Sunday, October 31, 2010

A plea to Korean American parents for Halloween:  Please do not dress your children in traditional Korean garb for Halloween. Not to say all Korean American parents do this, but the Korean has definitely met enough young Korean Americans who had been traumatized by this experience.

Korean traditional dress is not some costume that you dust off for a day marked with the strange and the outlandish. It does not belong next to Spider-Man and fairies. It is for important, joyous occasions like Lunar New Year, Chuseok, weddings and birthdays. The Korean understands the sentiment, but please stop it. Instead of relegating it to a dumb holiday with silly dresses, have your children wear it seriously and proudly in more meaningful times.

49 comments:

  1. But what about dressing up as a Korean princess for Halloween. Not a standard hanbok, but something seen in the historical dramas?

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  2. Yea, a great piece of advice. Personally, I hate the day. We have our own traditions in the UK with a very long history, one of which is this week, Nov 5th. (Guy Fawkes) The tradition, which was one the family could enjoy, has been usurped by Halloween and almost disappeared.

    Now kids go from door to door while the mums stand at a distant to make sure you're not a perv.

    I usually stick a note on my door simply reading.
    'Penny for the Guy' - yes (British)
    'Trick or Treat' (No) American.

    A greedy self centered custom spawned by the world's greediest nation. Oh, I feel a rant emerging...

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  3. Instead make them a Kimbap Kid!!

    (I don't know if the link will work)


    http://imgs.sfgate.com/blogs/images/sfgate/parenting/2010/10/26/costume_debbie._lee400x533.JPG

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  4. Thank you. What are you for halloween? I'm a Korean. WTF? You're Korean every day!

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  5. "the world's greediest nation"

    elwood, that would be the nation that tried to colonize and rule the entire world, or do they not teach that in "English" history class?

    That greediest nation/empire part is why there is now a US of A.

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  6. "Trick-or-Treating" also originated on your side of the pond, elwood. That tradition has a very long history in the U.K. Much, much longer than in the U.S.

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  7. well played Korean. I've been thinking the same ever since I was a little child..watching my Korean neighbors dress their kids in hanbok on Halloween.

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  8. Just wondering how kids are "traumatized" by the experience.

    Did you want to dress up like a slutty nurse only to find out that your parents were going to dress you up in hanbok so you were then neither slutty nor scary?

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=27133802013

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  9. Hanbok is pretty expensive to own, and for those parents who do own it, they're basically looking for any excuse to have their kids wear it. It hurts to look at an expensive (and beautiful) dress sit in your closet only to be worn 2-3 times a year. (Also understand that kids will grow out of it within a few years.)

    Let's put it this way. Parents who own Hanbok for their children gets tempted to dress her up with one for Halloween (It's so pretty dammnit). Parents who don't own one don't bother renting one for Halloween (renting is expensive too).

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  10. This is my first time hearing(ok, perhaps reading) that someone will actually wear hanbok for halloween.
    Hanbok has a very traditional image for me, and i thought it was only meant for special traditional days like what The Korean had mentioned.

    Wow. Spectacular?

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  11. Woah, I've never heard of anyone dressing up in hanbok for Halloween. That's just... wrong!

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  12. Korean,

    I would like to know why you characterize Halloween as a "dumb" holiday? I can understand why you take offense at Hanboks being used as costumes, but such a flip dismissal of the festival? Curious.

    Elwood,

    Halloween is a Celtic tradition that was imported to North America by Irish and Scots immigrants in the 19th century. If you objection is that it is not part of the English tradition then you are correct. However to tag it as an American invention is factually wrong.

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  13. Douglas,

    Obviously this is just a personal opinion, but the Korean can hardly think of a more pointless holiday than Halloween. Usually holidays are there to commemorate something meaningful. What does Halloween commemorate? The Korean is fully aware that it is supposed to be the day of the dead and such, but does anyone ever talk about the essential spirit of Halloween worth commemorating? (For example, as commercialized as Christmas is, there is still a constant reminder of peace on Earth and value of family.)

    If anything, Halloween celebrates the increasing degeneracy of our society -- so women dress like sluts and everyone gets shitfaced drunk. As if we need a holiday for that. That's why Halloween is dumb.

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  14. Had only Koreans come to my house this year and like 2 chinese kids. All adorable. Anywhere from a pirate to Dwayne Wade (Sans black face haha). They where with there grandma's who were wearing traditional Korean female wear. Very beautiful and all I can say is I love it.

