October 31st and November 1st are special dates in several countries where many different languages are spoken. As an international translation agency with professional translators and clients from all over the word, inwhatlanguage didn’t want to miss the opportunity to wish you all a happy celebration… And to share some general language-related trivia about these holidays.
For example: it is generally known that Halloween is a abbreviation of “All Hallows Evening”. “Hallow” is, in fact, Old English for “holy”. But how exactly did it transform into “Halloween”?
Well, first of all, “Evening” was shortened to “Eve”, same as in many other celebration names.
However, in the Scots language, “Eve” is pronounced “Even”, and this form got shortened to “E’en”. So first take All Hallows Eve, then take off the “All”, the “s” in the middle, and give it a Scots touch… And voilá. We got ourselves a Halloween.
In the same spirit of shortening words, the popular Jack-o-lanterns is in fact a shortened version of “Jack of the lantern” a fictional character whose origins date back to old folk tales. According to the information on Wikipedia, “an old Irish folk tale from the mid-19th Century tells of Stingy Jack, a lazy yet shrewd farmer who uses a cross to trap the Devil in order for him not to take his soul”.
Unfortunately, this meant that, when Jack died, even though his life had been too sinful for him to be allowed into heaven, he could not go to hell, either. Jack had nowhere to go. He asked about how would he see where to go, as he had no light to guide his path, and the Devil mockingly tossed him an ember from the flames of hell that would never burn out. Jack carved out one of his turnips (which were his favorite food), put the ember inside it, and began endlessly wandering the Earth for a resting place. He became known as “Jack of the Lantern”, or Jack-o’-lantern.
Nowadays, the popular form of Jack-o’-lantern is in the shape of a pumpkin, but in some parts of Great Britain, turnips are still the preferred option for Halloween!
As for today, All Saints’ Day –or All Hallows-, it is interesting to see the different celebrations –and it’s names in different languages- from around the world. Again, quoting Wikipedia, “In Mexico, Portugal and Spain, offerings (Portuguese: oferendas, Spanish: ofrendas) are made on this day.” Furthermore, in Mexico, this day “coincides with the first day of the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) celebration. Known as “Día de los Inocentes” (Day of the Innocents), it honours deceased children and infants.”
“Portuguese children celebrate the Pão-por-Deus tradition (also called santorinho, bolinho or fiéis de Deus), going door-to-door, where they receive cakes, nuts and pomegranates. Hallowmas in the Philippines is variously called “Undas” (based on the word for “[the] first”), “Todos los Santos” (literally “All Saints”), and sometimes “Áraw ng mga Patáy” (lit. “Day of the Dead”), which refers to the following day of All Souls’ Day but includes it.”
“In English-speaking countries, the festival is traditionally celebrated with the hymn “For All the Saints” by Walsham How.”
So as a conclusion to this blog post, here is a video with this hymn. Enjoy!