Jack-o-lanterns - Pumpkin Lanterns
These are hollowed out pumpkins with a face cut into one side. People once carved out beets, potatoes and turnips to use as lanterns on Halloween. Nowadays we carve out pumpkins.
According to an Irish legend, jack-o-lanterns were named for a man named Jack, who could not enter heaven because he was a miser. He could not enter hell either, because he had played jokes on the devil. So instead, he had to walk the earth with his lantern until Judgment Day.
Fire was very important to the Celts as it was to all early people. In the old days people lit bonfires, to scare away evil spirits. They believed that light had power over darkness. In some places they used to jump over the fire to bring good luck.
Today, we light candles in pumpkin lanterns and then put them outside our homes to frighten away witches and ghosts.
Apple Bobbing (Duck-apple)
The Roman festival for remembering the dead was also in October. During this time, the Romans remembered their goddess, Pomona. She was the goddess of the trees and fruits, and when the Romans came to Britain, they began to hold these two festivals on the same day as Samhain. Apple games probably became associated with Halloween because of this.
We play the game bobbing for apples, in which apples are placed in a tub or a large basin of water. The contestants, sometimes blindfolded, must take one bite from one of the apples without using their hands. It is not permitted to edge the apple to the side of the bowl to get hold of it.
The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits.
To keep ghosts away from their houses on Halloween, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.
Trick or Treat
Halloween was a time for making mischief - many parts of England still recognise Halloween as Mischief Night - when children would knock on doors demanding a treat (Trick or Treat) and people would disguise themselves as witches, ghosts, kelpies and spunkies, in order to obtain food and money from nervous householders.
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