Why pumpkins for Halloween? & The legend of Stingy Jack.

Good morning everyone. Just in case you hadn’t noticed, tonight is Halloween. I was just watching CNN news, and Mayor Bloomberg has announced that the Halloween parade in New York may be rescheduled for next week, as the city is in quite a mess at the moment after Hurricane Sandy created absolute havoc there.

Have you ever wondered  how pumpkins came to be associated with this festival? I was interested to see that for the past week, one of the local churches just down the road from where we live, have been holding a pumpkin sale in their car park. Most Christians these days regard Halloween as having no negative significance to their beliefs, although yesterday, hubby got an e-mail from an overly pious acquaintance in South Africa, suggesting that maybe the hurricane was God’s way of showing his disapproval of the fact that Halloween is celebrated here in such a big way. 😆 What a ridiculous suggestion! The e-mail was deleted. It doesn’t deserve to be dignified with a reply……. of any sort.

Halloween is just a fun festival, mainly for the kids to dress up and go round the houses getting candy from the neighbours. I’ve noticed in the stores here, that the shelves which were full of Halloween costumes, scary masks and treat-baskets, are looking very depleted. It’s a really big thing here, much more so than in South Africa. There are pumpkins just about everywhere you look.

Halloween was originally the Festival of Samhain (pronounced Sow-wen), the holiest day of the year for the ancient Celts, who lived long before recorded history. This celebration was held to honour the souls of the dead, who it was believed were at this time, able to mingle with the living before they travelled into the ‘otherworld’. At the end of summer, the Celts also gave thanks for the harvest, and the 31st October marked the start of their New Year. They only had two seasons, summer and winter. When Ireland was converted to Christianity, the priests allowed the Irish to continue to celebrate their festival for a few hundred years, before the Catholic church tried unsuccessfully to ban it. The Catholics demonised everything about the old religions, which is why even today, Halloween is often considered by some people to be evil.

When many of the Irish migrated to America during the potato famine, which killed over a million people between 1845 and 1851 in Ireland, they brought their festival with them. Americans embraced it, and it has gradually become the fun occasion that it is today, with children going around the neighbourhood, trick or treating. Costumes depicting witches, ghosts and skeletons are the most popular. Children do seem to love the most gruesome, don’t they? 😯

It has long been tradition to carve out scary faces, first on turnips, and then more recently, on pumpkins, as they are bigger and much easier to carve. The Irish used to place candles and lighted embers inside these, to keep “Stingy Jack” away from their homes. This is why they were called Jack O’Lanterns.”

There is a legend which says that hundreds of years ago, there lived in Ireland a very clever but  lazy and miserable drunkard by the name of ‘Stingy Jack’. He never did any work, and spent his days drinking beer and playing mean tricks on everyone, including his poor old mother. One Halloween, it came time for Jack to die, and the devil arrived to take his soul, but Jack being so clever, managed to trick him, and gained an extra two years of life. The third year, Jack did actually die, and because he was so bad, he was of course refused entrance into Heaven. The devil saw his chance of revenge for being tricked by Jack, and refused to allow him into Hell either. “Where can I go?” cried Jack. He couldn’t see anything in the darkness between Heaven and Hell, so the Devil threw him an ember from the flames of Hell, which Jack put inside a hollowed-out turnip, which he conveniently happened to have with him. 😉 He uses this lantern to light his path as he wanders around in the darkness for all eternity.

So now you know, where the pumpkins fit in with Halloween, and I certainly hope you’ve bought candy, just in case you get a visit from those mischievous trick-or-treaters, or you might just end up with egg splattered all over your awning, as we did one year when we weren’t home to answer their call.

Have your candy ready tonight, and have a great Halloween.

(All pics from Google)

Sandy is no TreeHugger.

I had a message from my son, late this morning. He and the family are fine, except for the fact that their power has been out for more than a day now, and it’s unlikely that it will be restored anytime soon.  They do have friends who aren’t affected by the power outage, so he was able to go round to their house to recharge his phone and send me these photos.

His back yard wasn’t badly hit, as after the last hurricane, he had many big trees removed, so this time, it’s just a few branches that were damaged.

One year, he had a humongous tree uproot itself from the sidewalk, and fall right across his front lawn, smashing into the front of his house. Luckily no-one was home at the time, as it did tremendous damage.

