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Does Canada Celebrate Halloween? 2023 Traditions

Growing up in Canada, I often forget that most of the world doesn’t devolve into ghost and ghouls come October 31st.

Halloween is such a natural part of life in North America. Since the US dominates most of our TV shows, I never saw life without the holiday.

Since moving to the UK for my Masters, I’ve been reminded that it isn’t a universal celebration.

It started when my Malaysian roommate asked me what Halloween is and how we celebrate it.

I didn’t know what to say. I’d honestly never explained it before.

Every conception I could come up with sounded cartoonish or demonic. I mean costumes of monsters, pumpkins carved to ward off demons and an abundance of sugar doesn’t exactly make sense.

I’m glad she asked, because it reminded me that Halloween is a unique holiday. Many people only know of it from American TV and movies. They never even see other country’s celebration.

Admittedly, Canadian Halloween traditions aren’t dissimilar, but I like to hope that we’ve put our own spin on it somehow.

Read on to learn how Canada celebrates Halloween and what traditions you need to participate in to celebrate properly!

👻 Looking for a spooky Canadian event? Check out my favourite ghost tours!

When is Halloween in Canada?

Canadians celebrate Halloween on October 31st every year.

Do Canadians Celebrate Halloween?


Halloween is extremely popular in Canada, with millions of Canadians partaking in Halloween events all across the country.

Why do Canadians Celebrate Halloween?

There are many reasons why people want to celebrate Halloween but, there are two main reasons that seem to be most common. The first is for fun and interesting costumes,

What Does Canada do for Halloween?

Canadians celebrate Halloween similarly to the US. We carve pumpkins to leave on our porches as jack-o-lanterns, have Halloween parties, watching scary movies, dressing up in costumes, and trick or treating.

Halloween in Canada vs. US

The Halloween festivities in Canada are not much different from Halloween in the US.

Our Halloween celebrations are similar, with dressing up in costumes, carving pumpkins, trick or treating, and attending Halloween parties.

You may notice some minor differences in costumes, as we tend to dress up as hockey players more often than Americans. But otherwise, there’s little difference.

Back of a woman dressed up in black as a witch while holding a witch's hat. She has pink hair.
Photo by Kayla Maurais on Unsplash

Halloween Traditions in Canada

1. Costumes

Costumes are probably the most common thing associated with Halloween. It’s one of the few traditions you can start as a child and keep doing well into adulthood.

Around September, most supermarkets, drug stores and party shops start stocking costumes. There are even some full year costume stores if you’re looking to start really early.

Most people start costume shopping in October.

Costumes can be anything. They can be a pun, like the classic “cereal killer.” Or your favourite character. Or an animal. Or something terrifying.

It’s totally up to you!

Unless you’re a child. Then you get stuffed into a nightmarish, handmade clown costume that haunted you for years.

…you. Not me. That definitely didn’t happen to me.

Boxer dog in a superman costume for Halloween.
Photo by Elias Castillo on Unsplash
That’s right – we even dress up our dogs!

Costumes Aren’t Just for Trick or Treating

Halloween is a costume free for all.

Work attire and school uniforms go out the door. Suddenly doctors offices are filled with butterflies and Supermans (Supermen?). Schools are overrun by video game characters and mobsters.

School children parade through the schoolyard for the older kids to see their costumes.

You won’t get penalized if you don’t wear a costume, but people will think you’re a poor sport.

I was always bad at figuring out costumes. I’d have too many ideas, then I’d end up doing none of them.

Often I’d end up at school in a soccer jersey and say I was a “sports person.”

If you’re good at costumes, Halloween is a great time to break out that skill. Costume contests run in almost every bar and at seemingly every party in the country.

You may not win more than bragging rights, but who doesn’t like to brag?

Two Halloween jack-o-lanterns with smiles and one tooth in their mouths lit up against a black background.
Photo by Beth Teutschmann on Unsplash

2. Pumpkins

Pumpkins are basically the mascot for Halloween.

Specifically, jack-o-lanterns.

A jack-o-lantern is a pumpkin that is carved to display a design. They are lit from the inside with a tea candle or an electric light that reveals the design in the night.

I was taught that they were meant to ward off evil on Halloween – a day when the boundary between the spirit world and ours was weak.

Or maybe it’s because someone really wanted to carve a pumpkin with their friends.

Now, pumpkin carving and having a jack-o-lantern on your porch is a staple in Halloween celebrations.

