme parks actively participate in Halloween festivities, providing a shared and spirited atmosphere for visitors.
  • Rising pet costumes and events for Halloween signify a shift among Chinese Millennials. They are increasingly choosing pets over children due to high living and child-rearing costs.
  • Halloween events in China receive sponsorship from both small and large businesses seeking to increase brand exposure and community engagement.