Friday, October 10, 2008

Stingy Jack-o’-lanterns

Boo! *laughs* Did I scare any of you? *giggles impishly*

I love Halloween! Who is with me? *looks about trying to spy fellow compatriots*

“Trick or Treat
Smell my Feet
Give me something good to eat!”

*chuckles again* Sorry, but I can’t get through Halloween without thinking about the childish rhymes we learned as kids. The same rhymes I now hear my children say.

I love the spooky, eerie atmosphere that goes along with Halloween. It makes me feel like a giddy kid again. I love deciding on costumes with my boys. My dog even has a witch hat that she wears along with a candy corn imprinted bandana. My husband says it’s considered animal cruelty the things I make her wear. ;-) For us, Halloween is family time because we’re all involved…well, except my husband who refuses to dress up as anything other than what he is…a stick in the mud. *laughs* Sorry, couldn’t help myself. He’s really not that bad, but he’s not that into Halloween either. His holiday is Christmas. *rolls eyes* His Christmas decorations are time consuming and involves a freakin’ large amount of electricity. I should be on the Power Company’s Christmas Card list. It's ridiculous. *shakes head, muttering about my light bill*

“Trick or treat, you're so neat.
Give me something good to eat.
Nuts and candy, fruit and gum.
I'll go away if you give me some.”

I love the decorations and right now my house is decked out with witches, ghosts, spider webs, skeletons and of course, jack-o’-lanterns. For my birthday, my mother bought me three animated Halloween houses. They’re like Christmas houses, but obviously not. One is actually a cemetery, but it’s got ghosts, goblins and monsters moving about and popping up out of the ground. The other one is a house with various silhouettes in the windows depicting someone being walked to the gallows, standing on the gallows and finally ending in hanging. The third one is the Tunnel of Terror Carnival Ride. The monsters in the cars are classic movie monsters like Frankenstien and his wife, Leatherface, Count Dracula and his wife, Werewolves, Mummies and the such.

So, in the spirit of Halloween I got to thinking…what is the history of Halloween? How did it start? Has it always been associated with Satanism and evil and ghosts and goblins?

The Irish sometimes called Halloween “All Hallows” or “All Saints”, and it was a significant ceremony for the Roman Catholics where sacrifices were made to honor the dead, prayers were presented for them and oblations (defined as offerings of gifts to a deity or a Christian communion) were made to them. It was originally celebrated on the last day of the Roman year, February 21st, but was changed by Pope Boniface IV in the 7th century to May 13th. Pope Boniface introduced All Saint’s Day to replace the pagan festival of the dead, which was celebrated by the pre-Christian Celts in Ireland, Wales and Scotland, which is from where America’s version of Halloween originates, the pre-Christian Druidic fire festival called “Samhain”. Samhain celebrated the feast of the dead, which symbolized the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. The date was later changed by Gregory III to November 1st.

Halloween traditions migrated with Irish immigrants to North America in the 19th century. The holiday was embraced by other western countries in the late 20th century. In the Gaelic culture, Samhain is regarded as the "Celtic New Year". The ancient pagan tradition for the Samhain festival was to stock supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. The ancient Gaels were obviously superstitious because they believed that on October 31 the invisible boundary between the deceased and the living dissolved. That would be kind of scary if one really gave that much thought. Therefore, it was a dicey time for those living because illness or damage to the harvest could occur. Frequently, bonfires were torched during the festivals and the bones of slaughtered livestock were thrown into it. In an attempt to resemble or placate evil spirits, costumes and masks was worn to the festival.

“Trick or treat, smell my feet.
I know you'll give us lots of treats.
Not to big, not to small,
Maybe the size of Montreal.”

A very prominent Halloween symbol in America is the jack-o’-lantern. First carved from a turnip or rutabaga in Europe, it was believed that the head contained the spirit and knowledge and, therefore, was the most powerful part of the body. I laughed aloud at the image of the head of a turnip or rutabaga having spirit or knowledge. It was actually scarier thinking about it coming to life and divulging its knowledge. *shudders* ;-)

The Celts believed the head of the veggie frightened off superstitions. *laughs* Another priceless belief, but it also demonstrates how superstitious they were.

The Irish legend of Stingy Jack is how the name jack-o'-lantern came about. Legend has it that Stingy Jack was an old farmer that was a hard-drinking greedy gambler. But, Stingy Jack was smart enough to trick Satan into climbing a tree and then trapping him there by carving a cross into the tree trunk. Yeah, okay, I admit I laughed when I read this legend. But, Satan had the last say (why does it seem like he always does?) and had his revenge on wily-good-ole-hard-drinking-greedy Stingy Jack, placing a curse on him and condemning him to wander the earth for eternity at night (kind of reminded me of the headless horseman story). And you guessed it, the only light Stingy Jack would have on his eternity long curse was a candle inside of a hallowed out turnip. I found this legend rather interesting.

So, jack-o’-lanterns started out as turnips and rutabagas. Who would have ever guessed? Not me, that’s for sure. Pumpkin carving is actually native to North America because pumpkins are more readily available, they’re larger and they’re easier to carve than a turnip or rutabaga.

Do you enjoy carving jack-o’-lanterns? Do you plan to carve one this year? We always do because our boys love it and I love doing it with them. I have a billion pictures with them carving the pumpkins over the years. Then we clean the seeds, cook and eat them. Yummy!

What’s your favorite part about Halloween? What are your traditions? I posted some rhymes that we used to say as children. I’m sure there are more out there, but I can’t remember them. Share with me others that you may know.
Have an awesome weekend everyone!

2 deadly screams:

Molly Daniels said...

"It's okay; I don't care; I'll just steal your underwear..."

I think that was the continuation!

I also dressed up as a Jedi the year 'Return of the Jedi' came out and carried my bag of candy looped around my toy Lightsaber! Afterwards, I said, 'May the Force be with you!' My sister was Chewbacca.

This year, we've trying out the Corn Maze. The toddler is 4 and we're looking forward to his first Pumpkin Patch adventure!

ReadingIsSoMuchFun said...

I am not much into Halloween any more. It's not the same for me and also I feel like I am getting to old for it can't go trick or treating LoL. I usually just wait till the day after and get the candies when they are on sale after Halloween and get the chocolate's I like heehee. I use to love carving pumpkins and some of the rhymes we use to say as kids. Here is one LoL

Trick or Treat
Smell my feet
Give me something good to eat
if you don't I don't care
I will just pull down your underwear *g*

One thing I do love about Halloween though is all the kids dressed up I love seeing what costumes they were each yr and seeing the trick or treaters. Love the decorations as well.