Halloween: the Words to Pronounce

a pumpkin placed on a wooden log

On October 31st, every year, Americans and Canadians, along with all the Anglo-Saxon countries, celebrate Halloween by wearing scary costumes and carving tons of pumpkins. But how did this celebration start? Which are its origins? And which are the correct pronunciations of all the words related to this celebration?

The origins of Halloween

The celebration of Halloween dates back to more than 2000 years ago. The name Halloween derives from All Hallows' Eve, a contraction of All Hallows’ Evening. Hallow is an Old English word that means saint. All Hallows’ Evening has the same meaning as Eve of All Saints, a night meant to remember and celebrate the dead. According to some scholars, this celebration has Christian roots; according to others, the festivity was born spontaneously in a pagan environment, and it probably derived from the Celtic harvest festivals.

Halloween and the Celts

Unlike many other populations, Celts, who came from Asia, did not fear the dead. Actually, they believed that the dead could reappear and wander among the living beings during this recurrence. To earn their benevolence, Celts used to leave all kinds of sweets outside their houses for them to enjoy. And, just to make sure that they wouldn’t resent looking different from living people, they used to dress up as dead themselves: it was just a way to avoid provoking, for any reason, the fury of these unusual visitors.

Why do we say “trick or treat”

Celts did not love elves, those weird little creatures who resembled men but had unpredictable and capricious personalities. During this celebration, everybody feared these little men could play cruel tricks on regular people. Hence, the expression Trick or treat, which is pronounced by children dressed in scary costumes when they knock at the neighbour’s doors. Trick or treat means: "Are you offering me something good, or did I have to play you a cruel trick?”.

What is a Jack-o'-lantern?

During Halloween evenings, the neighbourhoods in the United States, Canada, along with all the Anglo-Saxon countries, are covered in lights and colours. The star is the Pumpkin that, after being carved, is turned into a Jack-o'-lantern, containing a candle. Jack-o'-lanterns will light the entrance of all the houses.
The tradition of Jack-o'-lantern derives from an old legend. Jack, an old Irish drunkard, was able to trick the devil so many times that, at his death, he was rejected both in heaven and in hell. His soul was condemned to wander without a place to rest in peace for eternity. Nobody wanted anything to do with Jack's soul, and even the inhabitants of his village thought to scare his soul away, lighting the entrance of their houses. To achieve that, they would carve turnips and place lights inside them. Little by little, pumpkins took the place of turnips.

01 February 2024
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