Syrian refugees' first Halloween a nervous, exciting experience
Friday, November 4, 2016

When Richmond's Vicken Majarian's young children first noticed the scarier parts of Halloween, he says they were reminded of their war-torn home of Aleppo, Syria.

For people who've lived here all their lives, Halloween is an ingrained yearly tradition that needs no explaining, but imagine being new to Canada, experiencing your first Halloween, with little understanding of what's going on, or why it's all happening.

"They began to think 'What's all this about, isn't it enough in Syria, all that blood and bits? Here it is again.' I told them 'It's just an occasion,'" he told On the Coast host Stephen Quinn.

Majarian and his wife Alin Arekelian arrived in Richmond last year, sponsored by St. Gregory Armenian Church, with their four-year-old daughter, Karni, and their eight-year-old son, Haig.

This year, they're celebrating their first Halloween, and Majarian says once he explained the holiday to his children, their fear turned to enthusiasm.

The family is fully immersing themselves in the fall tradition, last week visiting a pumpkin patch festival and a Halloween party at St. Gregory.

On Monday, they went trick-or-treating at Metrotown mall, Haig dressed as a knight and Karni dressed as a witch.

"They were very excited because they like candy," said Majarian, who worked as a dentist back in Syria. 

"I'm trying to keep them away [from too many sweets], but it's their occasion."

Fireworks, however, were one part of the Lower Mainland Halloween experience that had even the Majarian parents nervous.

"Hundred per cent, we remember Aleppo," said Vicken.

"It was really difficult. Even yesterday evening, my wife said 'What is going on? It's so much like bombing.' I said 'Really, I don't know.'"

Despite the reminder of the violent home he left behind, Majarian is grateful to be safe in his new home, and that his new community has welcomed him.

"[Everyone is] very friendly, with smiling faces, which is giving us more power to go forward."

He looks forward to celebrating more Halloweens to come, and turning the holiday into a happy tradition for his family.

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Source: CBC / Max Haberstroh / With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

Photo: The Majarian family celebrates their first Halloween by trick-or-treating at Metrotown mall. (Vicken Majarian)