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  15. I can't really agree on your stance on Halloween, Korean.

    First, it's not really a holiday per say, as nobody really gets a day off of work for it. As far as people dressing up like sluts and getting drunk, that's not really the Halloween I've experienced. Maybe because you didn't grow up in the U.S. as a really young kid, you've only seen adults (or maybe college kids) celebrate Halloween.

    For younger kids, it's an awesome holiday. Not only is it fun to pick out or make your own costume, it's cool to see everyone else's costumes as well. Not to mention all the free candy that one gets on Halloween, which to kids who have no money to buy their own candy (or who have good parents who always demand they eat as little candy as possible), Halloween is not only fun, it's the one time when kids these days actually go out to meet their neighbors.

    I can certainly agree though that once people become adults and it becomes a day of drinking in costume, it becomes stupid.

    I don't think I've been to more than one or two Halloween parties since junior high, and even though the costumes were more elaborate and the parties were intense, it just wasn't the same as when I was a kid.

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  16. Korean,

    Fair enough. Now, I don't mean to sound too pedantic, but to a certain extent the obsession with the supernatural retains a bit of the original meaning of Halloween although most people are unaware of it. And I don't think it should be taken too seriously, all a bit of fun on a late autumn night.

    That said, I would be careful about assuming too much about the modern celebration of Christmas. It has evolved over the centuries and it wasn't always the pleasant, warm and fuzzy "peace on earth" stuff. There were reasons why the Puritans refused to celebrate the holiday, for example. Bunch of killjoys that they were.

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  17. What about people dressing up as traditional Korean ghosts and monsters?

    http://news.nate.com/view/20101102n01578

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  18. "If anything, Halloween celebrates the increasing degeneracy of our society -- so women dress like sluts and everyone gets shitfaced drunk. As if we need a holiday for that. That's why Halloween is dumb."

    And by "dumb", I assume you mean totally awesome.

    I don't think it's a dumb celebration. There are a lot of good things that it can do for childrens' imaginations that they otherwise would not gain (especially in an absurdly religious, conservative society). Also, kids and older people have a lot of fun expressing themselves through costumes (which may otherwise be socially unacceptable). There are lots of good things about Halloween that you seem to be overlooking by saying this.

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  19. @ The Korean.

    Consider Halloween a collective action and re-evaluate it from there. To paraphrase, "If you don’t understand why people are doing certain things, you are the one who is dumb – not the people."

    Halloween in the US is a syncretic event that owes much to the country's Transatlantic history. As people have already pointed out, there are/were analogous contributing traditions in Europe; to which we should add those of several African cultures that arrived in the US through the slave trade. Moreover, agricultural societies across the world tend to have major seasonal events timed with fall harvests in addition to those events which reaffirm social hierarchies. Halloween does both. Think of it as an agrarian tradition of social inversion and you can get a better sense of why people do what they do and what it means.

    The characterization of Halloween as women dressing like sluts and everyone getting shitfaced drunk is too narrow a perspective to arrive at any meaningful understanding of the event. That is as deep as saying Mardi Gras is about showing your tits in public. Or that hostess bars and massage parlors are emblematic of the increasing degeneration of Korean society. Those types of parochial statements never go anywhere.

    For someone who usually comes across as insightful your commentary was surprisingly narrow minded. You can do better.

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  20. The Korean, I'm with everyone else here, especially after reading that you think other holidays have more meaning. Thanksgiving is a day that essentially celebrates a lie by an entire civilization by disguising it as a family day. Valentine's Day is a reason for people to get mad if they're single or their lover forgets about it. Christmas and Easter celebrate occasions that aren't even historically proven. And let's not forget all those state and federal holidays celebrating some figure for the sake of getting people a day off from work.

    Indeed, Halloween is probably in the top three days for children to look forward to, next to Christmas and birthdays. We get an entire night to act like our favorite character and gather a mass of candy. Yes, hanboks should be left out, but the day itself is pretty awesome.

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  21. qklilx wrote:
    Thanksgiving is a day that essentially celebrates a lie by an entire civilization by disguising it as a family day.

    Explain, please.

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  22. Wow, lots of Halloween fans.

    The Korean does appreciate small parts of Halloween, particularly the creativity inspired by Halloween -- Nightmare Before Christmas is one of the Korean's favorite movies. The Korean also enjoys well-made, creative costumes (which is roughly 1 out of 20 costumes walking around on Halloween, the other 19 being tacky, stupid and/or whorish.)

