The ubiquitous pumpkin has taken on a new meaning in the last few weeks prior to Halloween in the USA. Halloween is not a big thing in Africa but it is becoming a spectacular experience in the States.
Halloween, known as the "Nightmare before Christmas" by some is another excellent money spinner along with Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, Superbowl Day , 4th of July and all the other holidays in the USA.
Behind the name... Halloween, or the Hallow E'en as they call it in Ireland , means All Hallows Eve, or the night before the 'All Hallows', also called 'All Hallowmas', or 'All Saints', or 'All Souls' Day, observed on November 1 but Halloween is celebrated on October 31. On October 31st after the crops were all harvested and stored for the long winter the cooking fires in the homes would be extinguished. The Druids, the Celtic priests, would meet in the hilltop in the dark oak forest (oak trees were considered sacred). The Druids would light new fires and offer sacrifices of crops and animals. As they danced around the the fires, the season of the sun passed and the season of darkness would begin.
When the morning arrived the Druids would give an ember from their fires to each family who would then take them home to start new cooking fires. These fires would keep the homes warm and free from evil spirits.
The Halloween we celebrate today includes all of these influences, Pomona Day's apples, nuts, and harvest, the Festival of Samhain's black cats, magic, evil spirits and death, and the ghosts, skeletons and skulls from All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day.
Spooky, kooky, creepy, and fun! Halloween is the time of Ghosts, Goblins, Gravestones and Graveyards. Of Spooks and Spirits and silly-fun tricks. Of Witches and Warlocks and Scary Black Cats. And Candy Corn, Jelly Apples, Pumpkins and Bats.
Pumpkin carving is a popular part of modern America's Halloween celebration. Come October, pumpkins can be found everywhere in the country from doorsteps to dinner tables. Despite the widespread carving that goes on in this country every autumn, few Americans really know why or when the jack o'lantern tradition began.
And the shops just love Halloween...cos they make plenty of money out of the festival trust me.
The shops are filled with Halloween regalia, everything from chocolates to clothing is suddenly orange and black. Paraphernalia for homes and gardens are on sale everywhere. Restaurants, shops, homes and gardens are decorated with cobwebs, witches, skeletons, black cats, ghosts and of course pumpkins !!
Carved pumpkins with glowing friendly eyes, plastic pumpkins, real pumpkins, scarecrows and ghouls. Halloween speciality shops open just for the Halloween season, haunted houses of horror open their doors to terror loving folk just for a couple of weeks at the end of October.
Its fun for the little ones though because they go "trick or treating" on Halloween eve, they all dress up in fancy dress, ghosts, witches, aliens, and fairies, and with their plastic pumpkin buckets, quite safely go from door to door where benign moms and dads spread largesse amongst the little Trick or Treaters.
Our favourite Halloween in Bulawayo was when we took two vans of little people, all dressed in their halloween costumes, to visit several haunted houses. The Neighbours really played their part well, houses were darkened with creepy bats and howling wolves, the daddy of the house met us at the door carrying a lantern, wearing a giant sheet from under which pumped his glowing red heart. Each neighbour played their part and added to the excitement of the night, tricks and treats were offered and accepted, and we wet from house to house, where the last house, the wind was howling, the parents were dressed very spookily and as a treat the kiddies were permitted to push the headmaster vampire into the pool!!
I wonder how Halloween is celebrated in Sweden