Hallowe'en in Canada

When my mom was young (pre-WW1 in rural Quebec), Hallowe'en was real. The ghosts of starvation did indeed stalk the land for those who had laid in insufficient food to last out winter. The Grim Reaper was real, so were the ghosts of those who had failed the tests of winters past. And so, Hallowe'en was a time for those who had been prudent to celebrate, to hand out food to all who called at the door, but also to relax by playing serious tricks on neighbours who weren't sufficiently alert.

A generation later, mine (post-WW2), Hallowe'en was a time of celebration, of collecting pillow cases full of candies and cookies from neighbours, but still of playing trivial tricks such as soaping windows on those few who refused to recognize the evening.

Today, it's only the old of Canada who remember such times. My grandchildren have grown up with supermarkets full of food available to all who have not carelessly spent everything they had on TVs, cars and video games. And so, Hallowe'en is dying. When I was young, everyone in a community called at every door; this year (2016) in a community of 12,000 I had only half a dozen visitors. Ask a modern 'trick or treat' supplicant what their 'trick' is, and they say, "Huh?".

That to me is a celebration of modern Canada, that our youngest generation doesn't have any comprehension of true starvation, that winter to them is no longer a brutal test of survival but instead a time of centrally-heated homes and plenty (admittedly with the nuisance of shovelling snow from driveways).

John Sankey