Halloween is just around the corner and this month on the Emma Slowe Entertainment blog, we want to encourage our audience to go back to their roots this Halloween. Although Halloween is now a big holiday around the world, particularly in the United States, it is, traditionally, a very Irish event. With the commercialism that surrounds holidays, sometimes we can forget where they started.
At Emma Slowe Entertainment we love Halloween! It’s a fun holiday to celebrate with the family but in later years, it has become custom to play down the origins of Halloween and whitewash the ghoulish pagan elements of the holiday. Wouldn’t it be a shame, however, if children grow up not knowing the true origins of Halloween? So, let’s park the scary movies and the shop-bought costumes for a minute and remember back to Halloween’s of old.
Halloween is a great time for spooky stories, so why not use some of these traditional tales to capture your children’s imaginations this year and get them interested in the history and folklore of Halloween.
One of the most iconic symbols of Halloween is the Jack O’Lantern. Nowadays, it is always a pumpkin, but how are Jack O’Lanterns Irish if we don’t traditionally grow pumpkins here? The story, which dates back hundreds of years is about a trickster type, called Stingy Jack, who tricked the devil on numerous occasions. When Jack died, he wasn’t allowed into heaven, but the Devil was mad at him and didn’t want him in hell either. So, he packed him off with only a lump of burning coal to light up the night, Jack put it into a carved-out turnip and wandered the Earth with it ever since.
Halloween is, of course, the night when the world of the living and the world of the dead are supposed to be at their closest and so, on Halloween night, people carved their own Jack O’Lanterns to keep Stingy Jack and all his other ghoulish friends away from the house.
So, yes, originally turnips were used for Jack O’Lanterns, however, when Irish immigrants brought their tradition to America it became popular to use pumpkins instead. It’s perhaps a good thing too, as turnips are very difficult to carve!
Another Halloween staple is the barmbrack. However, many children today don’t eat fruit cake so this Halloween tradition could be in trouble if we don’t help young people see what’s so great about it. Apart from the tasty treat that is Barmbrack, there is the delight of finding out your fortune. Although store-bought barmbracks today only have a ring hidden in them, originally there was a ring, a pea, a piece of cloth, a coin and a matchstick hidden within the loaf.
Baking a barmbrack at home with the children and including all these items can make the prospect of eating fruit cake a bit more fun. But, what do all of the hidden surprises mean? Well, if you find the ring, congratulations! You should be married by this time next year, however, if you find the pea, you won’t be getting married this year – oh well. If you’re unlucky enough to get the matchstick, it warns of an unhappy marriage. Finding the piece of cloth in your piece of brack signified that you would live a poor life, but if you find the coin, you’ll be rich!
Though, today, we bake barmbracks for the taste and fun of having our fortune told, originally, they were a good way of preserving fruits for the wintertime. And speaking of fruit…
Fruit & Nuts
Do you buy fruit to give to children who come Trick or Treating on Halloween night? It is said that a quarter of all sweets bought in the United States annually is for Halloween. If you ask us, that’s a pretty scary statistic! Not to get all serious, but some fruit is a good addition as a Halloween treat, our children’s health is important. Fruit also goes way back in the history of Halloween too.
We use fruit and nuts on Halloween traditionally because the Romans, who controlled much of Europe for hundreds of years, celebrated the feast of Pomona, the Goddess of Fruit and Trees in October. This is where bobbing for apples, an apple on a string and all of those other apple and nut-based games come from.
There are lots of other traditional stories surrounding Halloween that young children may not be aware of. This year, why not help them to understand what Halloween is about. This will get them interested in the holiday and can help them understand why it’s not all about movies, sweets and shop-bought costumes.
You can even consider making your own campfire! If you have a wood-burning stove, fire it up, bring some stools outside and sit around to tell some traditional Halloween stories. Sometimes going back to basics is the recipe for the best Halloween ever!
If you are hosting a party and would like to arrange a visit from our face painting witch and fairy friends contact us to check availability over the Halloween period. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook to see what fun Emma Slowe Entertainment is up to.
Have a wonderful Halloween everyone. And remember, stay safe.