First Halloween in Canada! “We decided not to rush to conclusions…”

Andrei and Lena Davedianov

Andrei & Lena Davedianov. Photo Supplied

Andrei & Lena Davedianov. Photo Supplied

In our October issue, The Mainstreeter featured Andrei and Lena Davedianov, newcomers to Old Ottawa East, who shared their first impressions of our community and contrasted them with the life they knew in their homeland of Russia. In this latest installment, the couple describes their first exposure to the strange and spooky holiday that is Halloween in Canada.

It is amazing to have an opportunity to see different cultures. It is stretching to see the differences and so heartwarming to see similarities with the familiar.

October gave us this chance. At the beginning of the month, we started seeing strange “graveyards” appearing in the neighborhood. Then various skeletons, skulls, witches, black cats, ghosts inhabited the porches and front yards. Although it was a nice distraction from the usual autumn blues, these things made us cringe, especially in the evenings.

You see, in our home country, nobody decorates houses for the fall. And decoration with scary things is something unheard of. Maybe because 70% of people in Russia live in constant stress and avoid adding more stress to their lives. We decided not to rush to conclusions; it felt like the neighbors were trying to create an atmosphere and we wanted to be part of it. So we bought candy and the kids prepared costumes.

On Halloween night we left the candy on the porch and took a walk in the neighborhood to feel the atmosphere. And what a fun celebration it was! First, we have never seen so many people outside; Old Ottawa East is such a busy neighbourhood after all. We witnessed the beautiful sense of community; people were willing to contribute to everyone’s celebration. Kids and adults in fun costumes, cheerful and a bit spooky hosts, and fearless visitors. Little kids, teenagers, and adults – all having fun.

We saw the “newsmaking” LRT installation and loved that you can laugh at stressful situations. We heard the pumpkinhead fiddle player by the park and loved his willingness to invest in the fun for others, rather than just expecting to be entertained. The atmosphere of joint celebration, the welcoming of strangers, the good cheer was shared by everyone. It is wonderful that it is safe here to let kids walk in the neighbourhood and know that they will enjoy it so much and remember this mood for their whole life.

The Halloween celebration reminded us about the New Year celebration in Russia. Historically, the New Year’s Eve became one of the main and the most fun holidays. We also try to create a holiday atmosphere for the children on this day. We decorate our homes, set up New Year trees, and “Ded Moroz” (the Russian Santa) brings gifts under the tree. Everywhere children go during the holiday week, they get lots of candy. So the “sugar overdose” that happened with us on Halloween here does happen in Russia, just two months later.

It is common to hold costume parties on New Year’s Eve. One doesn’t see many scary characters’ costumes, but Elsas, Red Riding Hoods, Snow Whites, robots, pirates, and fun animals are everywhere. People usually invite guests around 10 PM and have a big dinner together. It is almost mandatory to stay up at least until midnight. Children usually like to brag about how late they were up on New Year’s night.

At midnight, after the president’s address on TV, people go outside and greet each other. It is the most crowded night of the winter. People set off fireworks and it is quite loud outside until at least 1AM when some finally decide to go home to sleep. This is how we welcome the New Year in Russia.

Seeing parallels between cultures helps to overcome the differences and appreciate the uniqueness of everyone. Thank you for letting us see part of your uniqueness during this holiday. And we promise not to set off fireworks in the neighbourhood on New Year’s night.

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