    But he is not changing his mind about the fact that it is overall a dumb holiday. Seriously, what does it celebrate -- diabetes? That extortion ("Trick or treat!") will be rewarded?

    It is a fair point that the Korean might be focusing only on the bad side of Halloween. But he fails to see any upside in Halloween worth having a holiday for. Creativity and candies don't require a holiday to happen.

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  23. tSS,

    For younger kids, it's an awesome holiday.

    As a crotchety moralist, the Korean is not happy with a holiday in which children learn nothing other than extortion and getting fat.

    Douglas,

    I would be careful about assuming too much about the modern celebration of Christmas.

    Fair point, but the modern celebration of Christmas still does involve a pleasant, worthwhile message.

    Chrissy,

    agricultural societies across the world tend to have major seasonal events timed with fall harvests in addition to those events which reaffirm social hierarchies.

    But we have the Korean's favorite holiday -- Thanksgiving -- for that.

    Or that hostess bars and massage parlors are emblematic of the increasing degeneration of Korean society.

    Um, how is that not emblematic? Please explain?

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  24. @ The Korea:

    The phoniness of Thanksgiving could easily be discussed as representing America's replacement of regional moral value systems with state-sponsored commercialized behavior. Or the discussion could mock the diabetic and cardiac appropriateness of Sarah Hale's [bourgeoisie] recipes such as, "ham soaked in cider for three weeks, stuffed with sweet potatoes and baked in maple syrup." When starting with precepts like that there is no room for the discussion to expand.

    The reference to hostess bars was meant to evoke your post on the topic. In it you dissect the cultural logic of the institution without making any overt value judgments. But any analogy which judges an event would have worked. The statements about Halloween could have been likened to saying that the mad cow protests in Korea are emblematic of the nation's backwardness because the people abandoned critical thinking in favor of mobbish irrationality. You can appreciate how poorly informed that kind of statement can be.

    Understanding and judging are not the same.

    Insisting on a moralistic approach to discussing holidays is not going to lead to any meaningful understanding of why people celebrate them. Holidays do not necessarily have moral components, they do not manifestly teach anything. The sense of communitas provided by engaging in a seasonal, collective activity is sufficient justification for its continued existence. If you focus on the social functions, history, and contextual logic of an event like Halloween you can better understand the phenomenon. Dealing in moral absolutes cannot do the same thing.

    One last point - Thanksgiving cannot replace Halloween because it does not reaffirm the social hierarchy in the US the way that "inversion" festivals do. In the latter, the existing social order is temporarily turned upside-down so that the reversion ritually normalizes society in the process. This is the basic social function of festivals such as Mardi Gras, Carnival, Halloween, etc.

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  25. Understanding and judging are not the same.

    Exactly right. And right now the Korean is judging that Halloween is dumb. He already understands the logic of it. Yes, it is pretty fun to get together and do the same thing. (Or as you put it, share a "sense of communitas" through a "collective activity.") An insightful mind might find a more sub-surface meaning in the current incarnation of Halloween, like inversion of social hierarchy. But understanding all that still does not change the Korean's judgment that Halloween is dumb.

    To be sure, judging without understanding is ignorant. It is really easy to judge Korea's hostess bars without understanding it, so the Korean focused more on mkaing clear the underlying social logic of hostess bars in that post you referenced.

    But understanding without judging is lacking in moral compass. If the Korean sincerely believed that the social logic of hostess bars justified their existence in Korea, he would be morally depraved. Understanding the social logic of hostess bars allows the Korean to think about the issue in a more nuanced manner, but at the end of the day the Korean will not hesitate to declare that hostess bars are degenerate and morally corrupt. (Cont.)

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  26. (Cont.)

    Really, it is not as if the Korean is calling for the abolition of Halloween or anything. There are plenty of things that the Korean thinks are dumb, but he will do little more than express his displeasure at them and they will merrily go on. This is no more than a response to Douglas's question, "Gee, TK, why do you think Halloween is dumb?" on the comment board. The Korean does not have to lay out everything he knows about Halloween before expressing his opinion.

    Holidays do not necessarily have moral components, they do not manifestly teach anything.

