Friday, October 12, 2012

International Halloween

As one of the world's oldest holidays, Halloween is still celebrated today in several countries around the globe, but it is in North America and Canada that it maintains its highest level of popularity. Every year, 65% of Americans decorate their homes and offices for Halloween...a percentage exceeded only by Christmas. Halloween is the holiday when the most candy is sold and is second only to Christmas in terms of total sales.
In Austria, some people will leave bread, water and a lighted lamp on the table before retiring on Halloween night. The reason for this is because it was once believed such items would welcome the dead souls back to earth on a night which for the Austrians was considered to be brimming with strong cosmic energies.
The Belgians believe that it is unlucky for a black cat to cross once's path and also ulucky if it should enter a home or travel on a ship. The custom in Belgium on Halloween night is to light candles in memory of dead relatives.
Modern Halloween celebrations in Canada began with the arrival of Scottish and Irish immigrants in the 1800s. Jack O'Lanterns are carved and the festivities include parties, trick-or-treating and the decorating of homes with pumpkins and corn stalks.
In China, the Halloween festival is known as Teng Chieh. Food and water are placed in front of photographs of family members who have departed while bondires and lanterns are lit in order to light the paths of the spirits as they travel the earth on Haloween night. Worshippers in Buddhist temples fashion "boats of the law" from paper, some of which are very large, which are then burned in the evening hours. The purpose of this custom is twofold: as a remembrance of the dead and in order to free the spirits of the "pretas" in order that they might ascend to heaven. "Pretas" are the spirits of those who died as a result of an accident or drowning and whose bodies were consequently never buried. The presence of "pretas" among the living is thought by the Chinese to be dangerous. Under the guidance of Buddhist temples, societies are formed to carry out ceremonies for the "pretas," which includes the lighting of lanterns. Monks are invited to recite sacred verses and offerings of fruit are presented.
In Czechoslovakia, chairs are placed by the fireside on Halloween night. There is one chair for each living family member and one for each family member's spririt.
At one time, English children made "punkies" out of large beetroots, upon which they carved a design of their choice. Then, they would carry their "punkies" through the streets while singing the "Punkie Night Song" as they knocked on doors and asked for money. In some rural areas, turnip lanterns were placed on gateposts to protect homes from the spirits who roamed on Halloween night. Another custom was to toss objects such as stones, vegetables and nuts into a bonfire to frighten away the spirits. These symbolic sacrifices were also employed as fortune-telling tools. If a pebble thrown into the flames at night was no longer visible in the morning, then it was believed that the person who tossed the pebble would not survive another year. If nuts tossed into the blaze by young lovers then exploded, it signified a quarrelsome marriage. For the most part however, the English ceased celebrating Halloween with the spread of Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation. Since followers of the new religion did not believe in Saints, they saw no reason to celebrate the Eve of All Saints' Day. However, in recent years, the American "trick or treating" custom, together with the donning of costumes for going door-to-door, has become a relatively popular pasttime among English children at Halloween, although many of the adults (particularly the older generations) have little idea as to why they are being asked for sweets and are usually ill-prepared to accommodate their small and hopeful callers.

Unlike most nations of the world, Halloween is not celebrated by the French in order to honor the dead and departed ancestors. It is regarded as an "American" holiday in France and was virtually unknown in the country until around 1996.

In Germany, the people put away their knives on Halloween night. The reason for this is because they do not want to risk harm befalling the returning spirits.

