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October 14, 2009 - Sunny Day
The name jack-o'-lantern comes from the irish legend of Stingy Jack who tricked the devil into climbing a tree and trapped him by carving a cross into the tree trunk. The devil placed a curse on Jack, condemning him to forever wander the earth at night with only the light he had inside of a hollowed turnip.
Yep, we're talkin' Halloween! Spooky, creepy, scarey Halloween....the roots go way, way back to the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronouned: sow-wen) and the Christian holy day of All Saints' Day. It is largely a secular celebration, although some have very strong feelings about its perceived religious overtones.
Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season. Ancient Celts believed that the boundary between the world and the otherworld disappeared on All Hallows' Eve, October 31st, and the dead could be dangerous. Wearing costumes and masks during Halloween is a Celtic tradition attempting to placate the evil spirits by copying them.
All Saints' Day was a day of religious festivities in pagan culture until it was moved from May 13th to November 1st . While All Saints' Day now occurs one day after All Hallows Eve during pagan days they were celebrated together.
On All Hallows' Eve Celts would put a skeleton on their window sill to represent the dead. These lanterns were first carved from a turnip (or rutabaga). Because they believed the head was the most powerful body part which contained the spirit and knowledge, they used the "head" of the vegetable to scare off the "embodiment of superstitions."
Getting back to Jack...The American tradition of carving pumpkins didn't become specific to Halloween until the mid to late 1800's. In addition to carving pumpkins, many autumn season elements are used for decoration - pumpkins, corn stalks, hay bales, leaves and more. Many homes are decorated this way for the Fall - Not just for Halloween, but until Thanksgiving.
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