Aseel and Malak Alawad take their photo with Santa Claus at the fourth annual Let It Snow winter carnival at Festival in Red Deer Wednesday. Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff

Carnival in Red Deer introduces newcomers to Canadian winter traditions

The event was hosted by the Central Alberta Refugee Effort and Catholic Social Services

Winter can be challenging for newcomers to Canada.

But the fourth annual Let It Snow holiday carnival, held at Festival Hall in Red Deer on Wednesday evening, showed there’s more to the winter than just the cold.

“One of our goals is to make the cold season more fun and approachable,” says Tessa Murphy, settlement practitioner with the Central Alberta Refugee Effort.

“For some of our new clients, particularly ones from warmer climates, winter can feel quite extreme, quite cold and quite isolating.”

There was an expected 200 attendees at the event, which was hosted by CARE in conjunction with Catholic Social Services.

“The goal of the event is to have a fun party, a social event to introduce newcomers to some Canadian winter traditions,” she said.

“We have a lovely volunteer Santa for our clients to meet. We have some candy cane fishing games. We have face painting, popcorn, cotton candy and those sort of things.”

Wednesday was an appropriate day to hold an event called Let It Snow, Murphy said.

“I’m sitting here looking out the window and seeing the snow fall. We hope the joy many Canadians feel with the snow falling can translate over and become a joy for new Canadians too,” said Murphy.

“I hope everybody can embrace winter and have some fun all year round. Hopefully, we can share some fun traditions that most of us commonly celebrate in Canada, whether it’s to do with weather, specific holidays, or traditions we have this time of year.”

Murphy said it’s heartwarming to see newcomers experience snowfall for the first time.

“We always have to take care of the practical things too: boots, jackets, scarves, mitts and that sort of thing. But seeing the wonder and the joy of snow is not one to be missed, for sure.”

Many newcomers are not complete strangers to certain Canadian Christmas traditions, such as Santa Claus, Murphy added.

“We don’t see a lot of confusion. I don’t know if it’s due to globalization, in the sense that Santa’s around the world.

“But we embrace something like Santa as a joyful tradition and a secular character in our life who kids love to meet and parents love to get pictures with. We don’t see confusion, maybe because we embrace it with joy.”

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