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Mongolia, Russia, Balkans Spooked by Halloween

Ulaanbaatar bans celebrations in schools, while Russian parliamentarian warns that it can “draw children to mysticism, Satanism, and suicide.” 31 October 2018

Beloved and widely celebrated in the United States and some other parts of the world, Halloween and its traditions have been slow to be embraced elsewhere. Despite its growing popularity among Mongolian children, the authorities have prohibited its celebration in the country’s educational establishments through a directive sent to all schools by the Ministry of Education, Reuters writes

 

“Generally, it’s all about the children’s attitude. Some may get into their roles too deeply or misuse [Halloween] and have a negative social effect. For this reason, it has been decided not to celebrate,” G. Erdenechimeg, a social worker at a school in the capital Ulaanbaatar, told Reuters.

 

The ban might also have its roots in fears that the adoption of such a holiday could be detrimental to the preservation of the traditionally nomadic and Buddhist Mongolian culture.

 

Mongolians wearing face paint. Image via ryanne lai/Flickr.

 

Similar arguments were wielded by Russian conservatives and religious groups that called for a ban of Halloween celebrations in their country, The Moscow Times writes. An archpriest from the Moscow region told Orthodox believers not to go “into those stinking taverns and get drunk among all those pumpkins with candles” on such a day intended for “unscrupulous and brainless people.” 

 

Parliamentary member Vitaly Milonov echoed such views and asked for a ban, state-owned RT.com writes. “This holiday has pagan, anti-Christian roots,” Milonov said. “It’s well-known that it’s based on worshiping dark forces and Satan as well as glorifying the grim Celtic cult of death.”  

 

Russia is not the only country in TOL’s region where such opinions can be found. Last year, Bosnia’s Republika Srpska forbade kindergartens and elementary schools in the majority-Serb and majority-Orthodox entity to celebrate the holiday, Balkan Insight writes. Traditionalist groups that successfully lobbied the Ministry of Education in favor of such a ban said that it “celebrated the pagan cult of death," and that, by using "innocent children's games," it leads young people to "sectarianism and Satanism."

 

A municipality in Bulgaria, a fellow Balkan and Orthodox nation, also banned the celebration of Halloween in schools, kindergartens, and cultural centers in 2017, The Sofia Globe wrote at the time. Bulgaria celebrates Day of the Enlighteners on 1 November, which honors prominent cultural figures. However, some children believed that they had a day off on that occasion because of Halloween, the mayor of the municipality said while speaking about the ban.

 

 

  • In their turn, some Mongolian traditions have raised eyebrows elsewhere in the world. Human rights groups and international organizations have criticized the Mongolian custom of using child jockeys because the dangers the participants face while racing. Children as young as five compete in hundreds of races each year, although seven is the minimum age.

 

  • Halloween draws its roots from Samhain, a three-day ancient Celtic pagan festival symbolizing death and rebirth, which marked the end of summer and the beginning of the Celtic new year, Time Magazine writes. Participants in the celebrations accompanying the festival often wore costumes of animals or beasts, in the belief that such disguises would keep away potentially harmful, otherworldly spirits.

 

  • According to EU statistics agency Eurostat, Poland is one of the top five producers of pumpkins and gourds in the EU, ranking fifth with a harvest of 75,000 tons produced in 2017. The Central European country was followed by Bulgaria and Romania, each of them with a yield of around 20,000 tons during the same year.

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu

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