    Very much disagreed. There is not a single holiday celebrated in America that does not involve an overt moral component in its inception. In fact, the precursor to Halloween also had an explicit moral component, i.e. honoring the dead as they pass through the material world. Many other traditional holidays suffered a gradual degradation of its moral messages in modern America, but for many of those holidays (e.g. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Independence Day,) those messages are still alive and clearly pronounced on those holidays. The holidays that failed to retain those messages -- Halloween, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo -- have come to celebrate no more than drunken idiocy, and therefore the Korean thinks they are dumb, as far as their current form of celebration goes.

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  27. As a crotchety moralist, the Korean is not happy with a holiday in which children learn nothing other than extortion

    In practically EVERY major Korean holiday, kids are "extorting" money from parents and grandparents, and hell whoever is older than them that they can bow to to get a little cash. (See Chuseok, Seollal, Western New Years' day, etc..)


    and getting fat.
    I can't say I disagree with you there, but it's not like Halloween encourages kids to get fat. American kids probably actually do more walking on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Sure they get lots of candy for their troubles, which could make them fat, but it's only once per year.

    Didn't you enjoy candy as a kid? Didn't your parents occasionally buy you some ice cream or soda or other stuff that isn't really all that healthy?

    If it's a problem and you have fat kids, you can take all the candy they collected and give it to them a little bit at a time.

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  28. qklilx: "Christmas and Easter celebrate occasions that aren't even historically proven."

    jiggawhat?

    The Korean: "Many other traditional holidays suffered a gradual degradation of its moral messages in modern America, but for many of those holidays (e.g. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Independence Day,) those messages are still alive and clearly pronounced on those holidays. The holidays that failed to retain those messages -- Halloween, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo -- have come to celebrate no more than drunken idiocy, and therefore the Korean thinks they are dumb, as far as their current form of celebration goes."

    That's right. It's whether or not moral messages are retained by a holiday that makes the holiday dumb or not dumb. For example, with Christmas the message is that some old, fat, basement-dweller in a red suit will give you stuff if you are good. However, if you aren't good, go f*ck yourself. Oh, wait... that's not the message. What is the message? Does it have something to do with yule logs? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule

    It's hard to see what you think that the *moral* message of Christmas could be. Is it that Jesus was born? How is that a distinctly *moral* message?

    What could be the *moral* message of Independence Day? Is it that the few white males who have income and property should not be taxed without representation?

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  29. The Guild does Halloween.

    And any "holy"day that consists of marshmallow peeps and candy corn can't be all bad.

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  30. He may have learnt how to build playgrounds, but forgotten how to play. There may be holidays that really do have important lessons with them, but there are many that don't have much of one. They have their places. I never cared much for Halloween, but for kids to do some dress up, I wouldn't say thats a bad thing.

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  31. First, a caveat -- the Korean does not want this discussion to be blown out of proportion here. This is an utterly unimportant banter with little consequence. Nothing is going to happen to Halloween.

    Having said that...

    tSS,

    In practically EVERY major Korean holiday, kids are "extorting" money from parents and grandparents, and hell whoever is older than them that they can bow to to get a little cash. (See Chuseok, Seollal, Western New Years' day, etc..)

    1. It is flatly wrong to say that every major Korean holiday involves money in exchange for a bow. That is only true for the New Year's Day, which you count twice. Chuseok does not involve cash, except for informal gifts that happen regardless of occasion. No major Korean holiday other than New Year's Day involves cash.

    2. Even in New Year's Day in Korea, the money is given in exchange for a sign of respect, i.e. a bow. That is not extortion. In Halloween, a prize is given for a threat of vandalism. That is extortion.

    American kids probably actually do more walking on Halloween than on any other day of the year.

    If that's true (and it probably is,) that is a really sad statement on America.

    Didn't you enjoy candy as a kid?

    Actually, no. The Korean always hated sweet things. He does not even drink Belgian beer because they are generally sweeter than pilsner, for example.

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  32. ABS,

    It's hard to see what you think that the *moral* message of Christmas could be.

    Oh come on. Have you never watched a Christmas movie in your life? Have you never sent a Christmas card? What do they all say?

    What could be the *moral* message of Independence Day?

    That America is a democracy that rejects tyranny?

    All you are doing is to point out negative (or trivial) messages that those holidays could send. That's fine, because the Korean pointed out negative or trivial things about Halloween also. But the difference is this: in other holidays, there are always very important, very good things to point to. With Halloween, there is no such thing.

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  33. Well this conversation has gone on longer than I thought it would. And my original question still has not been answered.

    Anyway, it reminds me of the movie Mean Girls, which is a great Tina Fey script (and something any parent or grandparent in America should watch in order to have a clue what is going on in high schools, at least in the first decade of the 21st century).

