Halloween in Canada

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Source: Soe

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced: sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, celebrated their New Year on November 1. They believed that on the night before the New Year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. They believed that on the night of October 31 the souls of the dead roamed free and knocked on doors asking for food. If these spirits did not receive food, they would haunt or curse the home. So, it became customary for people to hand out treats to all who knocked at the door. As the tradition developed, people believed that wearing costumes on the night of October 31 would frighten and confuse the spirits and so the practice of wearing costumes on Halloween continues to this day.

Halloween costume for kids.
Source: Soe

“Jack-o-lantern” is a carved turnip, pumpkin, or other root vegetables lantern associated with Halloween. There are many theories on how this tradition started. Some say that the Celts carved out grotesque faces on pumpkins, turnips, or other root vegetables and put them on their doorsteps to scare off the ghosts that roamed free on October 31. Another theory mentioned that the term originated in 17 century Britain. At that time the British called men whose names they didn’t know by a common name like Jack. So, an unknown man carrying a lantern was called “Jack with the lantern” or “Jack of the lantern”. There are other theories about the origin of Jack-o-lantern, however, the connection of jack-o-lantern to a carved lit pumpkin remains unclear to this day.

Various pumpkins for Halloween Jack-o-lantern.
Source: Soe

Making a jack-o-lantern is not very difficult but it could be quite messy. To begin with, the top of the pumpkin or turnip is cut off to form a lid. Then the inside flesh is scooped out, and a scary or funny face is carved out of the rind to expose the hollow interior. To create the lantern effect, a candle or tea light is placed within before the lid is closed.

Jack-o-lantern.
Source: Soe

Halloween was first practiced in Canada in the eastern port cities where Irish and Scottish settlers arrived in Canada around 1840. They brought with them the tradition of celebrating October 31 known as All Hallow’s Eve, which is now called Halloween. Since then Halloween has become a big event in Canada, and nowadays it is one of the money-making machines for stores selling costumes, candies, chocolates, and other treats (some people have started to hand out stationaries instead of sweets).

Ghoulish decorations, plastic jack-o-lanterns, costumes, and all kinds of treats are on sale at the stores since the beginning of October. All kinds of pumpkins, be it the edible or decorative, have been available at the supermarkets since early autumn.   Planning a costume to wear on Halloween is as exciting as going out for trick-or-treating itself.   Some children plan on costumes to wear a long time before Halloween, some even plan since the Halloween of last year.

Halloween decoration for sale.
Source: Soe

And so comes October 31, the Halloween night! Children and some accompanying adults dressed in all kinds of costumes, carrying plastic buckets or bags, can be seen walking around in the neighborhood chattering happily. They will knock on a door and shout “trick or treat!”. The owner of the house will come out and give them some sweets, or other treats. Then they will move on to another house, and another one, and another one, until they feel exhausted or until they have been to every house in the neighborhood participating in the Halloween festival. Some houses decorate their yards with inflatable ghosts or scary animals, plastic skeletons, imitation spider webs, tombstones, hanging ropes. Laser beams and scary sounds may be added to the ghoulish decor. Some people throw Halloween parties where the food is made to look like eyeballs, cut off fingers, and other scary looking things, and the drink is colored as red as blood. Some people closed their curtains, turned the lights off, and go to sleep. Every person has a choice whether to celebrate or not to celebrate Halloween.

Halloween house decoration.
Source: Soe

Just for Fun:

  1. Write about your own Halloween experience.
  2. Can you name at least 5 root vegetables?
  3. Buy a pumpkin and try to make a jack-o-lantern. Be creative!
  4. Take photos of your jack-o-lantern and send them to this magazine.
  5. Create your own Halloween decorations, or bake some Halloween cookies! Share them with your family and friends.
Halloween decoration.
Source: Soe

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