Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween History and Fun

Time to learn a little history behind one of our favorite holidays:

Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in).

The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer, the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death.

Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter. To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

By the 800's, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls', were called Hallowmas.

There, now you can be the King or Queen of trivia at your Halloween Party this year.

Now some fun....

A Halloween Story:

One Halloween night, two guys who were going through the cemetery and heard a tap-tap-tapping sound from a tomb that made them very scared. When they warily came closer to the tomb, they saw that the noise was made by an old man who was working skillfully with a hammer at one of the gravestones. They started to feel much better and asked the man, "Why are you doing this work in the middle of the night? You frightened us for a moment." The old man moaned and complained, "What else can I do? Those idiots spelled my name wrong!"

I sincerely apologize for these:

Q: Why does Dracula consider himself a good artist?
A: Because he likes to draw blood!

Q: Where do ghosts mail their letters?
A: At the ghost office!

Q: When does a ghost have breakfast?
A: In the moaning!

Q: Where do ghosts buy their food?
A: At the ghost-ery store!

I was reminded recently about what a great sense of humor my Grandfather had and I thought I'd tell you one of his favorite "stories". It's not a Halloween story but I think you'll enjoy it (and a laugh is a laugh is a laugh). This is one he used to tell about the time the Irish got mad at France and decided to declare war:

The French President is sitting in his office when his telephone rings. "Hallo, Mr. Hollande!" a heavily accented voice said. "This is Mike down at the Harp Pub in County Clare, Ireland. I am ringing to inform you that we are officially declaring war on you!"

"Well, Mike," Hollande replied, "This is indeed important news! How big is your army?"

"Right now," says Mike, after a moment's calculation, "there is meself, me cousin Sean, me next door neighbour Seamus, and the entire darts team from the pub. That makes eight!" Hollande paused.

"I must tell you, Mike, that I have 100,000 men in my army waiting to move on my command."

"Begoora!" says Mike. "I'll have to ring you back."

Sure enough, the next day, Mike calls again. "Mr. Hollande, the war is still on. We have managed to get us some infantry equipment!"

"And what equipment would that be Mike?" Hollande asks.

"Well, we have two combines, a bulldozer, and Murphy's farm tractor." Hollande sighs amused.

"I must tell you, Mike, that I have 6,000 tanks and 5,000 armored personnel carriers. Also, I have increased my army to 150,000 since we last spoke."

"Saints preserve us!" says Mike. "I'll have to get back to you."

Sure enough, Mike rings again the next day. "Mr. Hollande, the war is still on! We have managed to get ourselves airborne! We have modified Jackie McLaughlin's ultra-light with a couple of shotguns in the cockpit, and four boys from the Shamrock Bar have joined us as well!"

Hollande was silent for a minute and then cleared his throat. "I must tell you, Mike, that I have 100 bombers and 200 fighter planes. My military bases are surrounded by laser-guided, surface-to-air missile sites. And since we last spoke, I have increased my army to 200,000!"

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!" says Mike, "I will have to ring you back."

Sure enough, Mike calls again the next day. "Top o' the mornin', Mr. Hollande! I am sorry to inform you that we have had to call off the war."

"Really? I am sorry to hear that," says Hollande. "Why the sudden change of heart?"

"Well," says Mike, "we had a long chat over a few pints of Guinness, and we decided there is no frigin' way we can feed 200,000 prisoners!"

And what would Halloween be without this:

Have A Happy and Safe Halloween - and...
Live Long and Prosper....

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