    The main character, Cady, who was home-schooled by her parents while they were in Africa observing the wildlife, shows up to her first high school Halloween party in a scary costume. To which her new baffled "best friend" asks, "Why are you dressed so scary?" To which she innocently answers: "It's Halloween."

    A little later Cady notes, in a voiceover: "In the real world, Halloween is when kids dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In Girl World, Halloween is the one day a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girls can say anything else about it."

    Yep, that's America now, Pornification of. ;)

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  34. kubisho,

    great movie, no sarcasm this time

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  35. The Korean,

    Earlier you said the following:
    "Many other traditional holidays suffered a gradual degradation of its moral messages in modern America, but for many of those holidays (e.g. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Independence Day,) those messages are still alive and clearly pronounced on those holidays. The holidays that failed to retain those messages -- Halloween, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo -- have come to celebrate no more than drunken idiocy, and therefore the Korean thinks they are dumb, as far as their current form of celebration goes."

    Thus, your earlier point seems to be that (i) when there is a moral message that is retained from when a holiday is conceived, that will save the holiday from not being *dumb*. However, (ii) if no moral message is retained from when a holiday is conceived, then the holiday is dumb. Here are two main points which I masked earlier:

    (1) (ii) is false since there may goods that are derived from a holiday which compensate sufficiently for its lack of a moral message.

    (2) Even if (ii) is true, *on your criteria*, it is unclear whether Christmas and Independence Day do not count as dumb.

    In your defense of Christmas, you stated: "Oh come on. Have you never watched a Christmas movie in your life? Have you never sent a Christmas card? What do they all say?"

    My response is this:
    (2a) "Merry Christmas"? "Happy Christmas" if you are from the UK? That's similar to "Happy Halloween". I don't know what you're getting at. What a mysterious rhetorical question. The command *be happy*, as far as I can tell, is not a moral command. Perhaps I can be persuaded otherwise. We can usually understand a *moral* command like "be ___" or "do ___" as a statement of what we ought to be or do. For example, "be ___" may be understood as *one ought to be ___*. But the message of "one (morally) ought to be happy" doesn't seem like something that is on people's minds. For one thing, it sounds ridiculous. Maybe I'm wrong.

    In your defense of Independence Day, you stated: "That America is a democracy that rejects tyranny?"

    My response is this:
    (2b) It seems silly to think that this was part of an *original* message embodied by Independence Day when we consider what had in fact happened in the history of the US. I gave some reason earlier to think that this is the case. Presumably, democracy must not for the few, but for the many.


    Well, what do you say now to my points (1) and (2)?

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  36. Kush,

    Personally, the Korean would steer clear from costumes that are obscure to the general public. But that's just him.

    ABS,

    Response to (1): Even in the best iteration of the holiday, what ARE the good things derived from Halloween? Stimulating creativity through costumes? Doing things together and having fun? In the Korean's estimation, those things are not worth having a holiday for.

    Response to (2a): Christmas-related celebrations always involve the message of peace on earth and caring for other people, particularly your family and loved ones. This message is a direct descentdent of two of the central messages of Christianity, of which Jesus is a central figure. And originally, Christmas was considered the birthday of Jesus.

    Response to (2b): Under your logic, no moral message can exist at any point in time because there will always be a fact in reality that contravenes that message. That makes no sense.

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  37. 1. It is flatly wrong to say that every major Korean holiday involves money in exchange for a bow.

    2. Even in New Year's Day in Korea, the money is given in exchange for a sign of respect, i.e. a bow. That is not extortion. In Halloween, a prize is given for a threat of vandalism. That is extortion.


    Perhaps I am confusing my holidays, but either way, New Year gets you paid. It's true that it's in exchange for a bow, and that's a sign of respect, but Trick or Treat isn't really a threat of vandalism. Certainly it sounds like it, but few, if any actually understand the literal meaning of what they are saying. They simply say that when someone answers the door. I don't actually know the history of how those words came to be, but few actually carry out the vandalism. Vandalism isn't a widespread tradition on Halloween.

    If anything it's an in character empty threat, as children dress up as monsters, and monsters do evil things.

    Recently though, the emphasis is taken away from dressing up as something undead, and instead it's just to dress up as something that isn't yourself, so I can understand why you would think it's extortion, what, when Indiana Jones and Spider-Man... the good guys, are also threatening vandalism.


