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The history of Halloween explained

Every year about this time, something comes over us and we get this urge to cut into pumpkins. It's interesting how certain traditions persist for thousands of years and even continue to grow, like Jack-o-lanterns for Halloween.

For the legend of Stingy Jack, mentioned on this video, click here: Who is Jack of the lantern?

Well, it's Halloween again and tonight our neighbourhoods will be full of all kinds of little ghosts and goblins and creatures of the night. But have you ever wondered where those ideas came from?

Like so many of our celebrations, the traditions of Halloween are deeply rooted in our past. This all got started with the ancient Irish. They celebrated the end of their pastoral year on October 31st. They called this festival Samhain and they believed that on this night, spirits came from the underworld and roamed the earth.

When Christianity began to influence Irish tradition, around the 6th century, October 31st was made into a harvest festival celebrating Saint Martin. The day after this was called "All Saints Day" or "All Hallows Day", so the night before was "Hallows Eve" or "Hallow-Een", a combination of ancient Celtic or Irish lore and a harvest festival.

I suppose the real symbol of Halloween these days is the jack-o'-lantern. It's history is also Irish.

You see, there was this guy named Jack, and he had a terrible reputation for playing practical jokes on people, and when he died he went to the underworld and he dared to play a trick on the Devil. The Devil got so mad he kicked him out and made him wander over the earth at night with only the light of a lantern to search for his lost soul. Some say old Jack only had a pumpkin to carry as light and hence the name "jack-o'-lantern".

Now, we also have Jack to thank for the tradition of trick or treat because he was such a trickster.

Have a safe and happy Halloween. I'm Allen Smith.

GHOSTS= spirits who wander the earth because they can find no rest after death.

GOBLINS= A grotesque elfin creature of folklore, thought to work mischief or evil.

WONDERED= If you wonder about something, you feel curious about something and you want to know.

ARE DEEPLY ROOTED IN OUR PAST= Have a very old history.

ANCIENT= /nʃənt/ Very very old. From a distant past.

IRISH= People from Ireland. Ancient Irish were Celts (or Kelts) and spoke Celtic (some still do). Most of the peoples in western Europe were Celtic before Romans and later Germanic people arrived to the area.

PASTORAL= Of or relating to shepherds.

UNDERWORLD= A kind of hell or limbo where the ancient believed people went after dying.

ROAM= To move from here to there without a purpose. To wander.

HARVEST= The act or process of gathering a crop. If you grow corn, for instance, it grows and then it ripens and gets dry. Then you cut it and collect it: that is called the harvest (and also the collected plants or fruit). In a harvest festival, agricultural cultures celebrated the end of the harvest, which was the most tiring period of the year for them.

LORE= (old word) knowledge.
"Folk" is another ancient word meaning "people", so the "folcklore" is the knowledge of the people, the popular culture and traditions.

THE JACK-O'-LANTERN= A lantern made out of a pumpkin with a face carved on it.  (see picture).

GUY= (coll. AmE) man.

PRACTICAL JOKES= A joke that you don't tell, but do. It is mischievous and has the intention of making people look foolish. For example, you stick a coin to the ground and when people try to pick it up, they can't so they look (and feel) stupid. That's a practical joke. Notice the preposition ON, you play jokes on people.

DARED= If you dare to do something you are brave enough to do it.

THE DEVIL= Satan, the incarnation of evil (also called "the Evil").

MAD= (AmE) Angry.

KICK OUT= If you kick somebody out, you tell them to leave or make them leave in a very rude way (to kick is to hit somebody with your foot).

WANDER= Go from place to place with no definite destination, to roam.

SOUL= Spirit (the part of ourselves that is not material).

HENCE= (formal) For this reason, therefore.

HAVE... TO THANK FOR= If we have something/someone to thank for something, that thing or person is responsible for its existence and we are happy about that.
- We have the Romans to thank for our Latin alphabet = We have the Latin alphabet thanks to the Romans.

TRICK OR TREAT= This is what children say when they come to your house in disguise. A TRICK here is a practical joke (see above) and a TREAT is receiving something you like, so you can choose: either you give them sweets (candy) or they'll play a practical joke on you.

TRICKSTER= A person who likes playing tricks or practical jokes on people.

Halloween Vocabulary
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