ULAANBAATAR (Reuters) - Mongolia has banned the celebration of Halloween in schools this year, reflecting growing fears that the landlocked country's rapid economic transformation is eroding its native Buddhist traditions.
In a directive sent to all schools last week, the education ministry said parents had complained in the past about their children trying to collect money and asking for Halloween costumes.
Stressing that Halloween was not an officially recognised holiday, it ordered all schools to put a stop to organised celebrations this year.
Halloween has become increasingly popular in the capital Ulaanbaatar.
"Our school has specialised classes in the English language, and that's why we celebrated Halloween in many different ways," said G. Erdenechimeg, a social worker at the 23rd School in Ulaanbaatar, which focuses on foreign languages.
"Generally, it's all about the children's attitude," she added. "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."
Mongolia has undergone a rapid transformation since its Moscow-backed Communist regime collapsed in 1990, with a succession of governments trying to modernise the economy and open up to foreign investment.
In a bid to offset the impact of giant neighbours Russia and China, Mongolia has also courted "third neighbours" like the United States and Japan, leading to growing cultural ties.
But the rapid pace of change has stoked concerns that its nomadic and Buddhist culture is being left behind.
Halloween celebrations are still expected to continue in Ulaanbaatar, home to nearly half of Mongolia's population of 3 million.
"I haven't seen the decision have any impact or affect our sales so far," said D. Purev, owner of the Party Shop, which stocks Halloween-related goods in Ulaanbaatar.
(Reporting by Suvdantsetseg Tsagaanbaatar; Writing by David Stanway; Editing by Nick Macfie)