    If that's true (and it probably is,) that is a really sad statement on America.


    Agreed, but to remove it would only make things sadder.


    I see your point as to why you don't like Halloween, but I still think the fact that you didn't experience it as a child is the chief reason why you think it's dumb.

    I kind of thought that Christmas in Japan is dumb. For one, Christmas day is nothing, and the actual holiday is Christmas eve.

    The "tradition" involves eating fried chicken and cake, and having an intimate encounter with your lover or someone else of the opposite sex who you are close to, none of which has anything to do with the birth of Christ.

    But if I had been raised in Japan and not in the U.S., I'd think it's normal.

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  39. The Korean might want to see this little glimpse of histroy to see how The Catholic Church usurped Saturnalia and overthrew the god, Mithra, to put their own son of god above all others on a day that he wasn't even born on but instead a day of vital importance in lessening the followers and importance of previous winter "holy"days and festivals.

    Since The Korean isn't a fan of Halloween, he'd have really hated the tomfoolery of Saturnalia.

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  40. You can also say that "The Church" played a big part in

    Halloween as well. Unlike, Saturnalia and Mithra, The Catholic Church's attempt to kill off Halloween did not work so well with their new "holy"day of Nov. 1st.

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  41. I must say, there is nothing as rich and full of meaning as being able to follow and attempt to observe some of the liturgical year of the Catholic Church, with its seasons, feasts and solemnities. Its got a real nice ebb and flow, and gives a lot to everyone.

    On a somewhat different matter, I agree with the Korean that Halloween is pretty dumb. Dumb gives it a special meaning too. I would say the dumb parts of something like firecrackers, turkey & dinner, Santa Claus is the dumbest part of their holiday, and is probably the feature that makes it differ from a day like Presidents Day or Epiphany by in large in the US. Those days do have their meaning, but in the end go off without much of a blip.

    Those dumb parts you hope, point back to the intended meaning, but that doesn't always happen. Nevertheless though life is hard and is full of joys and sorrows. Even if today everything seems good, life can turn you upside down in a matter of seconds. There is humanity in the day to day things, in the moral life, and in building better character and virtue. There is also humanity in taking some time off to get away from that to remind us that we are more than the roles that we play.

    Maybe its just me, but trying to explain this all in sociological or anthropological terms just seem silly. Those things done during those holidays are silly. To me you really need more to see it through more of a poetic and sentimental light than rational to get to the real heart of the matter.

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  42. The Korean,

    "Response to (1): Even in the best iteration of the holiday, what ARE the good things derived from Halloween? Stimulating creativity through costumes? Doing things together and having fun?

    *In the Korean's estimation, those things are not worth having a holiday for.*"

    I pointed out the last line for special emphasis. It doesn't respond to my point (1) that there may goods that are derived from a holiday which compensate sufficiently for its lack of a moral message (sufficiently, i.e., to make it not *dumb*). The point *that you don't think that those things are worth having a holiday for* does not directly answer to (1). Perhaps what you are trying to say is this: the goods derived from celebrating Halloween aren't in fact sufficient to put it in the non-dumb category. That's what it seems like, given your several lines before the last one.

    In that case, it seems that you are agreeing with me that point (1) is correct. However, you are disagreeing with me on the particular case of Halloween. Fine. I'm willing to rest the disagreement on that note. I think that the goods derived from Halloween are sufficient to make it not dumb. One way to recognize this is to consider the purely hedonistic gains from the celebration of the holiday (weighed against the dolors).

    "Response to (2a): Christmas-related celebrations always involve the message of peace on earth and caring for other people, particularly your family and loved ones. This message is a direct descentdent of two of the central messages of Christianity, of which Jesus is a central figure. And originally, Christmas was considered the birthday of Jesus."

    "Christmas-related celebrations always..." Stop. No, not true.
    "...the message of peace on earth..." It's not clear to a lot of people that this is how early Christians saw Christianity. There are several Biblical texts that give us this impression. Perhaps this is not a good example, but the one which is burned into my mind is Jesus' line, "I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword". In any case, this doesn't seem to be a *central* message of Christianity. Nowhere in the Apostles' Creed will you find any mention of peace.
    "and caring for other people, particularly your family and loved ones" Perhaps this one is a central message of Christianity. However, it is unclear to me that the celebration of Jesus' birth is a celebration of *that*. Why not take a more minimalist view and think that a celebration of Jesus' birth is simply a celebration of Jesus' birth?

