Halloween has always seemed a very American thing for me and I was quite surprised when I found out that the tradition has originally started from Ireland. As I knew that we were starting to make the Jack-o’lantern, I wanted to find out where that tradition had come from and found a story about Stingy Jack who tricked the Devil and after his death was not allowed to enter neither Heaven nor Hell. So he has been wandering around ever since and using a burning coal in a carved turnip to light his way. To keep him away from the households, people started to make the same kind of lanterns and put them on the doorways during the Samhain, which is a Gaelic festival held after the harvest time to celebrate the end of the autumn and the beginning of the winter. When the Irish started to emigrate to the States, they took this tradition with them, but as there were no turnips in America, they started to use pumpkins instead.
Another new thing that I had never heard before was the Halloween Brack – a sweet bread with raisins and sultanas. It tasted a little bit like a sponge cake but the most interesting part was hidden inside the Brack. In the past, the Brack was used as a fortune teller and you had to be quite careful when eating it because it couldn’t be very safe to bite a coin, a stick, an old cloth, a pea or even a ring but these things were hidden in the Brack and every single one had a special meaning. When you found a pea it meant that you were not going to marry that year, not the worst thing that could happen. Finding a stick was much worse – you would have an unhappy marriage (and a broken tooth sometimes), the cloth would mean bad luck (but probably didn’t break your teeth), the coin would show that you would become rich and the ring, of course, meant that you were going to marry soon. Nowadays only rings are hidden inside the Bracks and you don’t have to worry about the bad luck or unhappy marriage.
The ring was wrapped into a small piece of soft paper but it was quite hidden anyway 🙂
I really enjoyed the decorated houses and the dressed up people here and there. In the city centre, I met a girl with scissors in her head and on our way back home there were lots of dressed up families walking around, probably going to trick and treat. And of course, lots of children came to knock on our door and got their candies. Just one girl said more than “trick and treat”, she asked a tricky question.
And why I am writing this today and why I am surprised that the American, British and Irish children get their candies for just “trick and treat”. It’s because today it’s Mardipäev (St Martin’s Day) in Estonia, and we have also quite a similar tradition here to dress up and go from door to door. It’s an old tradition and is also connected with the end of the harvesting season and the beginning of winter. On that day children dress up as men and go from door to door, sing songs, make jokes, even dance and then they will get their candies (or apples or nuts or some money) and they don’t say “trick or treat”. They tell the story that they are poor Martinman beggars who have had a long journey and who want to come in to warm their toes and fingers which are aching because of cold 🙂