Every night of the 31 October, Halloween (an abbreviation for “All Hallows’ Even”) is celebrated in some Western countries, particularly in the United States, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Puerto Rico, New Zealand and nowadays, Halloween also gains popularity in other regions such as China, Korea, Germany, Spain and Japan due to the influence of American pop culture, while in Australia and New Zealand, Halloween has gained little recognition. In Sweden, the holiday begins on the first Saturday of November. Trick-or-treating, ghost tours, costume parties, carving Jack-o’-lanterns, watching scary movies, visiting “haunted houses”, bonfires and reading horror stories are some of the common activities held during the time of Halloween.

Halloween means the eve of “All Hallows Day”, which is now commonly known as All Saints’ Day. Its origin dated back to the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounce as “samain” in Old Irish or read as Oíche Shamhna in Irish) which is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture and hence it gains its name as “Celtic New Year”. The Halloween was regarded as an autumn festival for pre-Christian Celts, which means “End of Summer”. They believed that the dead revisited the mortal world, and due to this reason, large communal bonfires were lit to ward off evil spirits.

In Scotland, people believe that the souls of the dead would wander around the Earth and are free to return to the mortal world until dawn. Halloween was perceived as being the time, during which the division between the world of the living and the other world was blurred. To ward off the evil spirits and phantoms that emerge at midnight, the bonfires and the lanterns called “samhnag” would be lit.

Halloween was a religious day in various northern European Pagan traditions, until Popes Gregory III and Gregory IV to the old Christian feast of All Saints’ Day from May 13 to November 1. It was told that the ancient Gaels perceived that the boundary between the alive and the deceased dissolved on 31 October, and thus the dead become dangerous for the living organism by causing problems like sickness or damaged crops.

Halloween’s Pumpkin’s carving event

Pumpkin is one of the most prominent features of Halloween’s celebration in America. Usually, the pumpkin is carved with a candle lit inside, which is commonly known as a jack-o’-lantern. Traditionally, these lanterns were initially carved into turnip or rutabaga shape.

The Celts used the “head” of the vegetable to ward off the evil spirits as they believed that human “head” was the most powerful part of the body accommodating both knowledge and spirit.

Legend had it said that jack-o’-lantern is linked to the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, a greedy, gambling, and hard-drinking old farmer. He tricked the devil to climb a tree and trapped it into a cross that he carved into the tree trunk. In revenge, the devil cursed him to forever wander around the Earth at night with the only light he had: a candle inside of a hollowed turnip.

Many families particularly in North America that celebrate Halloween carve a pumpkin into a frightening or comical face and they place it on their home’s doorstep after dark. The tradition of carving pumpkins is now gained more popularity while celebrating Halloween as they are readily available, much larger and easy to carve than turnips. And thus, the traditionally used lanterns using turnips have now been replaced with the pumpkins. The practice of hollowing out pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns may have its origins in this practice.

Halloween’s Imageries and symbolization

Halloween imagery is merely an amalgamation of the Halloween season itself, which is portrayed in the works of American graphic artists and filmmakers. It involves the theme of death, mythical monster or magic, which takes on the dark and mysterious things surrounding Halloween. Traditionally, the characters include owls, witches, ghosts, black cats, goblins, zombies, mummies, skeletons, demons, pumpkin-men, vultures, crows, and ghouls.

In 1990, many manufacturers have introduced more items to use for home decorations. The most popular yard decorations include spiders, foam tombstones and gargoyles, door and animatronic window decorations.

There are also prevalence elements of the autumn season, such as scarecrows and pumpkins, and very often, homes are decorated with these types of symbols.

The PC wallpaper for Halloween takes a theme of Walt Disney characters as released by Japanese company.

Halloween’s Horror movies

In America and certain Western countries, the symbolism of Halloween is particularly inspired by classic horror movies, in which they involve fictional characters like The Mummy and Frankenstein’s monster. Episodes of horror-themed TV series are traditionally aired. The most popular horror movie, Saw films, is always released to the public before the Halloween to take advantage of the atmosphere.

In conjunction to 2008’s Halloween day, some film companies have introduced new horror movies.

Halloween’s costumes

Traditionally, the Halloween costumes take the themes of monsters such as skeletons, witches, and devils. Apart from this traditional horror items, costumes are also based upon characters from movies, television shows, and other pop culture icons. The most popular Halloween costume themes for adults, according to the National Retail Federation in sequence are: witch, pirate, vampire, cat and clown. Many costume parties are held in every Friday and Saturday or any days nearest to October 31.

The Halloween’s costume practice could be tracked back to its roots of the Scottish “guising” which is now become the foremost feature of the tradition of trick-or-treating held in North America. In the modern-day Halloween’s night celebration, children and adults go door to door “guising” by putting up the Halloween’s costumes, making themselves look like as though the creatures from the underworld. They appear as ghosts, ghouls, zombies, witches, witches, goblins or other supernatural being to offer some sort of entertainments while enjoying lighting bonfires and watching spectacular fireworks displays.

On the night of Halloween, the spirits of the dead and inhabitants from the underworld are able to walk freely on the Earth. Therefore, costumes and masks are worn at this festival in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or otherworldly creatures when venturing outdoors to blend in.

