Monday, 3 October 2011

Pumpkins and Father Christmas

As a Brit now spending time in Florida, I find it interesting comparing the customs and traditions prevalent in the two countries. Take Halloween, for instance. It’s been all over the place ever since we got back here in mid-September. It’s obviously a very big deal here; not so much so in England. I got curious about its history and did some Googling. Here’s what I found.

According to Halloween straddles the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity, life and death. I love that line! It’s a time of celebration and superstition that originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people lit bonfires and wore costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eight century, Pope Gregory 111 designated November 1 as a time to honour all saints and martyrs, and the evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve. 

Okay, I get that – Halloween, right?

Over the years, Halloween became a secular, community-based event characterised by child-friendly activities.

Question, when asked to choose between trick or treat, what should I expect if I go for trick? Has it ever been done? Will I survive the experience intact? Shudder! Probably better not to risk it.

Anyway, back to November 1. To the Celts it marked the end of summer and harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time associated with death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred and ghosts of the dead returned to earth on October 31.

Call me picky, but where do they go the rest of the time? The novelist in me creates these weird images of ghouls drifting about in limbo, pulling scary faces at each other, checking their watches and tapping skeleton-like fingers as they wait for their annual night out. Yeah, I know, I should get out more.

Pumpkins. Where to they fit in? Well, it seems that the custom of making Jake-o’-lanterns started in Ireland. Pumpkins aren’t exactly prolific in that part of the world so they carved out turnips or potatoes instead. Okay, now I understand.

I’m going off on one of my mind detours again here but stay with me. We have all those ghouls wafting about, being scary, waiting for their one night of glory. So what about Father Christmas? Where does he spend his downtime and what does he do with it? Since it's my birthday tomorrow I thought I'd celebrate my own personal tradition by asking for silly answers only. The one I consider most off the wall will win a copy of my latest contemporary romance, A Class Apart, published by SirenBookStrand. Results next Monday.

Happy Halloween, everyone!



  1. Well, if Father Christmas hangs out with those ghosts and ghouls, he'll have plenty of company throughout the year. Not the most creative answer, but my coffee hasn't kicked in yet this morning. Happy, happy birthday tomorrow, Wendy!

  2. Perhaps we should have explained the "dress in costume" part of Halloween. F.Xmas is the ghoul who will toliet paper your trees/car when you withhold the "treats". I write "Regency" and I would compare our halloween to a costume ball/masquerade of the early 19th. Except we turn the children loose disguised on the world too. :) Have you ever smashed a pumpkin? Great fun.

  3. Thanks for stopping by, ladies, and sharing your take on Halloween with me.

  4. Father Christmas is, of course, a kindly soul. So he spends much of his year caring for the other supernatural creatures that don't get out much - you know, ghouls,the Easter Bunny,the occasional Tooth Fairy whose patch is just a tiny hamlet in the Hebrides. And of course when Mrs Christmas demands her sunshine break (well wouldn't YOU, if you lived at the North Pole?), they have to invite Jack Frost to their Barbados villa too. "He's at a loose end," Father Christmas explains to his wife. She wraps her beach kimono around herself and pouts."It's intolerable, Crimbo!" she cries, batting her eyelashes at her twinkle-eyed hubby. "He drips all over the floor!" "He can't help it, dear" says Father Christmas gently. "It's in his nature." Mrs C sniffs. "You wouldn't say that if YOU were the one who spent the rest of the year scooping up Easter Bunny's pellets. Easter Bummy, that's what I'd call him."
    The conversation always ends the same way. She stalks out and Father C sighs, knowing once again his generosity will cost him a brand new 'Mary Christmas by Chanel' suit for Mrs C...

  5. Alison, I just love it! Easter Bummy. I now have the image firmly stuck in my mind. Thanks so much for that. You've made my birthday.

  6. Here's another British take on the festival of Halloween, plus a photo of a cat in a cauldron!

  7. Thanks for that, Derek. I especially like the cat in a cauldron.