Friday, 31 October 2014

What is Halloween?

by Will Hall

(source: wiki commons)

As it is already this time of year, although the weather doesn’t seem in sync with it at the moment, I thought about what Halloween really is, as it can’t have always been about costume parties in the past…

Nowadays, we carve pumpkins, go ‘trick or treating’ and have costume parties, but as you would imagine, the idea of Halloween has changed significantly over the years.

Supposedly, much like the Mexican ‘Day of the Dead’, Halloween is a day of the year which is dedicated to remembering the dead. The most commonly recognised symbol for Halloween has to be a pumpkin, or a ‘Jack o’ lantern’ which refers to a carved and lit pumpkin. It isn’t very clear where jack o’ lanterns came from, but it is thought that the face that is normally carved into a pumpkin was used to represent a soul of the deceased. Some people prefer to carve turnips instead, although the numbers of people that carve turnips are definitely a minority.

Unfortunately, Halloween is one of those things in the past that we don’t really know much about, it’s just there and we don’t really know why. The origins of Halloween supposedly lie with Christians, and the Irish, but again, we’re not too sure. Now, after reading this, you probably won’t have learnt very much about Halloween, and I have to say that I’ve learnt less than I thought I would, purely because there isn’t that much to know. But, anyway, I thought I’d leave you with nice little Irish folktale that is associated with the Jack o’lantern: 

On route home after a night's drinking, Jack encounters the Devil and tricks him into climbing a tree. A quick-thinking Jack etches the sign of the cross into the bark, thus trapping the Devil. Jack strikes a bargain that Satan can never claim his soul. After a life of sin, drink, and mendacity, Jack is refused entry to heaven when he dies. Keeping his promise, the Devil refuses to let Jack into hell and throws a live coal straight from the fires of hell at him. It is a cold night, so Jack places the coal in a hollowed-out turnip to stop it from going out, since which time Jack and his lantern have been roaming looking for a place to rest’. 

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