Halloween’s Games

In the most common game called “Dunking or bobbing for apples”, the participants are required to remove floating apples in a tub or a large basin using their mouths. Everyone takes turn to catch as many floating apples as they could. A variant of dunking includes kneeling on a chair, holding a fork between the teeth and trying to drop the fork into an apple. In 1832, a Halloween party held in Ireland, the Snap-Apple Night by Daniel Maclise portrayed an activity of retrieving an apple from a string. In some households, the coins are embedded in the fruit for the children to “earn” some pocket money for each apple they manage to catch. Other common but interesting game involves eating an apple which is hung on a string attached to the ceiling without using hands.

An interesting game which leads to a very sticky face involves hanging up treacle or syrup-coated scones by strings. The participants must eat them without using their hands. Games of divination are also played at Halloween but they gain less popularity nowadays.

In Ireland, a game called Puicíní (pronounced “poocheeny”) is held, in which a blindfolded person is seated in front of a table with several saucers placed on top of it. The saucers are shuffled and the seated person is required to choose on by touching on it. The contents of the saucer will tell the individual’s life for the following year. If the saucer with “earth” was selected, it means that someone known to the player will die during the following year; a saucer containing a ring foretells marriage, water foretells emigration, a bean foretells poverty, a coin foretells wealth, a set of Rosary beads means that the person will take Holy Orders (becoming a priest or a nun), and so forth.

Nowadays, children prefer to sit in front the computer or television to play either PC games, online internet games, Nintendo, or PS2 that take the themes of ghosts, witches, black cats, vampire, zombies, mummies, skeletons, demons, pumpkin-men, vultures and crows.

Halloween’s Beliefs and customs

On Halloween night, if unmarried women sit in a pitch-dark room gazing into a mirror, the face of their future husbands would appear in the mirror. Nevertheless, if they are destined to die before marriage, a skull would appear. This belief was widespread enough to be commemorated on greeting card from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In Scotland, fire rituals were very important and were lit in a village, or by individual families. According to Wiki, when this fire died down, its ashes were used to form a circle and one stone for each member of the household was kept inside this circle near the circumference. If any stone were displaced or seemed broken by next morning, then the person to whom that stone belonged was believed to be destined to die within a year. A similar rite in north Wales includes a great bonfire called Coel Coeth’ being built for each family on Halloween. Later, the members of the household threw a white stone in the ashes marked in their name. Next morning, all the stones were searched for and if any stone were missing, then the person who threw that stone was believed to be destined to die before next Halloween.

Other interesting Scottish custom is that they believed candle lanterns protect their houses. If the evil spirits passed the lanterns, they would offer the spirits parcels of food to leave and spare the house for the following year. Children were given protection by disguising themselves into such creatures in an attempt to blend in with the spirits. If the children got passed the door of a house, they would be given offerings of foods to ward off the potential spirits that might lurk among them. Salt was once sprinkled in the hair of the children to protect against evil spirits.

In England, in a game called “bobbing for apples”, participants are required to catch an apple which is placed in a water-filled barrel using their mouths. If they manage to catch the apple, it is peeled and tossed over the shoulder in the hope that the strips would fall into the shape of a letter, which would then be the first initial letter of the participant’s true love. According to this custom, the peeler’s life will be longer, if the peel of the apple is longer, and some believe that the participant who first caught the apple would be the first to marry.

In Mexico, the children will stop at their neighborhood’s houses, knock at their doors or ring the bell and say “¡Noche de Brujas, Halloween!” (‘Witches’ Night–Halloween!’).

Visiting haunted places

Visiting haunted places like a haunted house or hayride (particularly in the northeastern or Midwest of the USA) is another activity done around Halloween. Some of these events may not be necessarily held to meet the actual ghosts, but they take the scenes or themes of supernatural characters or presentations from horror movies which are regarded as the “haunted trail,” in which public come to meet with the supernatural-themed figures. In the United States, Knott’s Halloween Haunt at California’s Knott’s Berry Farm, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Disney land Resort, the Universal Studios theme parks in Orlando and Hollywood become the largest Halloween attractions for their annual Halloween events.

Halloween’s Food

A traditional Halloween meal called Colcannon is eaten at lunch-time (in Ireland, midday-meal sometimes refers to “dinner”). This meal is always mixed with coins wrapped in grease-proof paper.

“Barmbrack” is the traditional Halloween cake in Ireland. It is a key feature of an Irish custom. It contains various objects such as a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a ring and a small coin (originally, a silver sixpence was used) baked into the bread which is used as a sort of fortune-telling game. Each item signifies a meaning to the people concerned: the pea, the person would not marry that year; the stick, “to beat one’s wife with”, would have an unhappy marriage or continually be in disputes; the cloth or rag, would have bad luck or be poor; the ring, would be married within the year; and the coin, would enjoy good fortune or be rich.

As Halloween is the holiday comes in the wake of annual apple harvest, the apples are used to make candy apple, or commonly known as toffee or taffy apples. They are made by rolling whole apples in sticky sugar syrup, and sometimes rolling them in nuts.

I’m Jack…It’s time…I’m right here waiting….heeheehee…

The black cat growls in horror, “miaooooo…..!!!!”

This is the night He comes home…..right here waiting there….

Happy Halloween, hheeee….hehehe…hhhaaha…

It’s time he comes home, he’s waiting there.

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