Have you ever wondered why we associate pumpkins with Hallowe’en? The legend originates in Ireland, but really gained in popularity in America and we inherited it back again. The original story features turnips, but Irish settlers in the USA used pumpkins instead as they’re much easier to carve!
Carved turnips or pumpkins with candles inside are also called jack o’lanterns, and the story starts in 18th century Ireland. A clever Irishman named Jack invited the devil to have a drink with him, and there was a wrangle over the bill. Jack managed to trick the devil into paying and also trapped him using a silver cross. On being released, the devil promised not to claim Jack’s soul but because of his slightly murky past Jack was also rejected at the Pearly Gates by St Peter, who turned him back. Jack now wanders through purgatory, lighting his way with a lump of coal inside a turnip lantern. It was common for Irish families to set turnip lanterns in their windows on 31 October to keep away any supernatural visitors.
Another tradition that’s more common on the other side of the pond is trick or treating, or the practice of children going from door to door and asking for sweets in return for not playing pranks on the householder. This probably dates back to the All Souls’ Day parades in the UK, during which poorer citizens be given ‘soul cakes’ in return for offering to pray for the donor families’ relatives. The original custom, called ‘going a-souling’ was eventually carried out by children who’d be given food and money to take home.
Even our modern tradition of dressing up on Hallowe’en has ancient roots. Many people believed that ghosts walked the earth on ‘All Hallows Eve’ or 31st October, and if forced to leave their homes after dark they’d wear masks so they’d be mistaken for other spirits and left alone.
We’re holding our annual Hallowe’en party at the Swettenham Arms on 31st October, and you can expect ghost walks, themed food and drink, a fancy dress competition and a Hallowe’en disco. Doors open 5.30pm, and you can find out more on our events page.