Some of the neighbours had similar incidents this time, as Sandy decided that certain trees were in the wrong place. Such a pretty pic, but look more closely,

and you can see that it landed right on top of a car parked in the driveway.

It’s going to take some time before the streets are cleaned up.

At least I know my family is all safe and they have great friends who have offered help whilst the power is off. At times like these, everyone is only too willing to give assistance. It’s amazing how a calamity draws people closer together. Thanks so much to you all for your concern. This blogging community is made up of wonderfully caring people. 🙂

Waiting for news.

I’ve been watching the news of Sandy’s terrible devastation and destruction, and  am so sad for those people who have lost their homes, and are really suffering the after effects. I haven’t had any word from my son since yesterday, when he posted this pic on Facebook after one of the huge trees in his street was uprooted . The photo was taken from his front porch.

I’ve sent him a couple of Whatsapps, asking how they’re doing, but no reply. I know they have had no power since yesterday lunchtime, so will wait patiently for more news.


‘Foreign’ modes of transport.

The weekly photo challenge, “Foreign,” shouldn’t really have been much of a challenge to me, as just about all of my travel photos are taken in countries which are foreign to me. The question was, “which ones would I choose?”

I decided that I would select a few that show the different modes of transport which have been very foreign to me.

I wonder if you can guess what animal I was riding on in Zimbabwe? It was very large and grey, and had the trunk up front, unlike my Jeep here in the USA. 🙂

This one is pretty obvious, and although it looks quite low to the ground, when he unbent those long legs of his, I was riding HIGH!!

Here we have an even more scary way of travelling. I intended sitting safely inside, but intrepid hubby insisted on sitting aloft, so that he could get better photos of the passing landscape as we travelled on a section of the Trans-Andean railway in Ecuador, supposedly one the most spectacular train rides in the world.

A more sedate way of getting from A to B, is this bicycle driven rickshaw, which took me around the Hutons of Beijing. 🙂

Here was one ride that I really enjoyed, speeding across Lake Titicaca in a hydrofoil.

Sailing  down the khlongs in Bangkok, was a very interesting if sometimes quite aromatic experience. 🙂

Of course I’m really used to motor car travel, but not usually quite like this. Once in a while, it’s good to spoil oneself, I guess.

For more posts on this theme, just click here.

What a lovely sunset last night.

Yesterday was really windy here, but thankfully, Sandy passed us by without pausing to consider what damage she could inflict. We are so spoilt in South Africa with inside parking at most of our malls, and one thing I have to get used to again here, is the fact that one has to park outside, and then get blown into the store of your choice. Yesterday, I made my grand entrance into J.C. Penney, with my hair looked just like these palm fronds. I’m so tempted to get it cut short, but then I wouldn’t recognise myself. 🙂

The pasta on the stove, was abandoned last night, whilst I rushed outside to capture this wonderful sunset for you.

This morning we were chatting to our son in New Jersey about the threatening hurricane. He won’t be going into work in Manhattan tomorrow, and is expecting the worst, but hoping for the best. They’ve been stocking up on non perishable provisions, as last year, their house was without power for over a week. He’s wishing that he’d bought a generator a couple of weeks ago, when the thought crossed his mind. Now, I’m sure one can’t be had for love or money. Good luck to everyone up there. I hope Sandy is merciful.

Btw: I’ve been watching out for Jake’s new Sunday Post theme, but haven’t seen one. Have I missed it, or is he just MIA this week?




Ailsa has requested ‘Spooky’ posts for her travel theme this week, and I think I can oblige and probably scare the pants off you all. Actually, that thought is also quite scary. 😆

In South Africa, Halloween has never been a big thing, but a couple of years ago, we happened to be in New Jersey at our son’s house. I was amazed to see how people had really gone to town, decorating their porches and gardens. Some of them were ghoulish in the extreme, and very spooky indeed.

We were invited to a friend’s house, from where the children were going out “trick or treating.” The house was in almost total darkness when we arrived, and I could make out the shapes of black mice and spiders on the staircase.

My granddaughter Sienna was only four at the time, and so excited to go out with her bigger friends, collecting candy, but granddad soon had to bring her back to the house, because she was too scared to go up the garden paths, and can you blame her?

The older kids had done this before, and weren’t at all phased by the horrors they saw. The promise of sweeties was so much stronger than fear.

