Your guide to celebrating Halloween when attending ESL school in Canada

learn English as a second language

To anyone unfamiliar with Halloween, October 31st might seem like a very strange day. Canadians all over the country will dress up as witches, vampires, zombies, or other creatures. Shops and homes will be decorated with fake cobwebs, spiders, skeletons, and other spooky decorations. And in the evening, young children will travel door to door asking for candy.

Don’t worry. This is isn’t a sign that the entire country has lost its mind. In fact, everyone is celebrating a beloved tradition, and you’re welcome to join in the festivities!

A quick history of Halloween

As a multicultural country, Canada has absorbed many traditions from other cultures. Over the centuries many people have immigrated to Canada, bringing their customs, foods, and celebrations—including Halloween.

Halloween comes from Celtic traditions that originated in Ireland and England. Hundreds of years ago, they celebrated a festival known as Samhain. They believed that during this day, the worlds of the living and the dead became very close, and that spirits might come to visit. People would wear costumes and leave gifts of food out for the spirits, so that they could stay safe. Over the centuries, this tradition changed into what we now call Halloween.

Decorations and costumes you might see

Wearing costumes and putting up decorations is an important part of celebrating Halloween. In fact, you might already have seen some decorations in stores or at school. Canadians will often carve pumpkins and leave them on their doorstep as a nice decoration for Halloween. It’s a fun activity you can try at English as a second language school! Other decorations might include spider webs, skeletons, bats, ghosts, and more!

Try pumpkin carving at ESL school
Try pumpkin carving at ESL school

Wearing a costume on Halloween day is another important tradition. Spooky costumes like witches, vampires, and ghosts are traditional. However, you don’t have to dress up as something scary if you don’t want to! Many people dress up in other costumes too, such as a favourite celebrity or fictional character.

What is trick or treating?

On Halloween night, children will travel door to door and yell “trick or treat!” This is their way of asking for candy (don’t worry, they won’t really play a trick on you if you don’t have any!).

Typically, adults give them small chocolate bars, potato chips, or other candies purchased for the occasion. In addition, many children will also carry donation boxes for charity, which adults will add a few coins to.

Traditional Halloween foods to try when you learn English as a second language in Canada

While children may collect candy from trick or treating, there are many other delicious foods to try during Halloween. If you decide to attend ESL school in Canada in October, you can discover traditional foods that are only available during this time of year. Candy apples are a traditional Halloween treat, as are candy corn and apple cider. In addition, pumpkins are also a favourite seasonal food this time of year, and many products such as coffee and beer may be flavoured with pumpkin, as well as spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg.

Candy apples are apples covered with hardened sugar syrup
Candy apples are apples covered with hardened sugar syrup

For students who want to partake in Canadian culture, dressing up in a Halloween costume, enjoying some candy, and carving a pumpkin are not-to-be-missed activities!

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