Pumpkin Talk

I shared an interesting conversation this week with my EAL student, (I’ll call her Olga) a recent arrival from Ukraine. We discussed the North American celebration of Halloween. None of the students I’ve worked with, from South Korea, China, Iran and several now from Ukraine, are comfortable with our infatuation of scary. The immigrant church community where I grew up wasn’t too happy with Hallowe’en either.  (Halloween or Hallowe’en comes from Hallowed Eve, the night before All Saints’ Day).

For young Canadians, Hallowe’en is about pumpkin carving, fake graveyards on suburban lawns, ghost sheets blowing in the wind and candy—lots of candy. Us older folks like scaring ourselves with a good ghost story or movie. Halloween frights equal the adrenaline rush of a roller coaster ride. Nothing more. 

During our conversation, Olga and I looked at Halloween traditions around the world. In Mexico, the holiday takes place over two days and family graves are lit up with candles. I learned that in Ukraine, cemeteries are visited the week after Easter and food is left behind to nourish their souls. Here in Canada, we have no special holiday for the dead.  Not even a day off work. Just an evening where kids get to dress up and go begging for candy throughout their neighbourhood. We laugh at scary.

Meanwhile in Russia, they’re snubbing anything Western. This year, they have their own version of Halloween and call it Pumpkin Saviour’s Day


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