                          Hong Kong
The Halloween celebration in Hong Kong is known as "Yue Lan" (Festival of the Hungry Ghosts) and is a time when it is believed that spirits roam the world for twenty-four hours. Some people burn pictures of fruit or money at this time, believing these images would reach the spirit world and bring comfort to the ghosts.
In Ireland, believed to be the birthplace of Halloween, the tradition is still celebrated as much as it is in the United States. In rural areas, bonfires are lit as they were in the days of the Celts and children dress up in costumes to spend the evening "trick-or-treating" in their neighborhoods. After the visiting, most people attend parties with neighbors and friends. At these parties, many games are played, including "snap-apple," in which an apple on a string is tied to a doorframe or tree, and players attempt to take a bite out of the suspended apple. In addition to bobbing for apples, parents often arrange treasure hunts with sweets or pastries as the "treasure." The Irish also play a card game where cards are laid face-down on a table with sweets or coins beneath them. When a child selects a card, he or she receives whatever prize might be found there. A traditional food is eaten on Halloween called "barnbrack." This is a type of fruitcake which can be baked at home or store-bought. A muslin-wrapped treat is baked inside the cake which, so it is said, can foretell the future of the one who finds it. If the prize is a ring, then that person will soon be wed and a piece of straw means a prosperous year is forthcoming. Children are also known to play tricks upon their neighbors on Halloween night. One of which is known as "knock-a-dolly," where children knock on the doors of their neighbors but then run away before the door is opened.
The Japanese celebrate the "Obon Festival" (also known as "Matsuri" or "Urabon") which is similar to Halloween festivities in that it is dedicated to the spirits of ancestors. Special foods are prepared and bright red lanterns are hung everywhere. Candles are lit and placed into lanterns which are then set afloat on rivers and seas. During the "Obon Festival," a fire is lit every night in order to show the ancestors where their families might be found. "Obon" is one of the wo main occasions during the Japanese year when the dead are believed to return to their birthplaces. Memorial stones are cleaned and community dances performed. The "Obon Festival" takes place during July or August.
In Korea, the festival similar to Halloween is known as "Chusok." It is at this time that families thank their ancestors for the fruits of their labor. The family pays respect to these ancestors by visiting their tombs and making offerings of rice and fruits. The "Chusok" festival takes place in the month of August.
Mexico, Latin America And Spain
Among Spanish-speaking nations, Halloween is known as "El Dia de los Muertos." It is a joyous and happy holiday...a time to remember friends and family who have died. Officially commemorated on November 2 (All Souls' Day), the three-day celebration actually begins on the evening of October 31. Designed to honor the dead who are believed to return to their homes on Halloween, many families construct an altar in their home and decorate it with candy, flowers, photographs, fresh water and samples of the deceased's favorite foods and drinks. Frequently, a basin and towel are left out in order that the spirit can wash prior to indulging in the feast. Candles are incense are burned to help the departed find his or her way home. Relatives also tidy the gravesites of deceased family members, including snipping weeds, making repairs and painting. The grave is then adorned with flowers, wreaths or paper streamers. Often, a live person is placed inside a coffine which is then paraded through the streets while vendors toss fruit, flowers and candies into the casket. On November 2, relatives gather at the gravesite to picnic and reminisce. Some of these gatherings may even include tequila and a mariachi band although American Halloween customs are gradually taking over this celebration. In Mexico during the Autumn, countless numbers of Monarch butterflies return to the shelter of Mexico's oyamel fir trees. It was the belief of the Aztecs that these butterflies bore the spirits of dead ancestors.
In Sweden, Halloween is known as "Alla Helgons Dag" and is celebrated from October 31 until November 6. As with many other holidays, "Alla Helgons Dag" has an eve which is either celebrated or becomes a shortened working day. The Friday prior to All Saint's Day is a short day for universities while school-age children are given a day of vacation.
Grand Cayman Islands

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Pumpkin History
References to pumpkins date back many centuries. The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word for "large melon" which is "pepon." "Pepon" was nasalized by the French into "pompon." The English changed "pompon" to "Pumpion." Shakespeare referred to the "pumpion" in his Merry Wives of Windsor. American colonists changed "pumpion" into "pumpkin." The "pumpkin" is referred to in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater and Cinderella.
Native Americans dried strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats. They also roasted long strips of pumpkin on the open fire and ate them. The origin of pumpkin pie occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in hot ashes.
History of the Jack-o-Lantern
People have been making jack-o-lanterns at Halloween for centuries. The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed "Stingy Jack." According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn't want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree's bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.
Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with it ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern," and then, simply "Jack O'Lantern."
In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack's lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack o'lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack o'lanterns.
Source: The History Channel
Pumpkin Facts
  • Total U.S. pumpkin production in 2008 in major pumpkin producing states was valued at $141 million.
  • Total production of pumpkins by major pumpkin-producing states in 2008: 1.1 billion pounds
  • 496 million pounds of pumpkins were produced in Illinois in 2008.
  • The top pumpkin production states are Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and California.
  • The top ten pumpkin producing counties in Illinois are Tazewell, Kankakee, Mason, Logan, Will, Marshall, Kane, Pike, Carroll and Woodford.
  • Pumpkins are grown primarily for processing with a small percentage grown for ornamental sales through you-pick farms, farmers' market and retail sales.
  • Around 90 to 95% of the processed pumpkins in the United States are grown in Illinois.
  • Pumpkin seeds can be roasted as a snack.
  • Pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A.
  • Pumpkins are used for feed for animals.
  • Pumpkin flowers are edible.
  • Pumpkins are used to make soups, pies and breads.
  • The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.
  • Pumpkins are members of the vine crops family called cucurbits.
  • Pumpkins originated in Central America.
  • In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.
  • Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.
  • Pumpkins range in size from less than a pound to over 1,000 pounds.
  • The largest pumpkin ever grown weighed 1,140 pounds.
  • The name pumpkin originated from "pepon" – the Greek word for "large melon."
  • The Connecticut field variety is the traditional American pumpkin.
  • Pumpkins are 90 percent water.
  • Pumpkins are fruit.
  • Eighty percent of the pumpkin supply in the United States is available in October.
  • In colonial times, Native Americans roasted long strips of pumpkin in an open fire.
  • Colonists sliced off pumpkin tops; removed seeds and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. This was baked in hot ashes and is the origin of pumpkin pie.
  • Native Americans flattened strips of pumpkins, dried them and made mats.
  • Native Americans called pumpkins "isqoutm squash."

  • Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


The Celtic people, who lived more than 2000 years ago feared the evening of Oct. 31 more than any other day of the year. It was the eve of their festival of Samhain. Samhain was a joyful harvest festival that marked the death of the old year and the beginning of a new one. The day itself was a time for paying homage to the sun god Baal who had provided the people with the ripened grain for use in the upcoming winter. Come evening evil spirits were everywhere. Charms and spells were said to have more power on the eve of Samhain. Several rituals were performed by the Celtic priests, Druids, to appease the Lord of the Dead.
Christianity was born, and grew strong until in the fourth century after Christ, the Roman Empire Constantine declared it lawful. Within the Roman Empire, the Christian Fathers tried their hardest to stamp out all things pagan, which is what they named the older religions. However, the Celts held firmly to their Druid customs. So, the Christian church gave them new meanings and new names, and told the people that the fire rites they had previously held for the Lord of the Dead on Oct. 31 would now protect them from the Devil, the enemy of God.
In the 7th century the church celebrated All Saint's Day in May, but by the 9th century the date had been changed to Nov. 1st. The original festival for the pagan Lord of the Dead became a festival of Christian dead. People went on expecting the arrival of ghosts on Oct. 31st. Another name for All Saint's Day was All Hallows' Even which was later shortened to Halloween. In the 10th century the church named Nov. 2nd as All Souls' Day in memory of all dead souls. Halloween, All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day come so close together and are so similar that in some countries they tend to merge together.
The witch is a central symbol of Halloween. The name comes from the Saxon wica, meaning wise one. When setting out for a Sabbath, witches rubbed a sacred ointment onto their skin. This gave them a feeling of flying, and if they had been fasting they felt even giddier. Some witches rode on horseback, but poor witches went on foot and carried a broom or a pole to aid in vaulting over streams. In England when new witches was initiated they were often blindfolded, smeared with flying ointment and placed on a broomstick. The ointment would confuse the mind, speed up the pulse and numb the feet. When they
were told "You are flying over land and sea," the witch took their word for it.
An Irish myth tells of a man named Stingy Jack, who one day invited the Devil to have a drink. He convinced the Devil to change into a sixpence in order to pay for the drink, but instead of paying for the drink he pocketed the sixpence beside a silver cross which prevented the Devil from changing back. Jack made a deal with the Devil before letting him free. For one year the Devil could not harrass Jack. Next Halloween the Devil met up with Jack again, and Jack made another deal with him to be left alone. Jack died within the year and was turned back from the Gates of Heaven. He went to the Gates of Hell
and the Devil told him to go away, as Jack had made him promise not to claim his soul. Jack didn't want to leave because it was dark and he couldn't find his way. The Devil tossed Jack a glowing coal and Jack put it inside a turnip, and ever since with this Jack-O'-Lantern, Jack has been roaming the faces of this earth.
Scottish children hollow out and carve large turnips and put candles in them. Irish children use turnips or potatoes. In parts of England they use large beets. When the Scotch and the Irish came to the US they found pumpkins, which of course make a perfect Jack-O'-Lantern.
The Halloween Masquerade

From earliest times people wore masks when droughts or other disasters struck. They believed that the demons who had brought their misfortune upon them would become frightened off by the hideous masks. Even after the festival of Samhain had merged with Halloween, Europeans felt uneasy at this time of the year. Food was stored in preparation for the winter and the house was snug and warm. The cold, envious ghosts were outside, and people who went out after dark often wore masks to keep from being recognised. Until very recently children would dress up as ghosts and goblins to scare the neighbours, but there was no trick or treating. Around 40 years ago people began to offer treats to their costumed visitors. In parts of England the poor once went to houses singing and begging for soul cakes or money. Spanish people put cakes and nuts on graves on Halloween, to bribe the evil spirits.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Not Feelin' It

I love the fall.  It's my all time favorite time of year.  The weather gets cooler and even though we don't get the crisp fall air or colored leaves here in Florida, you can tell it's fall.  And that means all the FUN of the holidays begins.

Usually by the end of September I am all decorated for Halloween.  This year, not so.  I am not even decorating for Halloween.  No fall decorations and probably no Christmas either.

Just feeling....I don't know, down in the dumps, but not really.  Tired...but not really.  Can't really explain it.  I felt this way a couple of years ago at Christmas and wasn't going to put up a tree but Wade came over and put it up for me.  Last year I got by with just a Charlie Brown tree.  Not sure if it has to do with everyone's health issues these past couple of years or what. 

I'm still looking forward to the holidays and I know I will enjoy spending them with the family, but as far as my house and decorations go.....I just don't want to deal with it. 

And there was talk about no Hayride for the Halloween Event Hut and I do as the Hogman and his Gypsy Bride.  I was actually hoping it would get cancelled.  And Hut needs to be losing weight for health reasons, but he's concerned about not being able to play Santa.  I told him that maybe the time has come for Santa to stay in the closet so we can spend more time during the holidays with family, doing family things.  You know, going to the events we are always working.  Is that wrong of me?  Maybe I'm just getting old. 

Sorry for the complaining, but I'm just trying to get some advice from friends who may have gone through this before.