Halloween in the United States

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Joel Fulleda

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references


  • The origins of the word Halloween
  • The origins of the Halloween party
  • From Ireland to the United States
  • Why the pumpkin symbol: Who is Jack O'Lantern

The origins of the word Halloween

In the Catholic tradition, a particular day of the Catholic calendar is dedicated to many saints, but November 1 is the day on which all the saints are celebrated. The day dedicated to "Every Saints" (in English All Saints'Day) had an ancient name: All Hallows’Day.

Among ancient peoples the celebration of "All Saints"Began at sunset on October 31 and therefore the evening before November 1 was called" All Hallows' Eve "(Eve means eve), but also" All Hallows'Even "(Even means evening) which was shortened to Hallows'Even , then in Hallow-e'en and finally in Halloween.

The origins of the Halloween party

The celebration of Halloween however has origini pagane much more remote and has its roots in the Celtic civilization.

In fact, the ancient Celts who lived in Great Britain, Ireland and France celebrated the beginning of the New Year on November 1st: the day in which the end of the "hot season" and the beginning of the "season of darkness and cold" were celebrated. .

The night between October 31st and November 1st was the most solemn moment of the whole Druidic year and represented for the Celts the most important celebration of their calendar and was called Samhain night.

All the most important legends in which epic cycles, ancient sagas, great battles and tales of kings and heroes are told, took place on the night of Samhain. Many of these legends concerned the fertility of the Earth and the overcoming of the dark winter season. For this reason, the darkest half of the year was awaited with great fear and celebrated with cosmic respect, terror and panic the beginning of the six-month reign of the God of Darkness: Samhain (Samain, Samhuin).

The Celts believed that on the eve of each new year (October 31) Samhain, Lord of Death, Prince of Darkness, called to himself all spirits of the dead and they feared that on that day all the laws of space and time would be suspended, allowing the world of spirits to unite with the world of the living.

The Celts believed that the dead resided in a land of eternal youth and happiness called Tir nan Oge and believed that sometimes the dead could stay with the People of the Fairies in the hills of which the Scottish and Irish territory is surrounded.

From Ireland to the United States

Towards the middle of the XNUMXth century, Ireland was hit by a terrible famine, still remembered today with great participation by the Irish. In that period to escape poverty, many people decided to leave the island and to try your luck in the United States, where they created, like many other nationalities, a strong community. Within it the traditions and customs of their homeland were kept alive, and between them the 31st October was celebrated Halloween.

Soon, this custom spread throughout the American people, almost becoming a national holiday.
More recently, the United States, thanks to cinema and television, have exported the Halloween celebrations all over the world, also infecting that part of Europe that had remained foreign to it.

In many films and TV series often appear the famous pumpkin and the masked children knocking on doors. And finally, there are many books and i horror stories that take Halloween as a background or as a starting point for their plots.

In the United States, Halloween has lost its religious and ritual meanings, and it has become an occasion to have fun and organize expensive and cheerful celebrations. It seems that Americans spend two and a half million dollars every year on costumes, decorations and parties for October 31st!

Why the pumpkin symbol: Who is Jack O'Lantern

The symbol of Halloween par excellence is a pumpkin in which a grotesque face illuminated by a candle placed inside is carved. This object is inherited from the Irish folklore and originates from legend of a "Nèer-do-well" ("I don't get one right") called Stingy Jack, a bad-tempered slacker and gambler, very addicted to alcohol.

One Halloween evening, after yet another hangover, the Devil appeared to him intent on taking possession of his sinful soul. Jack asked the Devil to be allowed one last shot. Having obtained permission, he complained that he didn't even have a penny to pay for the drink, so he begged the Devil to turn into a 6p coin.

Once the mutation occurred, Jack grabbed the coin and put it in his wallet, having the characteristic of a cross embroidered on it. Irremediably imprisoned, in order to regain his freedom, the Devil accepted the pact proposed by Jack, which consisted in postponing his death for a year.

On the following All Saints' Eve, the Devil reappeared to obtain the soul of man. This time Jack offered him one bet: he would no longer be able to get off a tree. The Devil smiled and accepted, climbing up a nearby tree. It was then that Jack carved a cross into the bark, which prevented the Devil from jumping off.

With victory in hand, Jack proposed to the Devil a pact: he would have canceled the cross, if he had pledged not to tempt him again. After about a year, Jack died. When he knocked on the doors of Heaven he was told that he could not enter because he had led a dissolute life full of sins.

When he arrived in Hell, the Devil also denied him permission to enter, because he was still offended by how he had been deceived by man. However, the Devil gave Jack an ember to light his way in dark limbo. Jack tried to make that light last longer and placed it in a hollowed out turnip, thus obtaining a lantern.

Since then, on the nights of All Saints' Eve, it is possible to see Jack's flame, which wanders in search of its way.

Jack has since been nicknamed Jack O'Lantern (ma anche Hob O’Lantern, Fox Fire, Corpse Candle, Will O’ The Wisp).

It will have been noticed that in the legend we speak of a turnip and not a pumpkin. The explanation for this lies in the fact that the Irish landed in America no longer had their tuber available and therefore resorted to the large yellow pumpkins, easily found in the new land and much larger.

The pumpkin has therefore become a symbol of Halloween, but also of autumn and this season is accompanied by typical dishes with pumpkin, including the famous pumpkin pie.

Discover the events to celebrate Halloween, in the main American cities.

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