October 31st is Halloween! This Saturday evening, all across Ameirica and Canada, as well as other parts of the world, children will be dressing up like ghosts, witches, skeletons, and other interesting people or things.
Some kids in Halloween costumes
The children will go from door to door and yell, “Trick or treat?” Their neighbors will give them special Halloween candies, cookies or fruit. If they are refused a treat, the children might play a trick on that person. A common trick is to cover their house with toilet paper.
A toilet-papered house
Halloween has its origins in an ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. The Celts lived in Ireland and Scotland thousands of years ago – long before the birth of Christ. The festival of Samhain was a celebration of the end of the harvest season. The festival was celebrated after the harvest was sorted and stored away. It is also sometimes regarded as the end of the Celtic year.
(For some reason, Blogspot won't let me put a paragraph break here. It's very frustrating!)
The ancient Celts were very superstitious. They believed that on the last day of the year (around October 31st, according to their calendar) the spirits of the dead came back to this world. They were scared of these ghosts. They wore costumes and masks to trick the evil spirits into thinking they were also ghost, hoping that the real ghosts would leave them alone.The most famous symbol of Halloween is the Jack-o-lantern, a hollowed out pumpkin with a scary face carved in it. Originally, Jack-o-lanterns were made from turnips.
There is an old Irish story about a bad man called Jack who tricked the Devil into never taking him to hell. However, this trick eventually backfired. When he finally died, he could not enter Heaven or Hell. Jack found himself doomed to walk the earth at night, guided only by the light of a burning coal – a gift from the Devil – in a turnip lantern.
This story was the Celts’ attempt to explain the phantom flames they sometimes saw burning over bogs and moors. (In Japan, these flames used to sometimes appear over graveyards. They were caused by methane gas escaping from rotting bodies or wood. In Japanese, these flames are known as hino tama.)
Way back in July, I wrote about one of our students sitting for the STEP Eiken Test in Practical English Proficiency Level 1 interview exam (Click here to read that post). Well, she passed!
Congratulations, Mieko! All your hard work paid off!
The next written test is this Sunday, October 18th. If you pass that test, you can practice for the interview by visiting http://www.eiken.or.jp/eikentimes/virtual/index.html (a site recommended by Mieko). Also, Be & Me Eikaiwa Club has STEP Eiken interview-practice classes, as well as preparation classes for the STEP Eiken written exam. Now is the best time to start preparing for the next written exam which will be held on Sunday, January 24th. For more information about these classes (in Japanese), call us on 06-6915-2613.
Last night, Typhoon No. 18 passed right over the top of Osaka. The howling of the wind kept me awake half the night. How about you?
In Japan, typhoons are numbered. In other countries, they are given names. (You probably all remember that New Orleans was devastated [badly damaged] by hurricane Katrina some years back.) Traditionally, tropical storms – hurricanes, cyclones & typhoons – were all given ladies’ names. These days, they alternate [take turns] between men’s & ladies’ names when naming tropical storms.
Typhoon No. 18 is called Melor. Melor is a man’s name from Russia. It’s a modern name meaning “Communist Creation.” It was made by combining the first letters of Marx, Engles, Lenin (3 famous communist philosophers), and October Revolution (the revolution that brought the Communists to power in Russia).
Anyway, it seems that the worst of Melor has passed. We can look forward to clear skies this weekend!