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Hallowe’en marks the cultural shift in this neighbourhood

November 1st, 2008 · 7 Comments

I’ve always loved Hallowe’en in a special way. First, it’s the one festival that’s really about connecting with strangers or casual acquaintances rather than family. Really, when else do you go out banging on random neighbours’ doors asking for something — or open your door to random groups of strangers in weird outfits? And people see it as a sign of neighbourhood health, usually trading numbers of kids the next day as a badge of honour.

I also love it because of the way it gives you this once-a-year sociological snapshot of your neighbourhoood. When I first moved into the house I’m in now — a much more inner-city neighbourhood near Fraser and Broadway than the previous near suburbia I’d been in close to the PNE — the stream of people on Hallowe’en was wild and surprising. We had more than 100 callers at our door, ranging from young women who looked like they were taking a break from working Broadway a block away (at first I thought they were in costume, but then realize they were not) to young guys in their 20s claiming they were gathering candy for the “baby at home” to a United Nations of Chinese, Vietnamese, South Asian, Filipino, and native Indian kids, with some Caucasians.

This year, it felt quite different. It seemed to be the year of the guys taking out their kids. I couldn’t, in the brief time we had at the door, figure out if there’s been a sudden influx of gay parents into our ‘hood, what with all the pairs of adult males standing on the sidewalk monitoring the little ones’ interactions at the door, or whether they were just buddies who’d teamed up while their respective wives stayed at home. There was also just more, the gay/buddy dads included, of a west side feel to the crowd. I spotted any number of people who looked like they belong to masters’ swim clubs or run triathlons (that’s code for boomer professional, in case you don’t get it).

We still got a fair contingent of Vancouver’s multicult community, particularly South Asian and Chinese. But they were definitely fewer overall. All of which matches what I’ve been hearing from various demographic number-crunchers about how Vancouver is changing and where the kids are going. Mount Pleasant is one of the areas where there’s been the biggest drops in the kid population, and you see it on Halloween night. The young professional couples are moving in (a nurse-practicioner and her lawyer husband bought the nondescript bungalow across the street and have been fixing up ever since) and the immigrant families, who used to find some of the cheapest housing in the city, are slowly moving elsewhere.

Our street was still lively and fun (we have some serious Hallowe’en decorators), but this year, the count was 68 kids instead of 100.

So we got to polish off a few mini-Snickers and bowls of ju jubes ourselves, while we ended the night watching Rebecca (Manderley, oh Manderley) and listening to the fireworks going off outside, while our all-black cat snuggled close for protection.

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  • Frances,

    Our count, a little south of you, was more than a hunnerd (ie. the Costco box of 120 was all gone, although I did keep a passel of the KitKats for myself).

    And as someone who used to live on the Westside I agree with your statement about the feel (except that over here the backyard/streetfront fireworks are way, way better).

    But here’s the thing, on my way to work today I was talking to a former neighbour deep in the land of the greying points as he pulled some toiletpaper out of his boulevard tree…..and he was complaining about how he had fewer than 20 kids which, I think, says at least two things: first, a lot fewer folks with young kids can live over there; second, those that do don’t let their kids roam the streets bangin’ on strangers doors in the darkness, which is really too bad….


  • Marc

    Interestingly, I’m just a few blocks away at 11th and Woodland and draw the opposite conclusion. We had 150 kids. I thought I bought enough candy and managed to get away with the last piece of candy to the last kid at 8:40. Lots of of Asian and Aboriginal kids on the route, many from the apartment blocks to the North of Broadway, but overall a great cross-section of Vancouver.

    Then there was a half-hour of fireworks in our traffic circle, maybe $500 worth of impressive explosives. Decent crowd gathered, cars stopped waiting.

    So I’m feeling pretty good about my neighbourhood today.

    A friend of ours on the west side at 20th and Blenheim got a grand total of 10 kids.

  • fbula


    Yes, it seems to go in patches. I think we used to get a lot more from the apartments north of Broadway, but it didn’t seem like it so much this year. Maybe my decorations weren’t fancy enough, so I was getting low traffic because of that!

    At any rate, it makes my point that this little ritual makes people feel pretty good — especially the fireworks party after. A friend of mine has one in her neighbourhood, too, at the little park just west of Main at about 18th — I’m so envious.


  • Wagamuffin

    I was at a friend’s in Dunbar, guys. Some pretty spectacular fireworks displays over there—some a little too close to the house for comfort. I saw lots of daddy twosomes too, Frances. Maybe they were working the city!? Night of The Living Dads?

    The BEST Hallowe’en I ever attended was two years ago in Washington DC, on tony M Street in upscale Georgetown. There, a great intersection of the three universities (Georgetown, George Washington and John Hopkins) plus the area families who live in a mix of single family and side-by-sides (and everyone, and I mean everyone, decorates their homes) and the mayhem of adults arriving from all over the city in costume, filling the street on the 31st. It was the most fun I had on Hallowe’en and it was the DC version of Mardi Gras. To top it off, the next day the editor of Bon Appetit launched the magazine’s cookbook in the hotel I was staying at on M. Sensory overload.

    By the way, their cavernous bars in downtown DC are filled to the brim each and every night. Those young pol operatives know how to party, baby!

  • I had a lovely time trick or treating. Bino my son and I have been door knocking for the past few weeks so we are total pro’s.

  • We ran out of candy at 8:15 (about 100 kids cleaned us out), near 1st and Commercial. 6 years ago, our first Halloween here we ran out at 150 kids, and could have handed out 50 more pieces. But since then the numbers have been 80-100 until this year.

    I don’t think the number of kids in our area went down and then up, if anything the fertility rate is really high here. Something else affected halloween numbers. Maybe it being a Friday night brought more out (easier to let the kids stay out longer on a non school/work night).

    Or, maybe its the outsiders: a couple years ago I got to chatting with a parent waiting on the sidewalk for his kids to raid our candy bowl. They had commuted in from Richmond to trick or treat our neighbourhood.

  • Bill Lee

    Zero. Last year 6. In Vancouver Heights.
    Granted we can see about 4 houses with children on our block,
    but they are not (allowed?) to go trick-or-treating.

    Cecilia Walters of CBU radio morning news said none.