Halloween is a combination of Celtic practices, European folk traditions and Roman religious rituals celebrated on October 31st each year. The Celtic holiday of Samhain, the Catholic All Saints’ Day and the Roman festival of Feralia have influenced Halloween to a large extent. Halloween is a Celtic ritual where people would wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. Now-a-days this festival is a secular celebration which is celebrated worldwide.
As Halloween is being the next popular festivals after Christmas, retailers in US offer big discounts on this day where the sales are in the range of multi-billion dollars. Who said cobwebs, witches and vampires aren’t a stimulus to the economy?
The name Halloween means the night before All Saints Day (All Hollows Day) held on November 1st which commemorates saints and martyrs.
Halloween customs arose from medieval, Roman and Celtic religious beliefs. Traditions like souling, mumming , and lighting of bonfires have evolved into modern day practices such as “trick-or-treat”. Narrating frightening ghost stories, watching horror movies, and playing pranks are some of the customs followed on Halloween.
Pumpkin carving has its roots in the Irish folklore and it is popularly called as Jack-o-Lantern. The folklore goes as Jack, a trickster once tricked Satan into climbing a tree. He then carved a cross in the trunk and trapped the devil up the tree. After Jack’s death he is not allowed into Heaven due to his evil ways, but then he is not allowed into Hell because he tricked Satan. He is given a single ember to light his way through darkness which he keeps inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.
When the Irish migrated to America they found pumpkins far more plentiful than turnips. Thus, a hollowed-out pumpkin, lit with a candle was the Jack-o-lantern in America.
There are three main ways of decorating pumpkin – carving, painting and applying decorative items on the surface.
Carving: It is the first step in decorating and you can opt for a scary face or other motifs such as bats, cats, spiders etc. A pumpkin’s top is cut off, inside flesh scooped out using various tools that range from simple knives and spoons to specialized instruments. A variety of pumpkin carvingdesigns is available online which can be printed and used as a template for drawing designs onto a pumpkin.
Painting: A child friendly alternative to pumpkin decoration is painting. Through this technique you can let your imagination run riot and paint ghoulish faces, motifs or even abstract designs in spooky colors onto your pumpkin. The total surface of a pumpkin can be painted in a solid color and the paint can be scraped using a blunt knife in the form of a design. Marker pens and felt tips can also be used to create an equally attractive pumpkin art.
Embellishment: A Halloween centerpiece can be made by embellishing a pumpkin using items such as sequins, beads, glitter, ribbons, streamers, and pieces of fabric. Embellishments can also be used on an already carved or a painted pumpkin.
After following the above processes a candle can be kept in the hollow of the pumpkin during the night to illuminate the effect.
Various festivals are held all over the world to find the biggest pumpkin. One such is the Virginia Pumpkin Festival – an annual event in the town of Virginia, Co Cavan in the Republic of Ireland. It takes place on bank holiday weekend at the end of October.
An annual Art and Pumpkin Festival is held at Half Moon Bay, California which draws over 250,000 visitors and includes the World Champion Pumpkin Weigh-Off. Farmers from across the US compete among themselves for the heaviest pumpkin grown.