They did really well, and soon filled up their baskets. Sienna got her share when they arrived back with their booty, and we all had a great party.

Now for something completely different, and unrelated to Halloween. The eeriest place I’ve ever been in, was at Graceland. Walking around the late Elvis’s home, we suddenly found ourselves out of the bright lights of his ‘Hall of Fame’, as we stepped into these very dimly lit rooms. I think this was his bedroom,

and sitting room. All the blinds were closed, and in the very subdued lighting, and with his music softly playing, I could almost imagine that his ghost was in there with me. It really gave me goosebumps.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my spooky pics. If you’re feeling brave, and want to see more entries for the challenge, just head over to Ailsa’s post.

Lovely weather for ducks

We have had so much rain here in West Palm, and yesterday whilst out shopping, one of the assistants asked us if we knew about the threat of Hurricane Sandy. Apparently the schools and some businesses were going to be closed today, just in case it should hit here.

Well, the danger seems to be over for us, and Sandy has moved on. I see that the storm is forecast to maybe hit New Jersey, where my son lives, on Tuesday.

Some of our local residents don’t seem to mind the extra water at all.

The Great Blue Heron has come back, and is definitely the king of our lake.

There’s always something to photograph here.

The local air force either stand elegantly on guard,

or entertain us with a spectacular ‘flypast’.

This afternoon, I have to go and visit one of the ladies on our committee. She has been writing the monthly article for our club magazine, and wants to pass the buck on to ‘muggins’ me. She phoned at 10am to say that she was off to her beautician and would only be home by 3pm. That sounds quite ominous. How do I compete with someone who firstly, has a beautician, and secondly, spends 4 hours  there, being beautified? 🙂 Ah well, it’s really terribly windy here, so I’ll probably arrive with my hair  looking like these palm fronds, and say, ” Just look what the wind blew in!” 😀

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend, wet or dry. 🙂

Don’t forget to check out Cee’s post to see her amazing water pics.

Thursday’s windows

Sandra Conner’s ongoing challenge, “Thursday’s Windows,” inspired me to post a few of my window photos.

Here are the pretty windows at Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca, designed to recreate the bar made famous by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the movie ‘Casablanca’.

And here are some of the most recognisable windows in the world, albeit a bit blurry.

Here at the ‘New Sun Hong Kong’ restaurant in San Francisco, it’s not so much about the windows, as the decoration around them.

The windows at the Salem Witch Museum in New England, are really lovely.

Last but by no means least are the hundreds of windows in the Chrysler Building, New York. I wonder if the outsides ever get cleaned? I’m so glad it’s not my job. 🙂

To see Sandra’s beautiful windows and links to other entries, just click here.

Ailsa’s theme: Couples #2

I was out and about at one of our local malls yesterday, and still had Ailsa’s “Couples” theme in my mind.

I used to be a very shy person, but these days I’m much braver. I did however surprise myself yesterday. I saw a father and his teenage son walking towards the mall from the car park. The young man’s shoes just seemed to wave at me; they were a couple of beauties, so I chased after them, and just inside the door, I asked, “Please can I photograph your shoes for my blog?” The son looked bemused, but his dad was so proud that someone wished to take a pic of them, so he positioned him nicely, and made him put his feet neatly together for the occasion. I snapped them, and they actually thanked me! You have to admit that they are quite different. 😆

Emboldened by my successful attempt as a roving photographer, I followed this elderly couple who were pushing a stroller. I was eager to see what must surely be their cute little grandchild.

When I got in front of them, I saw that the baby was covered in white fur! The couple didn’t mind at all when I asked if I could photograph him, and his ‘mummy’ even asked him to smile for me, but he was not amused. 🙂

I’m afraid my next shot was rather sneaky, but I could hardly wake up this couple of sleeping beauties, or should I rather call them “Rip Van Winkles,” to ask their permission, now could I? 🙂

A bit further along, I saw a pair of REAL beauties on display. A couple of “His ‘n’ Hers” super luxury autos. Hubby and I couldn’t agree on who should have the Rolls and who should have the Bentley, so we ended up not buying them. 😦

Then of course if one is looking for a really nice pair. there’s always the ‘Victoria’s Secret’ storefront.

If you would like to see what other bloggers have done for the theme, just click here.