In recent years they have been cancelled due to Covid-19 but they were a lot of fun.
My neighbourhood has never organised one but I attended a few before 2020.
A block party, also called street party, is a community party in a specific neighbourhood for which many people gather together, either to celebrate a festivity or simply for solidarity when something happens or when there is a fundraising event going on. The name comes from the form of the party, which often involves closing an entire block to car traffic or sometimes just a single street.
There is often music, games and dancing as well as activities for children such as inflatable slides, popcorn machines and barbecues.
Block parties are either festive or artistic efforts to reclaim streets as a public space by large groups of people. They first became popular in the United States where they started as a trend aimed at claiming public space from cars to dedicate it to a non-profit activity.
In Canada, street parties are mostly known as private events for residents, with no wider neighbourhood advertising but sometimes they are held for a festivity or they have a special cultural significance so they welcome everyone.
They are normally held to commemorate major events such as regional or national holidays, or some others are held during Halloween week.
It is usually necessary to apply to the local authority to close off a road for a street party and they issue a special permit.
Block parties are reported to have been originated in New York City during World War II.
It appears that back then an entire city block was cordoned off for patriotic songs to be sung and to hold parades in honour of the members of that block who had left to war.
I have also read that, traditionally, many downtown block parties were held illegally, because they did not ask permission for events from local authorities. However, given the times, the police turned a blind eye to them.
When I had first moved to Ottawa and before Covid-19 times I had attended a Chinese New Year’s celebration or so called Spring Festival even though it always falls in winter, between the 21st of January and the 20th of February.
I was just thinking about it recently because we have entered the New Chinese Year of the Tiger.
I remember that on the occasion of the New Year, Chinese families gather together for dinner to share traditional food and the celebrations last two weeks, from New Year's Eve to the Lantern Festival, which concludes the celebrations and includes the launch of lanterns during the night walk.
When I attended such block party in the Chinese neighbourhood they had set up some very long tables to have the traditional dinner. I remember that kicking off the banquet was the oldest person at the table, who was served first and raised the chopsticks in the air as a signal to start.
There were some makeshift booths selling (for a donation) spring rolls, ravioli, noodles, steamed buns and fortune cookies, among the most common products.
The teenagers had organized a dragon dance and performed on the street and there was even a workshop table for younger children to work on making paper lanterns.
I like this aspect of Canada; it is open to the world and people come together to learn each other’s culture and share food and traditions without judgements.
I do hope that things will resume normality very soon and that more cultural block parties will be organised around the city.