2006 NY VILLAGE HALLOWEEN PARADE: October 31, 2006
CONCEPT and DESIGN: Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles
CHOREOGRAPHY: Livia Vanaver
Every child knows the ritual. Pick just the right pumpkin among hundreds – neither too oddly-shaped nor too generic – just human. The cold scooping of seeds and muck, the satisfying glide of each slice as the features pop out one-by-one from their hollow canvas. And then, first light – that revelatory moment the inert vessel suddenly glows to life. Jack is born, as he has been every year since from the very beginnings of Halloween.
The Jack-O-Lantern originated in the ceremony of Samohain, Halloween’s Celtic precursor. On the last night of the harvest, every hearth in the village was extinguished and then rekindled from embers brought from a great communal fire. Carved hollow turnips provided a means to carry the burning embers back home. Later traditions fused this ritual of the embers with Irish folk-tales of Jack, a clever farmer who tricks the Devil. Barred from Heaven and Hell alike, Jack wanders the earth after death using a turnip for his head and lighting his way with a glowing ember tossed from the fires of Hell.
No two Jacks look alike. Jack is sinister or benign; goofy or debonnaire, wild or urbane, impassioned or diffident, vigilant or distracted. In short he is Everyman, the Jack of candelsticks and beanstalks, the Jack of hearts or clubs, the Union Jack, Jack Sparrow and Jack-in-the-Box, Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Like Jack the farmer, we make our way as best we can, somewhere between Hell and Heaven, carrying the embers the light our way in the world. To this day Halloween celebrates individuals carving out their creative personas, and rekindling their of inspiration with embers from the common fire.
On Halloween Night, hundreds joined our retinue of dancing Jacks, as nine 12-foot tall Jacks-of-the-lantern led the Parade, surrounding a Cauldron of fire as it rolled up Sixth Avenue. As their heads bowed low over the Cauldron, silken flames erupted from, illuminating their heads and sparking a frenzied jig. As they spiralled outeward toward the crowd, they reenacted Halloween's primal ritual, carrying their embers outward like ripples, from the communal fire to an outer circle of lantern-bearers, and on into the crowd.