Students from India, Bolivia, and the Philippines share about the holidays they celebrate at this time of year

By: Elisabeth Kehler

Red River College Polytechnic students from India, Bolivia, and the Philippines took part in some Halloween festivities for the first time this year.

“Most people in India don’t even know what Halloween is,” said Bharjoban Singh, an international student from India. “I have basic knowledge because of movies and social media.”

Singh and his classmates Prabhdeep Kaur and Lajwinder Kaur all arrived from India in April for the Full Stack Web Development program. They said they are open to celebrating Halloween now that they are in Canada, but at this time of year Diwali is the holiday on their minds — the festival of lights.

“We celebrate our festivals every year. We reflect on our history, and that’s all our festivals,” said Gurleen Kaur Deol, another student from India and vice-president of the Cultural Fusion Club. “The cultural ties in India are very, very strong.”

Diwali is a major celebration in Indian culture, falling on Nov. 12 this year. The students’ association has two events scheduled next month for Diwali celebrations, one at the Notre Dame Campus and one at the Exchange District Campus.

Nigel Abrera, Prabhdeep Kaur, Bharjoban Singh, and Lajwinder Kaur (left to right) dropped in at the Halloween DIY goodie bag activity put on by the RRC Polytech Students’ Association at the Exchange District Campus on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023. (Elisabeth Kehler)

Sarezka Tapia Bernal, an international student from Bolivia, celebrated her first Halloween in Canada last year. She said she would be celebrating again this year, but her cultural focus is primarily on Día de los Muertos. This translates from Spanish to the Day of the Dead.

Tapia Bernal said in Bolivia they celebrate Día de los Muertos from Nov. 1 to Nov. 2, and that the holiday is about commemorating family members who have died.

Families put out pictures of deceased relatives with specially baked bread in different shapes. Tapia Bernal said some are shaped like stair steps. The stairs symbolize welcoming loved ones back home.

“The souls will come to your place and visit you,” Tapia Bernal said.

Similar to Día de los Muertos, people in the Philippines will celebrate Araw ng mga Patay, which also translates as Day of the Dead. Nigel Abrera, a Filipino RRC Polytech student, said it’s more commonly called All Saints’ Day or All Hallows’ Day.

“We usually celebrate it by visiting our dead relatives or loved ones at the cemetery where we usually pray,” said Abrera. “The Philippines has very strong religious beliefs and most people are very devoted.”

Although international RRC Polytech students have different holidays they celebrate at this time, students like Abrera, Bernal, and Kansal are happy to add Halloween to the mix.

“I celebrate everything,” said Kansal. “I just bought some skeletons from Costco.”

Abrera, Bernal, and others celebrated their first Halloween last week at an event put on by the students’ association, where they drank Halloween-themed mocktails and made DIY goodie bags.