Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Happy New Year (well......almost)!!!

Ok....so some of you might be scratching your heads right about now. After all, we haven't even gone Trick-or-Treating, had Thanksgiving turkey and we SURE as hell haven't torn into Christmas gifts, so how could I possibly be saying "Happy New Year" already?

Easy! As Vegas Valley's token pagan chick, Monday night is Halloween! Or, as we pagan folks call it, Samhain (pronounced "SOW-in"). It happens to be my family's FAVORITE holiday with Yule (or Christmas) following a close second. If you were to drive by our home right now you would see the most AWESOME decorations complete with a full graveyard, a blood fountain full of bones, fog machines, enough strobe lights to make a grown man puke, and spoooooky music. My son likes to hide under the truck and shoot his hand out at the unsuspecting ankles passing by. We have candy galore and even the required black cat, Binx.

Aside from all the fun we have at Halloween, it is also a very special night. It literally is the pagan New Year and is also a night set aside to honor the dead (it is no coincidence that November 1st is the Christian celebration of All Saints Day and November 2nd is All Soul's Day. More on that in a bit....). It was the biggest and the most significant night of the Celtic year. It was believed that on that night the spirits of the dead were able to mingle with the living. It also marked the dark half of the year, meaning it marked the beginning of winter. It was the end of the harvest and folks began to hunker down for the cold months to come. Some believe it marked the death of the God, who is reborn at Yule.

So where did all of the symbolism that is associated with Halloween come from? Black and orange, those awesome Halloween colors, are thought to be traced back to the flames of Celtic bonfires flickering against the black of night because Samhain is a fire festival. Black cats are very special to witches and are known as our "familiars". Some people believe that black cats are the spirits of their deceased ancestors and they can see spirits. In the Middle Ages they were feared and often burned alive because people believed they were witches in disguise. Bobbing for apples can be traced back to the pagan worship of the Roman goddess Pamona, the goddess of fruit trees. She was often symbolized by the apple. And let's not forget the Jack-o-Lantern!

According to Irish mythology there was a man called Stingy Jack who managed to trick the Devil himself. One trick was that the Devil could never claim his soul. When Jack died he learned that he couldn't get into heaven either and the Devil held a grudge so Jack wandered aimlessly in the night. The Devil gave him an ember from the fires of Hell so Jack could see his way. Jack hollowed out a turnip and placed the ember inside. When Irish immigrants came to America, the tradition came with them and eventually the turnip was replaced by the pumpkin. Personally I think a pumpkin can be carved into something alot scarier than a TURNIP ever could.

On a side note, All Saint's Day was created by Pope Boniface IV in the 7th century. There were SO many saints that there weren't enough days in the year to honor them all. It was originally celebrated May 13th (my birthday!), but the date was moved to November 1st by Pope Gregory in 835 AD in an effort to distract Christians from celebrating Halloween (old traditions die hard!).

So this Halloween, after your kids are buzzed from their sugar highs and you're picking YOUR favorite treats out from their bags, take a moment to remember and give thanks to your ancestors that have passed on. Remember: the veil is thin this night. You never know.....they might be smiling down on you. And don't forget to pet that black cat that crosses your path. Have a GREAT New Year, too!!!

by Janie at 11:19 am

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