Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Pumpkin Lanterns!

onight is Hallowe'en when, as the old ballad says, the fairy forces ride... It's the Eve of All Hallows (or All Saints) Day, when ghosts, spirits and witches can walk abroad, along with all kinds of ghoulies and beasties (three-legged or otherwise) and things that go bump in the night... But, according to legend, you can keep the dark at bay by ensuring a fire burns through the night... 

All Saints Day was one of the great festivals of the Medieval Christian church, but Hallowe'en and its traditions seems much more pagan. It's the Eve of Samhain, the last night of the Celtic Year, before the start of winter, when crops had already been gathered in, cleansing fires were lit, and animals slaughtered and their meat preserved for the months ahead. At this time people looked to the past and future, and considered ageing and death, and the circle of life.
Shine a light! Jack-o'-Lantern candles.
The Romans also had a festival at the end of October to celebrate Pomonoa, goddess of fruit trees, especially apples. Nuts and apples were roasted on bonfires, to symbolise the food stored up for winter and, presumably, because they tasted good! It's an interesting link with the past I think, because apple bobbing is a traditional Hallowe'en game, and sticky toffee apples are always popular at this time of year.

These days fancy dress, parties, and trick or treating seem to be the order of the day, but but there are all kinds of customs associated with Hallowe'en, many of them connected with foretelling the name of one's future wife or husband. Church bells were rung to keep away evil spirits, and in days gone by lanterns lit for a similar reasons were carved from turnips, rather than the pumpkins used today.
I knitted a Hallowe'en tea cosy!
According to one tradition, if a maiden threw unbroken apple peel over her shoulder it would fall to the ground and form the initials of the man she would marry. And there were similar superstitions involving mirrors, candles, nuts and even cabbages!

I would suggest you mark the occasion by lighting a candle an reflecting on the summer that has gone, and the winter that lies ahead, and thinking about the good things in life, and the people you have known. You could enjoy a warm and spicy celebratory meal of course – pumpkin soup perhaps, and baked apples (with sultanas and golden syrup), cook up some pumpkin soup, or carrots .. something orange and spice would be suitable... and a glass of wine. And you could listen to Fairport' Convention singing Tam Lin here (and the rest of the Leige and Leaf album). And if your nerves are up to it you could curl up with a spine-chilling ghost story, but I'm afraid I can't recommend anything, because spooky tales aren't my thing!
More Jack-o'-Lanterns -sadly, I can't eat chocolate, but I
bought these last year because they looked so sweet, and
the family ate them.


  1. The Episcopal church I was brought up in, and am still a member of, has a stained glass winter at the altar. Tucked into the scene is a jack-o'-lantern - a whimsical touch by the artist. The name of the church is All Saints'

    Could you please email me? I have a question, and couldn't find your address.

    1. That is a nice touch. Some churches don't approve of Hallowe'en at all - it's going back a bit now, but when I was reporting I can remember doing stories in clergymen who wanted it banned.


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