The stores are observing Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas simultaneously and have been doing it for some time now. No wonder there is so much stress and depression during the season. Why can’t we tackle one holiday at a time? Talk about pressure! Maybe I’ll just dress up like Santa Claus and surprise everyone by not buying any gifts. That would make me thankful.
Halloween. What is actually being celebrated by dressing up in scanty costumes, eating food shaped like gross things and carving pumpkins? There are several theories. One states that it was a Catholic day of observance in honor of saints. Many believe it is a feast that honors All Hallows’ Eve, influenced by Celtic harvest festivals. Another story says that, on that day, the disembodied spirits of those who passed throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. The medical term for this possession is menopause. Celtic villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. Then they would dress up in ghoulish costumes, and parade around the neighborhood, being destructive, in order to frighten the spirits away.
I have unknowingly practiced this ritual for some time. I extinguish all the lights in my house to make it undesirable for the costumed midgets that knock on my door in search of treats that are obtained by panhandling. It is really for their own good that I do this, and for mine. I have been known to eat the entire stash myself before a single midget arrived.
The Jack-o-lantern wasn’t aways the pumpkin that we all know and love. Lanterns used to be fashioned from a hollowed-out turnip. Considering the size of a turnip, this must have been a substantial artistic challenge.
As the legend goes, the lantern was named after a man named Jack, ‘Stingy Jack’ to be precise. Jack was notorious as a drunkard, a thief and a trickster. He successfully tricked Satan into climbing a tree to pick a piece of fruit. I’m guessing it was a Criterion apple. Once he was up there, Jack carved a cross in the tree’s bark preventing him from getting down. Jack made him promise to leave him alone for ten years before he would free him.
(I have to admit, I too have been tricked by a Jack. Jack Daniels tricked me onto many a barroom table and forced me to dance. He carved gigantic smiles on the observer’s faces, males mostly, which trapped me on the table but that’s another story for another time).
Anyway, Jack died ten years later. He was denied access to heaven because of his evil ways and hell wouldn’t have him either because Satan didn’t find the old climb the tree and pick some fruit gag very funny. He did however give Jack a single ember to light his way in the frigid darkness between heaven and hell. The hollowed-out turnip was the handy carrying case that it came with.
It was when the Irish immigrants came to America, that the pumpkin was adopted as Jack’s lantern. It’s a good thing too. Pumpkins are much more colorful when smashed on asphalt. The other name for Halloween this year is, Thursday. So, happy Thursday, whatever you celebrate.