Customs and traditions of Great Britain

Страница 6

The Irish used turnips as their "Jack's lanterns" originally. But when the immigrants came to America, they found that pumpkins were far more plentiful than turnips. So the Jack-O-Lantern in America was a hollowed-out pumpkin, lit with an ember.

So, although some pagan groups, cults, and Satanists may have adopted Halloween as their favorite "holiday," the day itself did not grow out of evil practices. It grew out of the rituals of Celts celebrating a new year, and out of Medieval prayer rituals of Europeans. And today, even many churches have Halloween parties or pumpkin carving events for the kids. After all, the day itself is only as evil as one cares to make it.

Fire has always played an important part in Halloween. Fire was very important to the Celts as it was to all early people. In the old days people lit bonfires to ward away evil spirits and in some places they used to jump over the fire to bring good luck. Now we light candles in pumpkin lanterns.

Halloween is also a good time to find out the future. Want to find out who you will marry? Here are two ways you might try to find out:

- Apple-bobbing - Float a number of apples in a bowl of water, and try to catch one using only your teeth. When you have caught one, peel it in one unbroken strip, and throw the strip of peel over your left shoulder. The letter the peel forms is the initial of your future husband or wife.

- Nut-cracking - Place two nuts (such as conkers) on a fire. Give the nuts the names of two possible lovers and the one that cracks first will be the one.

There are several unusual traditions:

"Wrong side of the bed"

When people are bad tempered we say that they must have got out of bed on the wrong side. Originally, it was meant quiet literally. People believe that the way they rose in the morning affected their behavior throughout the day. The wrong side of the bed was the left side. The left always having been linked with evil.

"Blowing out the candles"

The custom of having candles on birthday cakes goes back to the ancient Greeks. Worshippers of Artemis, goddess of the moon and hunting, used to place honey cakes on the altars of her temples on her birthday. The cakes were round like the full moon and lit with tapers. This custom was next recorded in the middle ages when German peasants lit tapers on birthday cakes, the number lit indicating the person's age, plus an extra one to represent the light of life. From earliest days burning tapers had been endowed with mystical significance and it was believed that when blown out they had the power to grant a secret wish and ensure a happy year ahead.

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