Happy Halloween!

Free candy and scary costumes make for a great holiday – especially for kids.

Expatriates won’t miss out on the fun, and in anticipation of a party I’ve added some elastic to a paper maché Lakhaon Kaol Yeak mask. (Same from last year – OK, so I’m lazy.)

Today is the King-Father’s Birthday so many people have the day off for a completely different holiday. Halloween (as I know it) often seems confined to North America.


October 31, graduate school: I was helping a friend move house in Australia.

We’d managed to get all the essential items over in two carloads and were enjoying a break. October in Melbourne? Spring had sprung, with flowers and plant surging into life after their winter sleep.

Why is it that Australia doesn’t celebrate Halloween? I asked. Is it because of the British influence? Does the ‘gunpowder, treason and plot’ of Guy Fawkes Night cancel out the largely American influence of All Hallows Eve? “It’s just… not a big deal,” she replied. “Some Sydney neighbourhoods go for it in particular, but it’s a local, not a national thing.”

Changing the subject: “What’s that tree in the front yard? Looks like it’s got some fruit.”

“It’s a pomegranate tree.”

Far out. Suddenly it all made sense. Seasons. The Australians weren’t celebrating Halloween because the world around them was bursting into life! Not withering into winter.

In Greek mythology, the goddess Persephone was dramatically abducted by the king of the Underworld, Hades. He could have ‘said it with flowers’ but nope, he didn’t leave her much choice.

(Courtship by the powerful bears similarity in many cultures. Ever wonder why a groom is expected to carry his bride over the threshold of their house in Western culture? It’s a remnant of the symbolic abduction of the bride in earlier wedding rituals. And I’m sad to say that abduction for marriage exists in Cambodia too, though it’s a much less common practice in the modern day.)

Persephone’s mom, Demeter, happened to be the goddess of nature. Furious that she’d lost her daughter, she froze the world in the first ever Winter. After some discussion about Global Cooling, Hades realized that hell freezing over might not be a good thing.

Hades was a canny negotiator: Persephone could go. But if she had consumed anything from the underworld, she was bound to it. Out of hunger, Persephone had eaten a small number of pomegranate pips.

So for four months out of the year, Persephone would return to Hades, and the world would freeze. All due to a handful of seeds.


Cambodia? We just have a rainy season and a dry season. We finished Pchum Ben not too long ago, Halloween and the Mexican Day of the Dead follow in close order. Some years the Chinese calendar has the Ghost Festival in the same month.

Do the gates of Hell open up around this time of year? I’m not saying they do, but a lot of holidays regarding the dead happen around this time. Hmm…



One Response to “The Reason is the Season: Halloween and the Pomegranate Tree”

  1. Jinja says:

    The second image is from Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths. I was glued to that and their book of Norse Myths from an early age – incredible artwork! See a great review at http://www.vintagechildrensbooksmykidloves.com/2008/08/daulaires-book-of-greek-myths.html

Leave a Reply