Pumpkins are also a symbol of Halloween. The pumpkin is an orange-coloured squash, and orange has become the other traditional Halloween colour. Carving pumpkins into jack- o'lanterns is a Halloween custom also dating back to Ireland. A legend grew up about a man named Jack who was so stingy that he was not allowed into heaven when he died, because he was a miser. He couldn't enter hell either because he had played jokes on the devil. As a result, Jack had to walk the earth with his lantern until Judgement Day. The Irish people carved scary faces out of turnips, beets or potatoes representing "Jack of the Lantern," or Jack-o'lantern. When the Irish brought their customs to the UnitedStates, they carved faces on pumpkins because in the autumn they were more plentiful than turnips. Today jack-o'-lanterns in the windows of a house on Halloween night let costumed children know that there are goodies waiting if they knock and say "Trick or Treat!"
No Halloween party is complete without at least one scary story. Usually one person talks in a low voice while everyone else crowds together on the floor or around a fire. The following is a retelling of a tale told in Britain and in North Carolina and Virginia.
"What Do You Come For?"
There was an old woman who lived all by herself, and she was very lonely. Sitting in the kitchen one night, she said, "Oh, I wish I had some company."
No sooner had she spoken than down the chimney tumbled two feet from which the flesh had rotted. The old woman's eyes bulged with terror.
Then two legs dropped to the hearth and attached themselves to the feet.
Then a body tumbled down, then two arms, and a man's head.
As the old woman watched, the parts came together into a great, tall man. The man danced around and around the room. Faster and faster he went. Then he stopped, and he looked into her eyes.
"What do you come for? she asked in a small voice that shivered and shook.
"What do I come for?" he said. "I come for YOU!"
The narrator shouts and jumps at the person near him!
The meaning of many different customs observed during Easter Sunday has been buried with time. Their origins lie in pre-Christian religions and Christianity. All in some way or another are a "salute to spring," marking re-birth. The white Easter lily has come to capture the glory of the holiday. The word "Easter" is named after Eastre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. A festival was held in her honour every year at the vernal equinox.
People celebrate the holiday according to their beliefs and their religious denominations. Christians commemorate Good Friday as the day that Jesus Christ died and Easter Sunday as the day that He was resurrected. Protestant settlers brought the custom of a sunrise service, a religious gathering at dawn, to the United States.
Today on Easter Sunday children wake up to find that the Easter Bunny has left them baskets of candy. He has also hidden the eggs that they decorated earlier that week. Children hunt for the eggs all around the house. Neighbourhoods and organizations hold Easter egg hunts, and the child who finds the most eggs wins a prize.
The Easter Bunny is a rabbit-spirit. Long ago, he was called the" Easter Hare." Hares and rabbits have frequent multiple births so they became a symbol of fertility. The custom of an Easter egg hunt began because children believed that hares laid eggs in the grass. The Romans believed that "All life comes from an egg." Christians consider eggs to be "the seed of life" and so they are symbolic of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Why we dye, or colour, and decorate eggs is not certain. In ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and Persia eggs were dyed for spring festivals. In medieval Europe, beautifully decorated eggs were given as gifts.
In England, Germany and some other countries, children rolled eggs down hills on Easter morning, a game which has been connected to the rolling away of the rock from Jesus Christ's tomb when he was resurrected. British settlers brought this custom to the New World.
In the United States in the early nineteenth century, Dolly Madison, the wife of the fourth American President, organized an egg roll in Washington, D.C. She had been told that Egyptian children used to roll eggs against the pyramids so she invited the children of Washington to roll hard-boiled eggs down the hilly lawn of the new Capitol building! The custom continued, except for the years during the Civil War. In 1880, the First Lady invited children to the White House for the Egg Roll because officials had complained that they were ruining the Capitol lawn. It has been held there ever since then, only cancelled during times of war. The event has grown, and today Easter Monday is the only day of the year when tourists are allowed to wander over the White House lawn. The wife of the President sponsors it for the children of the entire country. The egg rolling event is open to children twelve years old and under. Adults are allowed only when accompanied by children!
Traditionally, many celebrants bought new clothes for Easter which they wore to church. After church services, everyone went for a walk around the town. This led to the American custom of Easter parades all over the country. Perhaps the most famous is along Fifth Avenue in New York City.
Good Friday is a federal holiday in 16 states and many schools and businesses throughout the U.S. are closed on this Friday.
Although the United States is young compared to other countries, its culture and traditions are rich because of the contributions made by the many groups of people who have come to its shores over the past two centuries. Hundreds of regional holidays have originated from the geography, climate and history of the different parts of the country. Each state holds its own annual fair with local themes and music; and some celebrate the day on which they joined the Union and became a state.
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