Maybe I should, but I don’t feel terribly bad about “cheating” by recycling reruns of seasonal themes (like the Autumn Foliage Friday Fun). So we’ll begin with a brief review about Halloween from what we learned last year.
THEN we’ll move on to the new stuff.
We Can Thank the Irish for Halloween
Samhain was a sacred Celtic festival that marked the end of the Celtic calendar year. Celts believed that during Samhain the wall between their present-day world and the afterlife became porous enough to allow spirits to get through. (You taking notes on that “wall” feature, Donald?) To befuddle the marauding apparitions that may be wandering their streets, it was a common practice for the Celts to disguise themselves in costumes and masks so as to escape the spirits’ attention. And at the same time, to cover all their bases, they would put out special food treats to placate the phantoms.
As part of the celebration of Samhain, fires were lit to ensure the sun would return after the coming long, hard winter. And Druid priests would throw the bones of cattle into the flames – hence, “bone fire” which then morphed into “bonfire.”
Catholics had a three-day Hallowmas holiday close to the Samhain celebration time that was designed to honor and pray for the recently deceased. And in the hopes of winning pagan converts over to Catholicism, in the early part of the 11th century the Pope decreed Hallowmas would coincide with Samhain, lasting from Oct. 31 (All Hallow’s Eve) until Nov. 2.
“All Hallow’s Eve” then evolved into “All Hallow’s Even” – and by the 18th century it was commonly referred to as “Hallowe’en.”
The Irish also provide the legend behind our ubiquitous Jack-o’-Lanterns at this time of year. They’re named after an Irish drunkard known as Stingy Jack, infamous for duping folks into buying him a drink.
The folklore is that Stingy Jack tricked the Devil into paying for a libation by having the Devil turn himself into a coin. But Jack just happened to then put this transformed-coin of the Devil into his pocket that also held a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from returning to his original self.
To remove the silver cross from his pocket, and thus allow the Devil to transform back, Jack made Lucifer promise he would not take him to Hades when he died. But when Jack finally did pass, God (who was not a bit pleased with Jack’s chumminess with the Devil) refused him entry into Heaven at St. Peter’s Gates.
So Stingy Jack was forced to wander the earth at night with a burning lump of coal as his only source of light. Jack placed his lump of coal in a makeshift lantern made from a turnip or rutabaga carved with openings mimicking his face to emit the lump of coal’s light. So Stingy Jack became “Jack of the Lantern” or “Jack o’ Lantern”.
When the Irish moved to America turnips were hard to find – but pumpkins were plentiful. So they switched their tradition of carving faces into pumpkins which they used to keep Jack and other troubled spirits away.
But pumpkin- (and other vegetable, fruit and more) carving has been raised to an art form by Angel Boraliev who is from Bulgaria. He’s (with a name of “Angel” I double-checked – and he’s a he) a professional decorative carver for hotels in Bulgaria.
He put up a page on Bored Panda (where you can view all 26 Halloween carvings) to prove that pumpkin- (along with squash) carvings don’t have to be scary – but can be quite beautiful. So let’s enjoy a few (Right-click or scroll-click, if your mouse has that feature, on one to open in a new window as a full-size photo. Or just click on one them and it’ll open as full-size. Click back/return to get back to the others) …
I could learn very little about Angel himself or how he does it. All I could locate was this YouTube video of him carving a rose – and he said it took him just 8 minutes – but don’t worry, it’s sped up:
So “Happy Halloween” from all of us cats ready to go Trick-Or-Treating!