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All Saints' Day
 
One of the verses about the pumpkins reminded me about pumpkins being used as "Jack-O-Lanterns" on Halloween. October 31, Halloween Day is celebrated by carving face into a hollow pumpkin, and placing a lighted candle in it at night for all to see outside by the front door of everyone's house. Children dress up in costumes of all kinds and go from house to house where there is a pumpkin or porch light on, saying "Trick or Treat!"  The idea is that children will be given a candy or other small treat, otherwise they might play a trick on the homeowner, although a real trick is not the modern-day custom. 

As I recall the origin of Halloween is the eve of "All Soul's Day" on November 1. 

"All Soul's Day" and "All Saints' Day" are celebrated on November 1 and November 2.  These days are significant in Mexico by celebrations of "El día de los Muertos" or "El día de los Difuntos," in English, the Day of the Dead.  There are many Mexican customs surrounding these days, but the customs I am most familiar with are from Michoacán, México, my husband's home state.  Very briefly described, this day conmemorates loved ones who have passed on with humor and love, rather than sadness.  Homes may be seen with small tables or "altars" set up with pictures, candles, special "marigold" flowers, paper art, and special foods and items that were loved by the missing family member.  Processions are made to the cemetery in the smaller villages, and food is taken to be "shared" with the loved one at the cemetery. This procession is especially famous by the indigenous people (Purépechas, also known as Tarascos) in Janitzio, Lake Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, and is a colorful, cultural event, as well as a religious event. 

Finally, I would like to add that part of the Mexican culture highlights humor and pokes fun at death and is not considered morbid or disrespectful.  Colorful "calacas" or paper maché skeletons are seen in many funny costumes and poses.  On the Day of the Dead, candy sugar skulls are given by friends to each other, personalized with names on the forehead, as well as candy coffins, or other candies.  Finally, special sweet bread shaped in skeletons or skulls, known as "pan de muerto" may be homemade or found in Mexican bakeries at this time of year. 

I'm sure there are many who can provide more variations to these themes. 

My questions are: 

1.  Are there any other countries who have similar traditions involving the use of pumpkins? 

2.  What are other traditions that might be similar or contrast to either the American Celebration of Halloween or the Mexican Celebration of the Day of the Dead?  Are they celebrated on the same dates or different times of the year? 

Carla B. de Herrera
I*EARN  Orillas Center, Cerritos, California, USA 
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