09.11.2003 // Countries/Cultures // by Sergey Sirotkin

Trick or Treat

What is a ghost's favorite mode of transportation? — A scareplane...
(Halloween joke)

Halloween — what an interesting symbol! But let's try to hold water, step by step.


Imagine: October, 31... It is so cold and dark, but the end of the evil days isn't seen yet: we are only at their beginning, because winter is changing autumn tonight...

And everything goes from bad to worse on the All Hallows Eve: November, 1 is All Hallows, or All Hallowmas, which means All Saints, or All Souls' Day. Well, it is clear as day that at this night any mischief-making being can't but join witches' Sabbath and try to do its best in making people's life absolutely unbearable!

But incorrigible optimists have existed always and everywhere, even among ancient Druids. So, if Scottish Hallowe'en is known as Nos Galen-gaeof (the Night of the Winter Calends) in Welsh, then opinionated Irishmen call this festive Samhein (La Samon) — the Feast of the Sun, and treat it as their Druidic ancestors, whose fire festival was called "Samhain". And when people put on uncanny costumes and terrifying masks, they do it with one main aim: to demonstrate evil forces that humans are stronger, and to defeat horror with laughter, death — with life.

More of that, at least one accessory of Halloween — the Jack-o-Lantern — carries not only light, but pedagogical functions as well, reminding that going over the edge with the rams is not less harmful than witches and ghosts. There's an Irish legend about some Jack who tried to cheat Satan. Maybe, if Jack had been sober, he wouldn't have played "Trick or Treat" with the Devil at all, or he would have become a winner; but he wasn't — and he failed. So, Jack got to the eternal darkness, and the "kind" fiend gave him an ember to light his way. Poor drunk carried it in a hollowed out turnip. Now this "luminaire" is known as "Jack-o-Lantern", and a turnip is often replaced with a pumpkin.

By the way, about "Trick or Treat". Now, no Halloween can go without it. Players resemble Russian guisers at Christmas — and behave themselves in the same manner: they put on very odd clothes and disguises and go door-to-door, begging for treats — or play a trick on masters of the house, if the treats aren't given. Probably, the custom is connected with those times when people used to put some meal on the steps of their house for fairies, spirits, and others to gain good luck for the next year; otherwise those creatures walking all night long and being hungry, could have played a practical joke and changed the luck to fate — and not the best one.

And now — about the symbol, at last. Halloween happens with all of us — again and again. It is the symbol of life and light that are stronger than the night of death cold and horror in all situations — only be patient!

So, "Let us rejoice therefore" — "Gaudeamus igitur," as they say in Latin; and let's do as the Romans did even when not at Rome!



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