By Ashley Alagurajah
Halloween is typically known as a time for horror films and excesses of chocolate. However, at its core is a holiday in which despite expectations, is a day fulfilled by time spent with family, friends and community.
It can be seen as a time where people can expect to dress up, party and be spooked by haunted houses.
To many Canadians, it is another celebration to cherish and take advantage of when it comes to spending time with those they love and care for. It can be a time to reminisce and build new memories, give back and spend time with loved ones.
Sydney Brasil, a second-year journalism student has watched her grandparents set up elaborate Halloween décor on their front lawn since 2005.
In October, their home is transformed into a dungeon “complete with a cemetery, drawbridge, and tons of spooky electronic figures,” said Brasil.
After nearly two decades of decorating, Debbie Phillips and Marco Scarsella, Brasil’s grandparents, have refined the process and now have the operation ready to go each Halloween.
“Marco loves doing this for the kids. He just loves the fact they can (go) through and have fun and get a scare,” said Phillips about her husband.
The couple starts by taking everything out of their storeroom in order to start setting up outside. Then, the process of turning their house into the spooky sensation begins.
According to Brasil, the home takes approximately three to five days to complete and Phillips even takes the week off work to decorate.
For as long as she can remember, her grandparents have set up their display annually for their family, friends and neighbours to enjoy.
In fact, one year the couple caught the attention of Global News, who covered the action going on at the house.
“This is something that makes our family really happy. And I’m happy it can be shared with other people too,” said Brasil.
Now at 20-years-old, Brasil marvels at the transition from enjoying the fun of the frightening dungeon as a child to now experiencing the joy of the setup. As well as getting to watch young children enjoy it the way she once did.
Brasil expects this tradition to continue to carry on for much longer. “My grandparents are younger than most grandparents. So, I don't see it ending any time soon. I'll probably revive it once I have my own front yard,” she said.
For Karen Hirji, a third-year early childhood education student at the University of Guelph-Humber, Halloween nights are dedicated to giving back to her community.
For the past three years, Hirji has spent Halloween volunteering at her church, The Stone Church, in downtown Toronto.
The Stone Church has been hosting an annual Fall Fest for the past four years.
The night typically consists of free cotton candy, popcorn, chocolate, games and bouncy castles for the community to enjoy, families with young children in particular.
Fall Fest originated when lead pastor, J.D. Mallory thought it would be a good way to spread love and serve the community around The Stone Church.
When Hirji was recruited to volunteer, she said she agreed to do it because for her, volunteering and “giving her time to serve the community is a tangible way to see and experience God’s love.”
Hirji is one of 30 volunteers at the event. She describes her fondest memory of the Fall Fest as seeing the smiles on parents’ faces when she tells them that the event, food and games are free.
“Parents often tell us that many events are expensive, and they didn’t have anything else to do on Halloween night … I would only hope that our gesture of free facilities and fun only shows our love for the people in Toronto,” said Hirji.
Every year the staff get together in order to brainstorm how they can make the Fall Fest as spectacular as possible. This year, their highlight was introducing a slime-making table for children.
The Stone Church is expected to keep the Fall Fest on track for many years down the road. The event is valued in the community as it offers a fun and inexpensive Halloween excursion.
For many Canadians, pumpkin carving is a yearly tradition during the fall. Some may even describe it as a vital activity to partake in during the season.
From carving a design to watching her grandmother roast the excess pumpkin seeds, Serenity Noble, an eleventh-grade student from Calgary, is one Canadian who has carried this tradition since childhood.
“Ever since I was a little kid, during the Halloween season I remember sleeping over at my nana and papa’s house (and) going to the grocery store to get like, four pumpkins. I would draw a face and then my grandpa would carve it out for me,” explained Noble.
This heartwarming tradition was altered in 2016 when Noble’s grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and passed away.
However, Noble continues the tradition of pumpkin carving, only without her grandfather by her side.
“Even though my grandpa isn’t alive anymore, I still enjoy being thankful about his life and doing the things we used to do,” said Noble.
Canada without a doubt has a wide range of both common and uncommon traditions and activities that people engage in around the country.
All of which contribute to the wonderful celebration of Halloween in the country each year.