Plastic jack-o-lantern beside a plastic skeleton for Halloween decorations.
Photo by Hello I’m Nik 🇬🇧 on Unsplash

3. Decorating Your House

Have you seen those insane photos of houses done up for Christmas with like a million lights and inflatable Santas?

Yeah, we do that in October, too.

Yards and houses become graveyards or ghoulish dwellings with spiders, skulls and cob webs. Some people make their entire front yard a haunted house.

Most people don’t go into special effects level decorations. You’ll tend to find a few “beware” or “keep out” signs with a skeleton, fake cobwebs and a witch in most yards.

People reuse these decorations every year.

Man holding his daughter's hand. She is dressed as Snow White to go trick or treating. He is holding the trick or treat pail.
Photo by Haley Phelps on Unsplash

4. Trick or Treating

Trick or treating was one of the best things as a kid.

Who doesn’t want free candy??

My sister and I used to go trick or treating with friends around our neighbourhood. We’d take a pillowcase, fill it to the brim with candy, go home and empty it, then head back out to fill it again.

There are some rules you have to adhere to when trick or treating:

  1. Always say trick or treat.
  2. You must be wearing a costume.
  3. Be prepared for no one to know what that costume is. Or, even if they do know, to ask you what you are.
  4. Don’t accept food that isn’t sealed.
  5. Don’t go back to the same house more than once.
  6. Full sized chocolate bars are WAY better than mini ones. Remember those houses from year to year!
  7. Say thank you.
  8. Wear a coat because it’s always cold by the end of October.

Trick or treating is just for kids.

Most people stop doing it between 11-14. By then you’ve transitioned from going with your parents to going alone.

Soon after that you’re ready for Halloween parties and the free candy becomes less exciting.

But I say trick or treating is superior!

Women holding an animal skull beside pumpkins and lit candles outside during Halloween
Photo by on Unsplash

Spooky Halloween Traditions in Canada

Halloween is supposed to be tied to demons and monsters. So the holiday has its dark elements.

A lot of people choose to dress up as gore-y or terrifying characters. For every two princesses you see, there will be one grim reaper knocking on your door for candy.

Adults take this more seriously.

People paint on fake scars and blood. They go to haunted houses to be terrified by people jumping out at them in the dark. They visit graveyards to get freaked out.

I don’t like being scared, so spooky Halloween is strictly off the table for me.

If you watch American TV, you might think Halloween has to be terrifying.

Most shows have some sort of horror element to them around the end of October. Or the characters start bingeing horror flicks.

I much prefer the Halloween heist from Brooklyn Nine-Nine – it’s an entertaining yet entirely un-scary tradition. There’s usually just a bad witch decoration or pumpkin on the wall.

That’s about as much darkness as I’m looking for. (Which is probably ironic considering I’ve been to a bone church.)

Some ways to celebrate haunted Halloween traditions in Canada are:

  • Stay in a haunted house
  • Tour a haunted house or visit a haunted walk like the Halloween Haunt at Wonderland
  • Do a ghost walk
  • Have a seance
  • Visit a cemetery
  • Scare your friends
  • Dress us in spooky costumes
  • Have a horror movie marathon
Ghost made out of foam art on a latte for Halloween

Grown-Up Halloween

Halloween is different for grown-ups. And by grown-ups, I basically mean anyone who can’t trick or treat.

There are three ways to celebrate if you’re not trick or treating:

  1. Hand out candy
  2. Watch movies
  3. Go to a party

1. Handing Out Candy

Handing out candy is a Halloween tradition in Canada.

If you’re home for the night and your lawn is decorated (and the lights are on – that’s an important indicator that you still have candy), then you must have treats ready.

Most people hand our mini chocolate bars or mini candies. Conveniently, grocery stores will start stocking giant boxes of these in September.

You’re not supposed to hand out anything with nuts because of allergies. Homemade goods will get thrown out. Parents can’t trust strangers to give their children unsealed goods. Apples are a no-no ever since the myth of children finding razor blades in their apples. I think they’re a bad idea because cheeky kids might throw them at your house.

If you don’t have candy, American TV convinces people that your home will be egged or toilet papered.

I’ve never actually heard of this happening. But it’s still a good idea to have lots of candy.

If you have too much, you can always eat it!

2. Watch Halloween Movies

Bingeing Halloween shows or movies is a great way to spend the evening.

Every October, TV stations start running marathons of anything vaguely spooky. Pumpkins show up on almost every channel.

With all that, you’ve got plenty of content to fill a night.

Movie marathons of horror movies tend to be the go-to for Halloween.

