Tuesday, October 31, 2006

All Hallow's Eve: Remembering The Dead

You might get some oddly attired wee folk pounding on your door and shouting at your face this day, so a bit of context for those who shrink away from anything smacking of the occult:

The true origins of Halloween lie with the ancient Celtic tribes who lived in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. For the Celts, November 1 marked the beginning of a new year and the coming of winter. The night before the new year, they celebrated the festival of Samhain, Lord of the Dead. During this festival, Celts believed the souls of the dead—including ghosts, goblins and witches—returned to mingle with the living. In order to scare away the evil spirits, people would wear masks and light bonfires.

When the Romans conquered the Celts, they added their own touches to the Samhain festival, such as making centerpieces out of apples and nuts for Pomona, the Roman goddess of the orchards. The Romans also bobbed for apples and drank cider—traditions which may sound familiar to you. But where does the Christian aspect of the holiday come into play? In 835, Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration for all the martyrs (later all saints) from May 13 to November 1. The night before became known as All Hallow’s Even or “holy evening.” Eventually the name was shortened to the current Halloween. On November 2, the Church celebrates All Souls Day.

The purpose of these feasts is to remember those who have died, whether they are officially recognized by the Church as saints or not. It is a celebration of the “communion of saints,” which reminds us that the Church is not bound by space or time.

As a Protestant sort of Christian, I don't pray for the dead. I figure they've gone where they're going (up or down, metaphorically speaking) and are beyond succor in one case and beyond sorrow in the other.

But I do like to remember the dear who are no longer near, especially my parents. It seems fitting we deluge this day with candy, because I have many sweet memories of being loved and laughing and eating and dozing off on dad's shoulder or mom's lap. I have sugary thoughts of the one aunt I truly loved, who is with Jesus now. I haven't lost many loved ones, but the ones I've lost have mattered, and losing them changed me and my life in permanent ways.

Must focus on sweet thoughts. Sweet thoughts...

My dad, toward the end of his life, developed a thing for Hershey's kisses. He was blind, essentially deaf, paralyzed, and perhaps his taste buds had worn out and only this chocolatey treat still sent signals to his brain. Mom also got into chocolate in a big way as she neared life's end.

(You know...maybe God invented chocolate to make our passing easier. That's worth pondering, thinks The Mir. Pass the Valrhona.)

Remember a loved one today. Indulge in the sweetest memories.

And eat a kiss.


Edited to Add: Stephen of Y Safle blog (a marvelously red-drenched blog, and a good read, drop by and sample) has an entry on this topic (Halloween) that you may want to check out. He disagrees with the dating in the article I quoted above. Thanks for the feedback, S.


Stephen said...

This is an interesting article, but I disagree. In particular, I don't think that 31st October is the historical date of the Celtic bonfire festival of Samhain. I outline my argument here: http://safle.org/wordpress/2006/10/23/when-is-the-celtic-new-year-samhain-and-halloween.html.


Stephen said...

"marvelously red-drenched"

I like that description :)


P.S., Good Luck with the novel.

Mirtika said...

As you may have noticed--I like red. Ahem.