Halloween

Halloween

On October 31st British people celebrate Halloween. It is undoubtedly the most colourful and exciting holiday of the year. Though it is not a public holiday, it is very dear to those who celebrate it, especially to children and teenagers.

This day was originally called All Hallow’s Eve because it fell on the eve of All Saints’ Day. The name was later shortened to Halloween. According to old beliefs, Halloween is the time, when the veil between the living and the dead is partially lifted, and witches, ghosts and other super natural beings are about. Now children celebrate Halloween in unusual costumes and masks. It is a festival of merrymaking, superstitions spells, fortunetelling, traditional games and pranks. Halloween is a time for fun. Few holidays tell us much of the past as Halloween. Its origins dateback to a time, when people believed in devils, witches and ghosts. Many Halloween customs are based on beliefs of the ancient Celts, who lived more than 2,000 years ago in what is now Great Britain, Ireland, and northern France. Every year the Celts celebrated the Druid festival of Samhain, Lord of the Dead and Prince of Darkness. It fell on October 31, the eve of the Druid new year. The date marked the end of summer, or the time when the sun retreated before the powers of darkness and the reign of the Lord of Death began. The Dun god took part in the holiday and received thanks for the year’s harvest. It was believed that evil spirits sometimes played tricks on October 31. They could also do all kinds of damage to property. Some people tried to ward of the witches by painting magic signs on their barns. Others tried to frighten them away by nailing a piece of iron, such as a horseshoe, over the door. Many fears and superstitions grew up about this day. An old Scotch superstition was that witches those who had sold their souls to the devil left in their beds on Halloween night a stick made by magic to look like themselves. Then they would fly up the chime attended by a black cat. In Ireland, and some other parts of Great Britain, it was believed, that fairies spirited away young wives, whom they returned dazed and amnesic 366 days later. When Halloween night fell, people in some places dressed up and tried to resemble the souls of the dead. They hoped that the ghosts would leave peacefully before midnight. They carried food to the edge of town or village and left it for the spirits. In Wales, they believed that the devil appeared in the shape of a pig, a horse, or a dog. On that night, every person marked a stone and put it in a bonfire. If a person s stone was missing the next morning, he or she would die within a year. Much later, when Christianity came to Great Britain and Ireland, the Church wisely let the people keep their old feast. But it gave it a new association when in the 9th century a festival in honour of all saints All Hallows was fixed on November 1. In the 11th century November 2 became All Souls’ Day to honour the souls of the dead, particularly those who died during the year. Christian tradition included the lighting of bonfires and carring blazing torches all around the fields. In some places masses of flaming straw were flung into the air. When these ceremonies were over, everyone returned home to feast on the new crop of apples and nuts, which are the traditional Halloween foods. On that night, people related their experience with strange noises and spooky shadows and played traditional games. Halloween customs today follow many of the ancient traditions, though their significance has long since disappeared. A favourite Halloween custom is to make a jack-j -lantern. Children take out the middle of the pumpkin, cut hole holes for the eyes, nose and mouth in its side and, finally, they put a candle inside the pumpkin to scare their friends. The candle burning inside makes the orange face visible from far away on a dark night and the pulp makes a delicious pumpkin-pie. People in England and Ireland once carved out beets, potatoes, and turnips to make jack-o -lanterns on Halloween. When the Scots and Irish came to the United States, they brought their customs with them. But they began to carve faces on pumpkins because they were more plentiful in autumn than turnips. Nowadays, British carve faces on pumpkins, too. According to an Irish legend, jack-o -lanterns were named for a man called Jack who was notorious for his drunkenness and being stingy. One evening at the local pub, the Devil appeared to take his soul. Clever Jack persuaded the Devil to have one drink together before we go. To pay for his drink the Devil turned himself into a sixpence. Jack immediately put it into his wallet. The Devil couldn’t escape from it because it had a catch in the form of a cross. Jack released the Devil only when the latter promised to leave him in peace for another year. Twelve months later, Jack played another practical joke on the Devil, letting him down from a tree only on the promise that he would never purse him again. Finally, Jack s body wore out. He could not enter heaven because he was a miser. He could not enter hell either, because he played jokes on the Devil. Jack was in despair. He begged the Devil for a live coal to light his way out of the dark. He put it into a turnip and, as the story goes, is still wandering around the earth with his lantern. Halloween is something called Beggars’ Night or Trick or Treat night. Some people celebrate Beggars Night as Irish children did in the 17th century. They dress up as ghosts and witches and go into the streets to beg. And children go from house to house and say: Trick or treat, meaning Give me a treat or I’ll play a trick on you. Some groups of ghosts chant Beggars’ Night rhymes Trick or treat, Smell our feet. We want something Good to eat. In big cities Halloween celebrations often include special decorating contests. Young people are invited to soap shop-windows, and they get prizes for the best soap-drawings. In old times, practical jokes were even more elaborate. It was quite normal to steal gates, block house doors, and cover chimneys with turf so that smoke could not escape. Blame for resulting chaos was naturally placed on the spirits. At Halloween parties the guests wear every kind of costume.Some people dress up like supernatural creatures, other prefers historical or political figures. You can also meet pirates, princesses, Draculas, Cinderellas, or even Frankenstein s monsters at a Halloween festival. At Halloween parties children play traditional games. Many games date back to the harvest festivals of very ancient times. One of the most popular is called bobbing for apples. One child at a time has to get apples from a tub of water without using hands.



But how to do this? By sinking his or her face into the water and biting the apple Another game is pin-the-tail-on-the donkey. One child is blind folded and spun slowly so that he or she will become dizzy. Then the child must find a paper donkey haging on the wall and try to pin a tail onto the back. And no Halloween party is complete without at least one scary story. It helps to create an air of mystery. Certain fortunetelling methods began in Europe hundreds of years ago and became an important part of Halloween. For example, such object as a coin, a ring, and a thimble were baked into a cake or other food. It was believed that the person who found the coin in the cake would become wealthy. The one who found the ring would marry soon, but the person who got the thimble would never get married. Unfortunately, now most people do not believe in evil spirits. They know that evil spirits do not break steps, spill garbage or pull down fences. If property is damaged, they blame naughty boys and girls. Today, Halloween is still a bad night for the police.


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