All About Halloween |

The One Source for All Things Halloween

Archive for May, 2011

Pumpkin Carving

Posted by admin On May - 31 - 2011ADD COMMENTS

Pumpkin Carving


Pumpkin carving has long been a Halloween tradition. Jack-o’-lanterns are seen in many homes as the holiday draws near. In fact, even making a trip to the pumpkin patch to select the biggest and best pumpkin has become a family tradition in many homes. Few people ever even wonder how or why it started or realize that this type of squash wasn’t even the original candle holder.


The Origin of the Jack-o’-Lantern


Legend has it, pumpkin carving and the whole business of jack-o’-lanterns originated, not surprisingly, with a bloke named Jack. This Irish tale of lore varies a bit after that, but the running theme seems to be Jack and the Devil had a run in. Most versions of the story say Jack convinced the Devil to perch himself in a tree after which, Jack whittled the sign of the cross into the bark forcing the Devil to remain in the branches. Jack bargained with the Devil, agreeing to let him down only if he promised not to snatch Jack’s soul following his demise. The Devil, reluctantly agreed.


When Jack did finally kick the bucket, he quickly found out he wasn’t welcome in Heaven. Because of the “restraining order” of sorts against the Devil, Hell couldn’t take him, either. Jack was forced to wander into the dark night with only a hot coal to see his path. Jack located a turnip, carved it and used this as his lantern. His apparition was given the original name Jack the Lantern, or the other version more commonly known.


As for the turnip, or beet in some version, it later became a gourd or pumpkin as people keeping with the tradition found it much easier to work with. The reason for the Halloween tradition was to carve scary faces into the lantern to keep Jack away from homes. Often, the jack-o’-lantern was set out on the night before Halloween to ward off any evil spirits.


Pumpkin Carving


Some tales seem to claim illuminated pumpkins, gourds, beets, turnips or other types of carved fruits or vegetables were originally placed in homes to help welcome friends of family members who had passed on to the spirit world. Either way, the jack-o’-lantern and pumpkin carving have become a large part of the Halloween tradition. For some people, this is the only decoration they use.


The activity itself is often carried out by the entire family, for a messy but bonding holiday experience. A circle surrounding the stem at the top of the pumpkin, and the top is pulled away and set aside. Next, the inside of the pumpkin is hollowed out by removing the seeds. For extra fun, the seeds can be rinsed off and baked in the oven for a seasonal treat.


Once the pumpkin is cleaned out, the pumpkin carving begins. Usually, a design is first drawn on to the front, or face, of the squash. It may be a simple face design or a more intricate design using a pattern. Though a scary face is the most common look, some people opt for either a more friendly face or a Halloween scene with witches and cats, for example. Once the pattern is actually cut, a candle is placed inside and the top put back.


Some homes choose to have a display of multiple jack-o’-lanterns for optimal décor. This can also be so each member of the family has their very own carved pumpkin.


Alternatives to Carved Pumpkins


The tradition continues to evolve as some homes opt for illuminated devices other than the pumpkin. Aside from other types of carved gourds, some people choose to use decorative jars or punched tins to create and eerie yet decorative holiday look.


A more popular alternative to carved pumpkins in recent years in the electrical jack-o’-lantern, a fake pumpkin that plugs into the wall can still give a hauntingly good look to homes that choose to decorate. There are a couple of reasons some people have made the switch from au natural to electric. One reason is safety. The traditional candle lit jack-o’-lanterns were more of a risk of a fire hazard. The other reason to choose a plug in pumpkin is that it can simply be put away and reused the next year. Not to mention, these types of gourds don’t get targeted for the mischief night tradition of pumpkin smashing.


Whether you choose a pumpkin that runs on candle or electric current, the look of carved pumpkins is sure to be a long time tradition of the Halloween festivities.



Traditions of Halloween

Posted by admin On May - 30 - 2011ADD COMMENTS

Traditions of Halloween


Traditions of Halloween can include one night of children dressing in costume and demanding candy from the neighbors, or it could be more like the month long festivities that Salem, Massachusetts hosts. There are also different methods for celebrating Halloween which can vary from different points around the globe. Though many of the origins of different traditions of Halloween are rooted from the original activities, many have been added throughout the years.


Trick or Treat?


In this tradition, youngsters get dressed in costumes and make their way through neighborhoods, knocking on doors and posing the question, “trick or treat?” In response children are often “gifted” items such as candy, apples, other treats or even money. Those who have nothing to offer are at risk of getting a trick as retaliation. Though tricks are not commonly played out anymore, the pranks often included window soaping, toilet papering of the house and yard or a bombardment of eggs to the home. This leads into another type of Halloween custom.


Mischief Night


As one of the traditions of Halloween, mischief night actually occurs on October 30, the night before Halloween. Oddly enough, it is a bit like the retaliation kids play out when they do not receive a treat on Halloween. More often carried out by teenagers, the trickery can cross over to outright vandalism. In some instances, it can be as silly and harmless as ringing doorbells and running. Along with the types of “tricks” often performed on Halloween, mischief makers have also been known to pelt passing cars with eggs (often rotten ones,) setting off firecrackers, smashing pumpkins and messing about with garbage cans or mailboxes.




Legend has it this tradition actually began with a turnips or beets instead of a pumpkin. Modern day traditions of Halloween include this pumpkin carving activity, though many have switched to using store bought, electrical faux pumpkin lanterns. During this process, the area surrounding the pumpkin stem is cut out and removed and set aside. The innards of the pumpkin are scooped out and, often times, the seeds are salvaged for crisping in the oven as a treat. Once cleaned out, a face or decorative design is cut into the side of the pumpkin and a candle is placed inside. This is used to act as an illuminating decoration. More recently, companies have begun to sell patterns making the carved patterns much more ornate than the original crude face of triangular eyes and a single-toothed mouth.


Macabre Décor


Some people who like to get into the Halloween spirit go much farther than a simple jack-o’-lantern when it comes to decorating. Some go as far as to create what seems like more of a shrine to all things ghostly, ghastly and gory. Of course, there are those who keep the decorating a bit more on the cute side, but a good majority still opt for turning their home into a house of horror this time of year. Fake spider webbing, skeletons, life-sized monster cut outs and plastic replicas of bloodied and severed hands fly off of store shelves and into people’s homes in order to create a chilling ambiance.


Costume Parties


One of the popular traditions of Halloween among all ages is the Halloween party. This type of celebration can be more common among adults who can no longer go trick-or-treating, but kids still have them before or during the night of Halloween. Guests come dressed in costume and participate in some controlled mischief. Activities like bobbing for apples, having a costume contest and telling ghost stories are often included. It is a tradition some parents prefer to trick-or-treating.


Haunted Houses


Another of the beloved traditions of Halloween is the haunted house. Elaborate decorating sets the mood and costumed people hide in dark corners to pop out and scare fearful visitors. More recently, outdoor events like haunted hayrides or cornfield mazes have been included.


Horror Movies


This is the most popular time of year for people to gather around and watch old scary flicks, or flock to the theaters for the newest properly timed release of a horror movie. TV channels plan much of their programming around this time of year, playing horror movies or showing TV shows with the Halloween theme in mind. Of course, for the kids, something more suitable like the classic Charlie Brown special hits the airwaves.


Some old, some new and some beginning or transforming in more recent years, either way the traditions of Halloween continue.