Discuss Halloween as a folk tradition, and talk about its Indian counterpart.
Candies, costumes, and creepy decor are the most common aspects that signify Halloween. For the first time, the word ‘Halloween’ was used in the 16th-century. Earlier it was called “All Hallows’ Eve”, which means “hallowed evening.” Also called Ghost Festival, Halloween is celebrated on October 31st as Samhain – the ancient Gaelic festival (the earliest known origin of Halloween), occurred on this day. The significant time of year when seasons change was marked by this ancient festival. Back then, people dressed up as saints and went door to door that originated Halloween costumes and trick-or-treating.
Today, the fascinating festival is mostly celebrated in countries like the United States, Ireland, Canada, England, New Zealand, and Australia. The craze of the festival is now quickly rising in various regions of India too. Here is a quick detail about the Halloween celebrations. But first, let’s take a short trip back in time.
Actually, this festival is related to Celtic people in Europe. People of this caste believed that at this time of year, the souls of ancestors come and they can also communicate with the people. The Celtics thought that their stalled work would become easy after coming from their ancestor’s souls. Hence, the ritual of calling the souls became the festival and now celebrated widely across the countries.
Turning the annals of history, we learn that Gaels believed in a thin wall between the spiritual realm and our world. Celtics believed that at this time of year, the souls of ancestors come and they can also communicate with the people. So, they used to lay their dinner tables with good food for good spirits to ward off evil spirits and protect their crops.
Tracing back its roots from Samhain, the eerie festival has its fair share of stories, some are still shrouded in mystery. Most commonly, the festival was enjoyed with bonfires and costumes worn to ward off ghosts. Over the years, it evolved into exciting activities such as carving jack-o-lanterns, parties, dressing up, trick-or-treating, and lots of fun.
On the festive day, especially children hop house to house for ‘trick or treat’ and take sweets like chocolates or candies from neighbors. While the elders of the house pray for peace. On the day of the festival, everyone dresses up in a scary fashion and makeup. Houses are adorned with eerie decorative items such as Jack O’ Lanterns, bats, graves, skeletons, skulls, zombies, and various ghost avatars. Kids go to their neighbors for treats in the form of candies and chocolates. People organize get-togethers and savor culinary treats of the season. Among the many reasons to use certain decorative items, one associated with Jack O’ Lantern is quite famous. Let’s look at it.
The Jack O’ Lantern Story
The practice of hanging jack-o-lanterns originated from an Irish myth related to a man tagged ‘Stingy Jack’. As per the myth, Jack invited the Devil for some drinks but didn’t want to spend money. He thus persuaded the Devil to be transformed into a coin to buy drinks. But when the Devil turned into a coin, Jack kept it with a silver cross. Thus, Devil couldn’t return to his original form.
Once freed under a condition, Devil was tricked again the next year. This time, Jack convinced the Devil to pick a fruit from a tree and carved a cross before the Devil could come down. Eventually, Jack freed the Devil again, provided the latter won’t bother him for a decade.
When Jack died, he wasn’t allowed in heaven. He couldn’t go to hell either because of the Devil’s promise to not claim his soul. Ever since Jack is roaming on earth with a lump of burning coal kept in a carved-out turnip. The Irish refer this to this uncanny figure as ‘Jack of the Lantern’ and ‘Jack O’Lantern’. In different countries, the turnip is replaced by potatoes, beetroots, and the most popular – pumpkin.
HALLOWEEN IN INDIA
Just like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, Halloween is now also gaining special attention in India. Especially the people of the metro cities like Delhi and Mumbai celebrate Halloween with much enthusiasm. In these cities, pubs and hotels offer scary theme parties to attract customers. Here, its craze is high, especially among the youth.
During the day of Halloween, people in metro cities started dressing up like ghosts with scary makeup. Apart from that, family entertainment parks, kids’ play zones, and activity centers organize Halloween costume parties for children too. Restaurants in metro cities serve Halloween-themed dishes.
Due to the association of violent and horror images of this festival India also faced criticism about celebrating this festival. A couple of reasons given against celebrating Halloween in India are:
- According to the Indian mindset, it is not a tradition to indulge in the celebration of the departed souls and saints by highlighting horror and ghosts. Even if it is done on a lighter note and fun way, as in Halloween.
- Indian traditions perceive remembrance by fasting or prayer and charity in the specific period called ‘Pitri Paksha’. The tradition to commemorate the departed souls with festivity doesn’t go well with them.
Valid enough. But reasons to have fun are no less.
It is noteworthy that Halloween celebrations are about theme parties, spooky costumes, and storytelling sessions with special delicacies. All this has to be observed as cultural integration. It doesn’t replace Indian traditions of remembrance. Just like our train of festivals that run throughout the year, this could be an add-on. We can delight in bidding goodbye to autumn and welcoming winters.
WE CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN IN INDIA
Celebrating Halloween is all about wearing spooky dresses, scary storytelling, and enjoying special delicacies. It brings times to make merry and greet the new season with cheer. India celebrates several western festivals with great enthusiasm. Valentine’s Day, New Year celebration, and Christmas are some of the prominent examples. Celebrating Halloween develops a sense of imagination, especially among kids.