Trick-or-treating has yet to catch on in Hong Kong. But Halloween has nevertheless been growing in popularity with young people - especially university students - in recent years. Whether it's costume balls, karaoke parties or pilgrimages to Lan Kwai Fong, Halloween is becoming an integral part of university life in Hong Kong. Activities can be especially lively at campuses with student hostels. Increasingly, however, events are being held at off-campus venues, as well. Students at three universities, for example, are planning a joint Halloween ball that is expected to attract hundreds of revellers. The Inter-College Music Association is also planning an off-campus Halloween party for university students. But how did this quintessentially American holiday - rooted as it is in the British Isles - catch on in the SAR? And why are so many university students finding it increasingly difficult to resist dressing up like ghosts and goblins? 'Halloween is not a traditional festival for Chinese people, so they didn't use to celebrate it,' Janet Pong, a second year computer engineering major at the Univer sity of Hong Kong, said. 'But now people think it is a lot of fun so more people are becoming focused on it.' According to a local academic who researches cultural issues, there was something about Halloween that made it especially easy for young people in Hong Kong to identify with. 'It goes beyond the appeal of American popular culture,' Dr Stephen Sze Man-hung, a lecturer at the General Education Centre at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said. Apart from Hollywood films and American TV shows based on Halloween, there was the general influence of Western culture on the SAR's young. Add to this the aggressive marketing of the holiday by the owners of restaurants and pubs in Lan Kwai Fong, and you've got a potent combination. 'In the Western tradition, Halloween represents the transition from All Souls' Day to All Saints' Day - when the dead come back to life and revisit the Earth. In Europe, people used to visit cemeteries to honour the dead,' Dr Tze said. 'In the Chinese tradition we have something very similar.' Many children in Hong Kong, he said, grew up witnessing their grandparents or parents honouring the dead. They would see them burning imitation money or other paper objects on the roadside as offerings to deceased relatives. And they would be taken once or twice a year to cemeteries, where offerings of food and wine would be made and firecrackers set off. 'These are powerful images,' Dr Tze said. 'They make Halloween - which is halfway between dread and happiness - very attractive to many young people here.' On some university campuses, Halloween is becoming one of the biggest non-academic activities of the year. Lau Chi-pang, who teaches general education at Lingnan University, is warden at one of the institution's six hostels. Since the schoolmoved to Tuen Mun, most students have resided on campus. They are encouraged to organise various types of activities on their own as part of their transition to adulthood. By far the most popular, Mr Lau said, were the Halloween parties that the students held in the hostels. 'It's been a tradition since we started having hostels in 1995,' he said. Interestingly none of the traditional Chinese festivals - such as the Mid-autumn Festival or Chinese New Year - were celebrated. After Lingnan, where 75 per cent of students live on campus, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (UST) has the largest ratio of students - or about 40 per cent of undergraduates - residing in hostels. Each of the five hostels at UST is organising an event. When asked about the holiday's popularity, Judy Wai, president of the UST Students' Union, thought it had something to do with its timing. 'It follows mid-term exams, when students are busy studying,' the third year finance major said. 'Now that their exams are over, they want to relax and have fun.' Dr Janet Scott, associate professor of sociology at Hong Kong Baptist University, said not too much shouldbe read into the growing popularity of Halloween in Hong Kong. 'Any holiday in general that is American is not going to be unpopular with students in Hong Kong,' she said. 'They celebrate Christmas and some are even celebrating Thanksgiving, which is clearly American. I suspect that students just enjoy getting together with their friends. If they are thinking about fellowship with other students they need an event and an event needs a theme - so why not Halloween?'