May 29, 2017

#05-048: Halloween

yard decorations include a witch festooned with skulls, a mummy, an owl, more witches (on brooms), and a large zombie-looking thing
Halloween decorations

Note: Halloween has its roots in one of the dates on the Great Wheel of the Year, between Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice--the beginning of the Season of the Dead.

Get Ready: Do you celebrate Halloween? If so, what do you do?

Halloween is a holiday so rife with traditions, one hardly knows where to begin.

Let's start with the name. November 1 is a holiday known as "All Saints' Day," when the Christian church remembers all of the Christians who have lived before. (The next day, November 2, is "All Souls' Day," when all departed loved ones are remembered, Christian or not.)

The English word "saint" is derived from the French word for "holy" (same spelling--saint or sainte--but with a different pronunciation); another form of the word "holy" is "hallowed." Thus, November 1 is sometimes called be called "All Hallows Day," and the night before was once called "All Hallows Eve" (or Even), which has been shortened to "Hallowe'en," now often spelled without the apostrophe. (The night before any holiday can be called its "eve," like "Christmas Eve" and "New Years' Eve.")

On this night, many believe, the dead rise again and walk the earth, much like China's "Ghost Festival" (see Lesson #05-010). This belief predates the Christian observance. You see, the reason the Church chose this date to remember "those who have gone before" is that, in pre-Christian times, November 1 was considered to be the start of winter, which is, of course, the "season of the dead," when trees lose their leaves, flowers die out, and many animals become scarce.

When the dead walk the earth, some people used to believe, it was wise to put out food for them--again like the Chinese custom of Ghost Festival. Thus, a few hundred years ago, some men in the British Isles thought it was good fun to dress up as "the ancestors" and go from house to house, demanding food and (especially) drink. If they were refused at any house, they might play pranks on the occupants (just as people believed that failing to appease the spirits would bring bad luck). This evolved into the mostly-harmless modern practice of "trick or treat," though sometimes mischief still takes place.

In addition to costumes and treats, other symbols associated with the holiday include the Jack-o'-lantern (which evolved from hollowed-out turnips or other vegetables used as lanterns by those first, adult "trick or treaters" in the British Isles; the large, orange pumpkin is native to North America); skulls, skeletons, and other symbols of death; witches and monsters (especially those popularized by movies); and such seasonal items as corn husks, scarecrows, and other things connected to harvest time.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. apostrophe
  2. appease
  3. departed loved ones
  4. harvest
  5. mischief
  6. occupants
  7. pranks
  8. predates
  9. rife
  10. scarce

  1. family and friends who have passed away
  2. tricks; practical jokes
  3. a punctuation mark used to indicate something has been left out
  4. the bringing in of crops before winter
  5. people who live in a house or apartment
  6. comes before
  7. abundant; commonly found
  8. hard to find
  9. trouble; some annoying activity
  10. please; soothe; make happy again

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for May 29, 2017

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. c; 2. j; 3. a; 4. d; 5. i; 6. e; 7. b; 8. f; 9. g; 10. h