29 Oct 2014

Things that go bump in the night

With Halloween nearly upon us, the pumpkins, black cats, spiders and ghouls are already showing their faces. Today this holiday is mostly considered to be about trick or treating, dressing up and eating lots of sweets, but we decided to have a look at where this holiday actually comes from...

Source: equestdesigns.com

Halloween derives from "All Hallows' Eve", the eve (or vigil) before the western Christian feast of All Hallows (All Saints) on the 1st November. This time of year is traditionally known as Allhallowtide, a time dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs and all faithful departed believers. The focus of Allhallowtide revolves around the theme of using humour and ridicule to confront the power of death.

Here are just a few traditions from around the world:

Halloween Soul cakes. Source: www.babbel.com

  • The Philippines

Here, the tradition of 'Pangangaluluwa' takes place, which is the equivalent of 'Souling'. Souling or Pangangaluluwa involves children going door to door begging for soul cakes (known as Suman in the Philippines) and in return they would sing a soul cake song. The giving of soul cakes represents an offering for the dead. Another Filipino aspect of Halloween is that during the night clothes, plants and other household objects would 'mysteriously' disappear, only to be found the next day in the garden or in the street. This is supposedly spirits showing their presence to their loved ones.

The infamous Dracula. Source: www.nbcnews.com

  • Romania
In Romania this holiday is celebrated around the myth of Dracula. The spirit of Dracula is believed to live here because it was the site of many with trials, which are today recreated by actors. The largest party is in Sighisoara, Vald the Impala's (AKA Dracula) birthplace. They also celebrate the Day of the Dead (originally a Mexican holiday), when people light candles on the graves of their loved ones.

Halloween is quite a big celebration in Ireland with street parties, fireworks and bonfires. Adults and Children dress as creatures from the underworld (ghosts, ghouls, zombies, witches, goblins etc) and they go trick or treating. The largest street party and firework display is held in Derry. Traditional Halloween activities (besides trick or treating) include apple bobbing and Colcannon, which is a large family lunchtime meal.

Trick or Treating. Source: kids.britannica.com

  • The USA
We already know quite a lot about Halloween in the US from the countless horror films and TV series where we are shown many teens in fancy dress and something inevitably goes wrong during the night. On the agenda in the US are big fancy dress parties, lots of trick or treating (with hundreds of sweets!) and in some areas they also participate in Souling. The big commercialisation of this holiday begin in the 20th century and it is now the second most popular holiday for decorating. Madison and Wisconsin are known for having the largest city parades.

And of course you can't have Halloween without a pumpkin or two (otherwise known as a Jack-o-latern). The origin of pumpkins is uncertain, however some believe that it is originally from Ireland where people carved scary faces into gourds to represent spirits or ghouls. While others believe that they were used on All Saints' Day to represent Christian souls in purgatory, or there is the more traditional view that pumpkins are used to keep spirits out of one's home.

Carved pumpkins. Source: www.funmozar.com

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