I prefer Halloweentown – a show with nice witches and Debbie Reynolds as the cool grandma.

Again, candy is a must. You’re supposed to gorge yourself on junk food while you raise your heart rate to marathon levels.

I guess some people find that fun?

Some of my favourite Halloween movies are:

  • Halloween Town (the series)
  • Twitches
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Hotel Translyvania
  • Frankenweenie
  • Casper
  • Corpse Bride
  • Hocus Pocus
  • Beetlejuice
  • Gremlins
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show

If you’re into horror, check out these flicks:

  • Carrie
  • Halloween
  • The Conjuring
  • The Ring
  • Blair Witch Project
  • Edward Scissorhands
Pumpkin head lights on a string against a dark background
Photo by Kristina Tamašauskaitė on Unsplash

3. Go to a Party

Halloween parties are a rite of passage in high school.

It’s a transition from childhood to adulthood in many kids’ eyes. You’re no longer trick or treating. You’re partying in a short costume with a bunch of your friends.

Halloween parties keep going though.

In university, they go on for a full week. Every night you’re expected to have a different costume.

It can be as simple as being in your PJs or wrapping a sheet around you like a toga.

Lots of places host events for Halloween, often coupled with a costume contest or a haunted house.

They’re overpriced versions of clubbing, with a huge surcharge for the holiday. But people love it.

I prefer a house party where I can get dressed up in a half thought out costume and eat chips all night.

It’s simpler. And cheaper. And way more fun!

Wrap Up: Celebrating Canadian Halloween

I haven’t celebrated Halloween since I graduated from my undergrad in 2017.

I spent that October in Europe (I think I was somewhere in the Czech Republic?). Then I went to New Zealand, where I completely forgot about the holiday in the summer heat.

Now, I’m in England. Halloween is present in university parties and on the American shows I stream.

Seeing it around, silently integrated into life here, makes it hard to believe that little kids won’t be lining the street in plush lion onesies and roaring at my door for a mini Snickers.

The longer I’m away from Canada, the more I realize the cool things that we have. I don’t necessarily miss it – Halloween lost its magic once people stopped giving me free stuff. But I appreciate it more.

Growing up wouldn’t have been the same without Halloween.

👻 Looking for a spooky Canadian event? Check out my favourite ghost tours!

Photo by Mel Poole on Unsplash

FAQs About Canadian Halloween Celebrations

What is Halloween called in Canada?

Halloween is referred to as Halloween in Canada.

Is Halloween a big deal in Canada?

Yes. Canadians celebrate Halloween just like Halloween in the US, with millions of people participating in Halloween events all across the country.
People still go to work on Halloween, but there are lots of social celebrations.

When did Canadians start celebrating Halloween?

There is no definitive record of when Halloween began, but Halloween celebrations in Canada go back to the 1800s.

👻 Looking for a spooky Canadian event? Check out my favourite ghost tours!

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Halloween Canada

Canada Travel Planning Guide

🚑 Should I buy Canada travel insurance?

100% YES! — Canada has “free” healthcare but it’s only for citizens! Foreigners visiting need travel insurance in case anything happens on their visit. I recommend World Nomads – starting at just $5 a day!

💧Can you drink the water in Canada?

Yes — In all major cities in Canada, you can drink the tap water. There are very few, rural areas that you can’t. However, you should never drink river or lake water anywhere in the country! I recommend a Brita Water Bottle for long hikes and backcountry camping to stay safe and hydrated.

🚙💨 Is it safe to rent a car in Canada?

Yes Renting a car is a necessity in most of Canada! If you want to go on road trips or adventures outside of the major cities, you’ll need to rent a car. (Read more)

📲 Will my phone work in Canada?

Maybe — Some American companies work in Canada, but many will not. If your phone doesn’t work in Canada, I recommend getting a Canadian SIM card so you can get around and stay in contact with loved ones. We don’t have a lot of free WIFI in Canada, so you’ll need your phone for maps.

🏩 What’s the best way to book my Canada accommodations?

My go-to for Canadian hotels is For hostels, I use Hostel World. If you want a home-y feeling, check out VRBO (which is cheaper and safer than Airbnb).

Or get free accommodations with Trusted Housesitters!

✈️ What’s the best site to buy Canada flights?

For finding cheap Canadian flights, I recommend Skyscanner.

🎫 Do I need a visa for Canada?

Likely Not — US, UK, and EU passport holders don’t need Canadian visas. However, some other countries do (check here!). And if you plan to stay for more than 4 weeks (an average tourist visa length), you will need to look into visas to live in Canada.