Halloween is celebrated on the last day in October and is a feast to celebrate the dead; or rather the souls that are stuck between the mortal world and the dead. With TV series' like Ghost Whisperer or Supernatural being followed locally, it's no wonder how our fascination with life after death has increased. Being an ancient Celtic celebration in origin, Halloween was also celebrated to commemorate the new harvest. A bountiful time before the harsh winter begins. The festival itself has changed and the way we celebrate it now-a-days is more linked to the souls moving on other than the harvest.
The term Halloween is said to come from all Hallows' Eve which is the evening before All Hallows' Day, or All Souls' Day.
The fireworks displays as well as the bonfires that were originally done on this feast were meant to ward off any evil spirits that might have crossed over into our world. The loud noises coupled with the flashes of light were supposed to scare the ghosts away.
Halloween or different versions of the same feast are celebrated throughout the world. In Latin America and Asia they coincide with local 'day of the dead' festivities. In England, Guy Fawkes day and bonfire fire were originally celebrated at this time of year but with the influence of American pop culture the feast is now also called Halloween. In America, children dress up as ghosts, witches, vampires or even zombies on Halloween night and go from door to door crying 'trick or treat'! If they are given sweets from the houses they visit, then the tenants are spared a trick.
One of the most prominent decoration or symbol of Halloween is the pumpkin. Pumpkins with smiley or scary faces, lit with a candle from inside are known as jack-o'-lanterns. Pumpkins were introduced into the Halloween tradition because they are quite abundant at this time of year!
Carving your pumpkin can be quite easy but I suggest that you stick to basic designs to start with. In America, Pumpkin designs have become quite intricate and you can get your pumpkin carved professionally in any pattern your wish. Apart from the basic horror faces, you can see pumpkins depicting celebrities, politicians or cartoon characters.
Pumpkins are best carved a day before you want to use them or on the day. If you carve your pumpkin too early, it will lose its shape. Pumpkins start to dry our once they are carved, so it is best to either coat the carved pumpkin with some Vaseline or petroleum jelly or else to keep it soaked in water when you are not using it. If the pumpkin dries out, it will start to shrivel and will not be as attractive to display.
The first thing you will need to do before carving your pumpkin is to prepare the following.
- Find a patter you like to carve on your pumpkin
- Decide which part of the pumpkin will be carved
- Prepare a spoon, sharp small knife and a large sharp knife.
Once you are ready to carve your pumpkin using the large knife, slice the bottom of the pumpkin slightly so that it will sit steadily. Once that is ready, using a pencil, trace or draw your patter onto the pumpkin. Next, cut off the top part of the pumpkin making a large enough incision to allow your hand to enter the pumpkin comfortably.
Using your hands, remove all seeds from the middle and set them aside. Next, using the small knife, carve your pattern making sure to cut deep enough into the pumpkin to allow the pieces of pumpkin to drop out completely.
Now, using the spoon or your small knife, scoop out all the flesh from the inside of the pumpkin making sure that there is enough space for your candle to sit in. Also, make sure that the pattern looks neat from the outside. You might need to trim the pumpkin from the inside in certain areas.
Once you are ready to light the pumpkin, light a small tea candle and place it inside the pumpkin. You may wish to leave the pumpkin uncovered as the top part of the pumpkin will burn once the candle heats up.
The flesh that has been collected from the pumpkin can be used in a variety of ways. You can create a sweet pumpkin pie with cinnamon and chocolate or a savory pumpkin pie with rice. However I like making soup with my pumpkin!
Here is what you will need to make the soup
1 onion – roughly chopped
2 celery sticks - whole, leaves removed
Pumpkin flesh – deseeded and roughly chopped
500ml vegetable broth
1 tsp fennel seeds
Start off by heating a thick bottomed large pot and once it has warmed slightly add the chopped onion. There is no need to chop your onions too finely as they soup will be blended once it has cooked.
Next add the celery and allow them to cook slightly. If you prefer you may fry the onion and celery in a little oil or butter but I am giving you a fat-free vegetarian version.
Once the onions and celery start cooking add the pumpkin pieces. If you have larger pieces, then it would be best to cut them into smaller cubes. Pour in the broth and give the pot a good stir. Allow the soup to cook and simmer for about 30 minutes or until your pumpkin is cooked through.
At this point you will need to remove the celery sticks. This is best done using a fork or a pair of thongs. Finally add the fennel seed and turn off the heat. Cover the pot and allow the seeds infuse their flavor into the soup for about half an hour before serving.