26 October 2011

The spooky pumpkins of Halloween

Halloween isn’t a traditional Filipino celebration but it’s observed by numerous establishments in the major cities of the Philippines. Hotels, restaurants, malls, bars and nearly every exclusive neighborhood in Metro Manila hold major Halloween events and activities.   These include trick-or-treating, costume parties, carving jack-o’-lanterns and decorating homes and buildings with anything spooky or scary such as toy skeletons, bats, spider cobwebs and ghost-like characters like witches, demons, zombies, scarecrows and vampires.
The occasion is usually associated with the autumn harvest season and to commemorate the spirits of the dead and deceased loved ones.
For the world of horticulture, Halloween and All Saints’ Day are important events as this is the season when demand for cut-flowers is highest.   Also, pumpkins carved into jack-o-lanterns adorn many homes and malls. But the pumpkin isn’t the only iconic decorative piece of Halloween. The turnip has been traditionally used in Ireland and Scotland.  In North America, however, there is an abundance of pumpkins. And since it grows to a larger size than the turnip, the pumpkin is easier to carve. The American tradition of carving pumpkins was first recorded in 1837. Back then it was associated with harvest time. It became the Halloween symbol it is now in the mid-to-late 19th century.
The Halloween pumpkin has since been christened the jack-o’-lantern.  It was named after the phenomenon of strange light flickering over peat bogs called the ignis fatuus or jack-o’-lantern.    The top of a jack-o’-lantern is usually cut off. The flesh inside is scooped out and an image, usually a monstrous face, is carved onto the outside surface. A variety of tools can be used to carve and hollow out the gourd, ranging from simple knives and spoons to specialized instruments.  Printed stencils can also be used as a guide for more complex designs. After carving, a light source (traditionally a candle) is placed inside the pumpkin and the top is put back into place. The light is inserted to illuminate the design from the inside and add an extra measure of spookiness.
The jack-o’-lanterns are commonly left on the doorstep to ward off evil spirits.   An offering or, as we now know it, a “treat,” would also be placed near the pumpkin to placate roaming evil spirits.
Aside from pumpkins, other prevalent elements of the autumn harvest season include corn husks and scarecrows. Black and orange are the holiday’s traditional colors.
Manila Bulletin




  © Free Blogger Templates 'Greenery' by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP