Plumbing the depths of Canada’s other great divide: Halloween


The arrival of Halloween can be accompanied by characteristics that are not particularly joyful. Parents worry about their children trick-or-treating on what is usually a school night. Parties for adults can be a welcome escape, but if they happen during office hours, they inevitably affect productivity. There are also hangovers that lead to employees calling in sick on All Saints Day (November 1).

Earlier this year, a petition began to circulate in the United States that calls for Halloween to be moved to the last Saturday of October, instead of being observed every year on the same day (October 31). The modification is seen as something that could benefit stressed parents due to a perceived reduction of car traffic on a weekend. It could also allow adults to let loose without having to punch the clock the morning after.

Research Co. wanted to get a sense of how Canadians would react to a similar proposition on this side of the 49th parallel. And, to quote a preferred phrase from the past few days, we are divided. Across Canada, 41% of respondents agree with celebrating Halloween on a Saturday every year, while 43% disagree. For the second time this month, we have a nationwide statistical tie.

As was the case with federal politics earlier this month, there is a gender gap. While 46% of men welcome a change to ensure Halloween happens on a weekend, only 36% of women concur with this view. Canadians aged 18 to 34 are also more likely to support the move (46%) than those aged 35 to 54 (38%) and those aged 55 and over (39%).

There is only one region of the country where observing Halloween on a Saturday is supported by a majority of residents. In Quebec, 53% of residents would be happy with this prospect. Other areas of the country are not particularly keen on this modification, including Ontario (40%), Atlantic Canada (39%), Manitoba and Saskatchewan (38%) and Alberta (34%).

The lowest level of support for the proposed change is seen in British Columbia, where only 31% of residents would endorse the move and practically half (49%) would not. Three in 10 British Columbians (30%) are “strongly opposed” to celebrating Halloween on a day that is not October 31.

On a political basis, Canadians who voted for the Liberal Party of Canada in this month’s federal election are more likely to support moving Halloween to the weekend (52%) than those who cast ballots for candidates representing the Conservative Party of Canada (37%) or the New Democratic Party (NDP) (36%). We can no longer say that it is impossible for Tories and New Democrats to work in tandem on any issue.

Aside from pondering when to celebrate Halloween, there is also the problematic issue of costumes. The Research Co. survey asked Canadians to assess what children and adults could and should wear during the festivities.

As expected, some features are not well regarded. A costume that entails changing the colour of the child’s face is considered inappropriate by a majority of Canadians (51%). This is slightly lower than the proportion of respondents who find fault with children’s costumes that represent an ethnic stereotype (57%), but higher than those who are not thrilled with children wearing toy or replica weapons on Halloween (47%).

There is a type of costume that seems to be more contentious. Costumes that refer to a culture that is not the child’s own are deemed appropriate by 44% of Canadians, and inappropriate by 38%.

Costumes where a child represents a social stereotype, such as a jailbird or vagabond, are seen as appropriate by 52% of Canadians and inappropriate by 33%.

When the same costumes are presented to respondents as something that an adult could adopt, we observe slightly higher levels of rejection to changing skin colour (53%) and depicting ethnic stereotypes (59%).

The level of appropriateness for specific costumes drops slightly with adults, on issues such as social stereotypes (49%), referring to a culture that is not their own (41%) and wearing toy or replica weapons (38%).

It would seem that, following weeks of discussions about the proper attire and makeup for adults at parties, Canadians are slightly more careful about the costumes they could select for Halloween. After all, as the federal election campaign proved, it is impossible to control where photographs will end up, who will use them and what effect they will have on future employment.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from October 21 to October 23, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Canada. The margin of error – which measures sample variability – is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.