Friday, October 29, 2010

Trick or Treat

Happy Halloween!
Yes-Time to get the pointy black hat out - I know you all have one -paint your face green and get cackling! Halloween has grown in popularity and is another of one of those consumer nightmares that face us these days. You have no intention of celebrating it and then you get to the shops to find all these ghoulish goodies on offer and feel compelled to indulge in a little witchcraft! Last year the  population of USA spent 2 billion dollars on Halloween decor - Crazy! Why??

Well the Irish started it back in the 5th century BC with the Celtic festival 'Samhain' in Celtic Ireland. The Celtic year officially ended on 31 October 31 and it was believed that on this night the boundaries between the living and the dead became blurred, and that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth in search of living bodies to possess for the following year.  I should imagine the Irish might have been full of spirits (the liquid kind)  when they dreamed that up!
The tradition of dressing in costume is taken from the Celtic villagers who would dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily parade around the neighbourhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.Ok - I can relate to this - this sounds like your average weekend night out in the north of England!
The name Halloween is derived from All Saints Day designated on 1 November by Pope Boniface IV in the seventh century - a day in honour of saints and martyrs. It is believed that it was the Pope's attempt to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows, All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. When the Catholic Church got involved there was probably a seventh century cake sale, a jumble sale, a raffle and a Bingo Evening organised.

The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called 'souling'. On November 2 (All Souls Day), Christians would walk from village to village begging for 'soul cakes', made out of square pieces of bread with currants in. I bet you could get these at the cake sale and that they tasted better than pumpkin  - I am sure!!!

My Halloween childhood memories stem around my sister Julia's birthday celebrations. She was born on Halloween, has jet black hair, long nails and looks good in black - you can draw your own conclusions! No shop bought designer creations for us - our hand made ghoulish gear was black cardboard cone hats and our coats turned inside out so that the dark lining was showing - with just the top buttoned fastened they looked like a cape. We used old sheets with eyeholes cut in them (sorry mum) and the biggest turnip we could find, hollowed out to hold a candle. We didn't have to wait for it to go dark - it was pitch black by 6pm, freezing cold and often misty - which all added to the terrifying atmosphere.  I don't remember getting any treats but we would make ghostly noises and knock on the neighbour's doors and then run like the clappers trying not to set our sheet costumes alight with the wobbling flame of the candle in the turnip. As a finale we usually went up to Christ Church and sat on the wall daring one another to run through the graveyard and scaring one another silly with ghost stories that we swore were true.  Great fun!
A couple of years ago - bookclub was at my house and it fell on 31 October. Shakespeare's Sisters gathered in full witch regalia, complete with huge rubber snakes worn as necklaces, bats, spiders, long talon false fingernails, brooms and pointed warty noses - not sure if these were false. I downloaded some scary cackling laugh sound clips  - not necessary really as the sisters can cackle really well - and we read ghostly quotes and poems by candle light. In the middle of this my house alarm went off - how scary is that? I checked the keypad and it was flashing eerily - Sean's den. Sean was in China! Twelve witches gathered their broomsticks and assorted weapons and scuttled outside to 'check it out'. There was no sign of an intruder - I was mightily relieved as anyone in there would have died of fright at the sight of us all!
Much cackling was in the air as we scuttled back inside just as the doorbell rang. We all trotted to the front door to answer it - expecting a cry of 'trick or treat' but when I opened the door, there stood an ADT security guard! His face was a picture as he scanned the sight in front of him. His mouth a perfect 'O' - terrified dark eyes surveying the ghoulish gathering - he reversed towards the gate, hand feeling for the gun under his jacket asking,
 "Is everything was alright Maam?"  "It's Halloween." I started to explain as the bookclub went into cackling mode behind me."This is my bookclub."....."We are normal people," that brought about even louder laughter and a few shrieks and snorts!
I am sure that the ADT news that week held a report of a suspected coven in Summerstrand hosting a group of armed and dangerous women with deranged laughing tendencies.  The force be with you !
Happy Halloween! Happy Birthday Julia xxx x

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