You Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto
Ah, Halloween. All-Hallow's Eve. Feralia. Samhain. Call it what you will, but whatever you call it, you have to admit it's the beginning of a most magical time of year.
To the Pagan Druids of Ireland and Scotland, this was the beginning of the New Year; the end of Summer and of the harvest season, when the world prepared to sleep until the spring. As such, it was a time when the laws of nature and physics (such as they were known at the time) faltered, allowing the veil between the physical and spirit worlds to part. A time when hearth fires were extinguished to make homes unwelcome to the lingering spirits of the dead, then later rekindled in preparation for the long winter nigthts ahead.
What today in our calendar is October 31st/November 1st lies midway between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice, the one day of the year when the ancients believed the border between the lands of the living and of the dead could be transversed. As the beginning of the Celtic New Year, this was also the time when people focused on their plans and aspirations for the coming year; it was a time for telling fortunes, for predicting the future, and for cleansing away of the mistakes of the past.
The Catholics of course completely altered the concept of Samhain (pronounced sow-en) in their efforts to sublimate Pagan traditions to those of the Church, with the result that the Druidic rituals were transmuted into the more familiar "All Hallow's Eve" and "All Saints Day" (the 31st & 1st respectively), wherein the honoring of spirits of the departed ancestral dead was replaced by veneration of the no-less-dead Saints, both known and unknown.
Regardless of the origin, history or actual purpose of these rituals, this particular holiday holds an extra-special place in my oh-so-NOT-religious little heart because tomorrow, November 1st also happens to be my birthday. Ironic isn't it, being born on the one day out of the year devoted to Death. But, perhaps that in itself grants me a special license by virtue of being able to honor both life and death simultaneously, in celebration of the eternal cycle by way of which each is simply one side of the same coin.
As a culture, we tend to fear death; we are obsessed with the idea, not only of not dying, but of retaining some semblence of our youth and outward beauty for as long as possible. But, when you look at some 50 year-old botox/collagen/silicone enhanced banshee who looks like she's had enough skin removed from under her eyes or chin or wherever to cover an entire other human being, just to maintain her state of denial for a few more years -- doesn't it make you wonder? And let's not forget those guys out there with their plugs and inplants and liposuction, and penile enhancements -- do they REALLY think that's what beauty is? It's really not even about trying to preserve ones physical appearance, it's really all about a futile attempt to stave off the symptoms of ageing, which are a constant reminder of our own mortality.
So, this time of the year always strikes me in kind of a funny way. While I get to add another digit to my age and contemplate what that means in the bigger scheme of things, everyone around me is running around in silly costumes, pretending for one evening out of the year that death is a cool thing, so that they can blithely ignore it for the remaining 364. Or is that really how it works? Maybe they don't even give it that much thought, considering how Halloween, like every other holiday of consequence in the good ole' US of A has been co-opted and marginalized into just another glorified shopping spree. Halloween is now one of the biggest days of the year in terms of retail sales, what with all the Fun-Pak candy bars, costumes, masks, party supplies, alcohol and you-name-it that people will be snatching up today. I went into a local costume supply store yesterday afternoon to pick up a couple of make up supplies, and there were roughly 150 people standing in line waiting to make purchases. Hands down, it'll be the busiest day of the year for this establishment, and presumably there are a lot of other similar stories out there as well. Good for them, but that's not really what this or any other holiday for that matter is supposed to be about -- is it?
Okay, enough with the ranting. Maybe I'm just jealous that Madison Avenue has finally gotten its insidious clutches into Halloween, and I'm just whining because it steals some of the thunder from what I've (unreasonably) considered MY day (well, except for the one person I know whose birthday actually IS today -- Happy B-D Ms. Kipp!).
See you at Ghosty tonight. You can buy me a drink after Midnight -- oh, wait. I'll be the bartender!
on 3:41 PM