    "Response to (2b): Under your logic, no moral message can exist at any point in time because there will always be a fact in reality that contravenes that message. That makes no sense."

    My point was simply that what you suggested as the original message of Independence Day cannot be correct due to historical circumstances. Perhaps you misunderstood me. My point isn't to undermine any possible moral message that a holiday may bear.

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  43. tSS,
    I kind of thought that Christmas in Japan is dumb.

    Do not even get the Korean started about the stupid travesty that is Christmas in Korea. And Valentine's Day and White Day and all other bullshit "Day"s.

    John,
    Thanks for that. If the Korean were living in those days, he would have been carrying a whip to crack over the hedonists.

    J Man,
    Good perspective.

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  44. ABS,

    In that case, it seems that you are agreeing with me that point (1) is correct.

    No, that was more of a "assuming arguendo the truth of that proposition" variety. The Korean cannot cover all possible contingencies -- there might be some holiday in the world in which non-moral gains can overcome its lack of moral message. But at any rate, Halloween is not such a holiday.

    As to Christmas, The Korean is not going to argue about messages of Christianity at its inception here -- that is just far too involved. But this part:

    Why not take a more minimalist view and think that a celebration of Jesus' birth is simply a celebration of Jesus' birth?

    Because it is pointless to celebrate Jesus's birth if Jesus's birth is devoid of meaning.

    My point was simply that what you suggested as the original message of Independence Day cannot be correct due to historical circumstances.

    Your point was that the original message of Independence Day cannot be "America is a democracy that rejects tyranny" because America was, by your estimation, was not democratic at the time of the Independence.

    That logic, by necessity, negates all moral messages. All moral messages address what people should or should not do. Those messages arise precisely because people are doing things that the moral messages disapprove.

    Take for example the moral message, "It is wrong for a person to kill another person." But homicide has been going on since the beginning of human existence, and it surely must have been going on when that moral message was formed. Does that fact somehow obscure the moral message, like: "It cannot be true that killing another person is wrong, because historically people have been killing each other all the time"?

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  45. "As to Christmas, The Korean is not going to argue about messages of Christianity at its inception here -- that is just far too involved. But this part:

    Why not take a more minimalist view and think that a celebration of Jesus' birth is simply a celebration of Jesus' birth?

    Because it is pointless to celebrate Jesus's birth if Jesus's birth is devoid of meaning."

    I suppose that is an excellent reason for non-Christians not to celebrate Christmas. However, they still do and probably don't think of themselves as taking part in a pointless act. It is also an excellent reason not to celebrate birthdays. But those seem not to be pointless celebrations.

    "My point was simply that what you suggested as the original message of Independence Day cannot be correct due to historical circumstances.

    Your point was that the original message of Independence Day cannot be "America is a democracy that rejects tyranny" because America was, by your estimation, was not democratic at the time of the Independence."

    Well, that. And it wasn't even vaguely democratic until the 20th C. (not to say that it is today). Moreover, it seems pretty clear that among much of the ruling class (those that had a strong influence over which days were holidays), there was not much of a serious aspiration toward becoming a democracy. This was due to a very common belief that real democracy led to the tyranny of the majority and that that was very dangerous. This seems to put a good amount of support behind the claim that the original message of Independence Day was not about democratic freedom from tyranny.

    "That logic, by necessity, negates all moral messages. All moral messages address what people should or should not do. Those messages arise precisely because people are doing things that the moral messages disapprove.

    Take for example the moral message, "It is wrong for a person to kill another person." But homicide has been going on since the beginning of human existence, and it surely must have been going on when that moral message was formed. Does that fact somehow obscure the moral message, like: "It cannot be true that killing another person is wrong, because historically people have been killing each other all the time"?"

    First, that is not my reasoning. See above. Second, this is puzzling. What would the moral message behind "America is a democracy that rejects tyranny" be? After all, "All moral messages address what people should or should not do." In that case, what is it that people should do? The statement, "America is a democracy that rejects tyranny" does not address what people should or should not do, it is simply an attempt to state a fact.

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  46. I suppose that is an excellent reason for non-Christians not to celebrate Christmas. ... It is also an excellent reason not to celebrate birthdays. But those seem not to be pointless celebrations.

    Right. They are not pointless because Jesus's birthday has a meaning, even for non-Christians. Jesus's birthday marks the origin of Christianity. Central tenets of Christianity -- peace on earth and good will towards men -- are appropriated and secularized such that Americans, Christians and non-Christians alike, generally celebrate Christmas as a holiday that carries those messages.

