Halloween, Vancouver-style

Halloween is a great time to recast our traditional fear of death and dying as a fun and happy time. Children eagerly await the opportunity to dress as mummies, vampires and zombies, and to knock on the doors of complete strangers and demand candy.

So, Here are five tips to keep your Halloween fun and safe:

1. Halloween costumes–dress for success

Health Canada provides a list of costume issues to be aware of. They don’t say specifically what injuries one might incur, but it's Health Canada so, hey, we should obey. Here they are (editorial commentary by moi):

  • Improper masks can interfere with a child's vision or breathing. (Remember “Goldfinger?”)
  • Swords, knives and other accessories should always be made of flexible material (so you don’t put an eye out, or stab someone for real).
  • Flimsy materials, flowing skirts and baggy sleeves can all be hazards around candles or flames.
  • Look for costumes, beards and wigs that are labelled "flame resistant." Nylon or heavyweight polyester costumes are best. Even so, "flame resistant" does not mean fireproof.

It then goes on to admonish parents about road safety and unwrapped treats (and pet safety), but a better source of injury prevention information is the BC Injury and Prevention Unit. Check out injuryresearch.bc.ca and preventable.ca. They have information on safety for Halloween and throughout the year.

2. Fireworks–remember the Darwin Awards?

Every year, emergency workers report a huge increase in fireworks-related injuries. Did you know that you need a permit to light fireworks in Vancouver? Yup, you do. To purchase fireworks, you must be 19 years of age or older, have a permit (you need proof of age each time you buy fireworks) and fireworks may only be purchased from October 25 to 31 and be discharged on October 31. Permits are free, but you must successfully complete a fireworks safety test to acquire one. The Vancouver Fire Department offers safety tips for safely discharging fireworks. The Canada Safety Council also offers information. To get a fireworks permit, call 604-873-7593 or see the Vancouver Fire Department.

Named to honour Charles Darwin, the Darwin Awards commemorate those who improve our gene pool by (accidentally) removing themselves from it. The Award is generally bestowed posthumously.

3. Candy from strangers–be watchful

The Vancouver Police Department posts statistics on homicides and other crimes in the city and we are currently enjoying a period of reduced crime. Their Crime Statistics – 2010 Third Quarter Update report claims that, for example, property crime totals are down overall, -6.9% year-to-date, to the end of September and violent crime totals are down overall, -3.4% year-to-date, with homicide down an impressive 58.8%.

There are the treats, but there are also the tricks. While you’re out in your neighbourhood, keep an eye out for mischief. If you witness a crime, you can call 911 (for emergencies requiring an immediate response), or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. If you have additional information about a crime that has already been reported, you can call the Vancouver Police Department at 604-717-3321.

Another tip is to subscribe to Crime alerts by email. When you sign up, you will receive reports on crimes specific to your neighbourhood (well, your postal code area).

4. Beware the Pineapple Express–mind the weather

In many cities across North America Halloween conditions are usually cool and dry, but in Vancouver the warm and usually sunny weather of autumn begins to give way to the ever-rains of winter around this time (a condition which usually persists until May and on the occasional bad year, clear through until July—go on admit it!).

So far, the weather forecast looks favourable, but that could change. If Halloween is rainy, you’ll want to plan accordingly:

5. Plan ahead–have fun!

If you make plans, you’re more than likely to also take precautions. The city is full of exciting things for you to do. I won’t mention all the goings-on in night clubs, but here are fun options for families.

  • Britannia Community Services Centre is offering a Secret Souls Walk, October 30 5 p.m. - 9 p.m. Go to gym D and join in the family-fun entertainment including roving performers, music, crafts and storytelling. Get a map and take the Secret Souls Walk! For more information, call 604-879-8611.
  • Sadly, the Police Museum City Morgue Tour is sold out (do check out their online gift shop—a morgue with a gift shop?) and their awesome blog), but the haunted trolley tours are a fun way to get around. These two-hour Haunted Trolley Tours depart October 8–31, Wed – Sun evenings from Canada Place at 5:30 p.m. or 8 pm, returning to Canada Place. This tour is suitable for adults only (12+) at the rate of $35 per person including tax. To purchase tickets, contact the Vancouver Trolley Company at 604-801-5515 ext 100 with your credit card information.
  • Celebrate All Souls at Mountain View Cemetery: Saturday, October 30 from 6 to 10 p.m. with candles, flowers and music; Sunday, October 31 from 7 to 8 p.m. with the singing from The Threshold Choir; Monday, November 1 at 7 p.m. with the showing of the film A Family Undertaking - Home Funerals in America; and Tuesday, November 3 from 6 to 9 p.m. with an evening tea.
  • Ride the Stanley Park Ghost Train. Ever notice how many lives the Stanley Park Train has? During Halloween, it’s the Ghost Train. This year’s theme is Alice in Wonderland and you can “accompany Alice and travel down the rabbit hole into a dark forest filled with demonic playing cards, a disturbed caterpillar and a queen with an axe to grind.” This year's Ghost Train runs from October 8 to 31 between 6 and 10 p.m.

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