Halloween is a big deal here in Vancouver, at least if you have children. In New Zealand (at least while I was growing up) we didn’t celebrate Halloween at all so it wasn’t until I got to Canada and had children that it became part of the yearly cycle.
Halloween here has three parts: decorations, costumes, and events. The decorations are the easy part, because I have neither time nor inclination to go overboard. Jack’o’lanterns are compulsory; I bought a battery-operated pumpkin from a variety store a couple of years ago which is re-used every year, and Tim and our son carved two pumpkins on the weekend before Halloween (if you carve them too early, they go mouldy and mushy before Halloween arrives, despite attempts at preservation). Then with assorted dollar-store-style extras such as plastic bats and spiders, and sheets of plastic printed with witches and skeletons, our son and I made it obvious that we were going to take part in the Halloween tradition of trick-and-treat. If you put up decorations in Vancouver, then you’re expected to also hand out candy on Halloween; if you don’t want to hand out candy, then you don’t put up the decorations. Since this is a film town, lots of people go overboard and the local paper lists the best ones to go and see, much like they do for Christmas lights later in the year. All too much for me to do, although it’s fun to see what people come up with each year and to guess which film they might be props from or inspired by.
Costumes in my family were easy this year as well; our son got a mask a couple of years ago that he loves, so with that and a dark sweatshirt and dark trousers he was set. The baby got a red sleeper and some red devil’s horns to match; the horns had black fake fur at the bottom which lent an incongruous touch on her almost-bald head and most people thought she looked cute rather than scary. Tim and I didn’t dress up for Halloween although Tim did get facepaint for the Parade on the 28th. Visitors to the door were mostly dressed for sports (ice hockey, soccer) or as fairies or Disney-style princesses. We mostly have younger kids showing up, so there were a few animals as well.
Tim went drumming at the Parade of Lost Souls on Saturday 28th; I made some acerbic comments about balancing it with the found souls, but All Saint’s Day isn’t celebrated (or, I suspect, even known about by many people) so one could wonder where the Lost Souls go to be found. Vancouver does have its pagan-celebration side, and it was out in full force on that night. Many of the costumes were imaginative and complex, some simple. The baby was fascinated by it all and not the slightest bit scared by any of the apparitions passing in front of her stroller. I didn’t see any political costumes here, although I gather they’re popular in the US, particularly in an election year. Choosing the wrong costume can, however, create problems.
Halloween evening itself was dry, fortunately. I got the candy a couple of weeks before, a total of around 150 miniature bars and packets (about a quarter of the usual candy bar size). The grocery stores here must sell a heap of these at this time of year; no child or parents will accept home-baked stuff or fruit, ever since various threatened or actual poisoning incidents. Even this year, some idiot in Vancouver put Tylenol in bags for kids, so parents always have to go through the bags and check everything their children were given. Anyway, our son went off with the neighbours and their children, after being so excited he could barely eat any dinner, about 6 pm. The pumpkins were lit, the lights outside on, and the first trick-and-treaters arrived about the same time. Sometimes I like to ask what they’re meant to be, the number of kids who can’t give a coherent answer is remarkably high, they tend to be concentrating on the candy and mindful that they need a costume to get it than anything else. Friends with a baby who live in a condo visited us that evening; visitors were greeted by one or two babies depending on the timing. It was fun, our son arrived home around 7:30 pm as the number of trick-and-treaters arriving was declining, our visitors took their baby home, we blew out the tea-lights in the pumpkins, turned off the outdoor lights, and sent a happy boy off to bed (after that first bit of candy, of course). He now has enough candy to last him until next year – we ration his candy to one piece per day (two if they’re small).
Now the Halloween decorations have been taken down and packed away for next year, the discarded pumpkins are in the compost bin, and the stores are full of Christmas decorations. The cycle continues.