    Well, that. And it wasn't even vaguely democratic until the 20th C ...

    This is no more than a stupid sophistry, in the same variety as "one cannot step into the same rivier twice." Declaration of Indepedence and the preamble of the U.S. Constitution clearly mark America's founders to establish democracy that rejects tyranny.

    The statement, "America is a democracy that rejects tyranny" does not address what people should or should not do...

    And here, you are playing dumb -- which is even more annoying than sophistry. That statement is explicitly categorized as a moral statement, which then can be easily interpreted as "America should be a democracy that rejects tyranny."

    Go play your games somewhere else, and come back when you have a point to make.

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  47. Halloween is sooooo stupid. I don't care if you were either born in the states or, just like TK and myself, came to the US during mid to late teen years. Granted, if it serves children to be creative than I would think its less stupid. But, if you've experienced Halloween like myself as a kid for many years, I don't ever remember my parents or uncles promoting creativity to my costumes. Sadly enough, it was all about the candy, and who was able to get the most amount of candy in the shortedt amount of time. Whether or not you view this as dumb or not its completely up to moral discretion. Moreover, as an adult who has many friends that loves halloween its really a drunk fest with no other legitimate purpose. And, like one blogger had noted, 99 percent of the costumes aren't creative, funny, or marginally original. Like many things in America, a country I dearly love and respect, it really has no traditional meaning, its just for fun.

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  48. The Korean:

    "Right. They are not pointless because Jesus's birthday has a meaning, even for non-Christians. Jesus's birthday marks the origin of Christianity. Central tenets of Christianity -- peace on earth and good will towards men -- are appropriated and secularized such that Americans, Christians and non-Christians alike, generally celebrate Christmas as a holiday that carries those messages."

    I've lost the thread of this thought. I've been sceptical since the start about holidays "carrying meaning". I don't get that. Meaning is something that bits of language have. Not events.

    "Well, that. And it wasn't even vaguely democratic until the 20th C ...

    This is no more than a stupid sophistry, in the same variety as "one cannot step into the same rivier twice." Declaration of Indepedence and the preamble of the U.S. Constitution clearly mark America's founders to establish democracy that rejects tyranny. "

    First of all, Heraclitus was quite smart. Second, one cannot reject a valid argument by merely rejecting its conclusion. You must also reject a premise. You have not done that. Can you tell me what is wrong with the argument (without your typically unclear prose)?

    "The statement, "America is a democracy that rejects tyranny" does not address what people should or should not do...

    And here, you are playing dumb -- which is even more annoying than sophistry. That statement is explicitly categorized as a moral statement, which then can be easily interpreted as "America should be a democracy that rejects tyranny."

    Go play your games somewhere else, and come back when you have a point to make."

    First, it's difficult to argue seriously with someone who is unreasonable and carries oneself like an amateur in the arena of argument. Second, if it is true that America should be a democracy (as a matter of morality), then it is morally wrong for America not to be a democracy. There are several things problematic with this result. One is that the obligation is had by America. But what is it exactly that the obligation is had by? Can countries, which are not people, have moral obligations? It's unclear to me that things other than people can have moral obligations (but of course groups of people can/yet groups of people are not the same as countries). Another odd thing about this is that it is an obligation to *be* something. Typically, obligations are had to *do* things. Perhaps the biggest problem is that it just seems obviously false that it is morally wrong for America not to be a democracy. After all, it still seems that America is not a democracy. However, it just isn't true that *America* is doing something morally wrong. If anything, the moral wrongs are had by various people in government.

    I'll likely abandon replying after this.

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  49. I've been thinking about writing around this subject (namely "cultural appropriation") on my own blog, and this post is one of the places I landed from an online search. I must read the rest of the comments, which seem to have gone off on a tangent where I left off reading; but for now let me say that I'm in Korea right now, watching TV news with my Korean friends. There was just now a story on Halloween in Korea, which has been catching on here and probably has done so even more since this post was written. So, among the scenes the news story showed was groups of young people, both sexes, dressed in hanbok and dancing to a DJ (couldn't hear the music, it was probably techno) on Halloween. I think, dear Korean, that you've missed the boat.

    But if we're going to fret about these things, let's see a diatribe against Koreans appropriating Halloween, a holiday (and it is a holiday even if it's not a national one) which has no basis in their culture, and which they are just taking from the West.

    ReplyDelete

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