Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Samhain Time!

Well, here it is, Halloween again. Or reasonably close to it anyway. Like all Irish people I love Halloween. You know, Halloween was invented by the Irish, as was whiskey, the Kennedys, guided missiles, the ejector seat, the submarine (which should not be used with an ejector seat), and Catholic guilt.

But Halloween is truly Ireland's greatest gift to the world. In case you were wondering, and I have no doubt that you weren't, I'd like to give you a little background on the history of this "spooky", "scary", "diabetes-inducing" holiday.

Halloween, or something like it, has been celebrated in Ireland since the misty beginnings of time, since the first fur-clad men ventured out of their caves into the moon-lit night, since Ed Scanlon was a child. But it wasn't always called Halloween. Back in those early days it was called Samhain. It was a festival day, celebrating the final harvest of the year and honoring the community's dead people, thankful that they weren't around to eat the harvest. Now this was back in Druid times, before the arrival of St. Patrick and his fellow bible thumpers on the island. The Druids, as we learned from the film "Spinal Tap", were a tribe of midgets who danced around pile of rocks in hooded robes. They also prayed to trees and made human sacrifices, so these were some seriously messed up midgets. So at the end of October (or as it was known back then, "October") these Druids would have this big festival where they'd build huge bonfires, and slaughter cows, and bring the dead back to life and drink lots of mead and grog and anything else that they could ferment. In other words it was very much like an Irish fest staff meeting. Dead people featured prominently in this shindigs, which was good in that it kept the early Irish people in touch with their ancestors and their traditions, and bad because dead people never remember to bring the onion dip and seldom kick in money for a beer run.

So for thousands of years this party went on unabated until guess what, here come the Christians. When St. Patrick and his posse came along and saw this Samhain debauchery raging, they said "whoa, there little midgets! You can't be running around naked through bonfires, drinking mead, worshiping trees and talking to dead people! You're Christians now! Fun's over! Yay for Christians!""

Unfortunately for St. Pat, it so happened that the Druid word for "buzz-kill" sounded very much like the word "Christian", so our ancient Irish ancestors were not buying was St. Pat was selling. They were not about to just take a few thousand years of great parties with dead people and kick them to the curb just because some saint said so. But St. Patrick, no fool he, said "no, no Druids! You can keep the best parts of Samhain. Keep on with the bonfires and the prancing around! Have a drink or two! By all means! Let's just maybe ease up on the human sacrifices, and the whole dead-people-rising-from-the-grave thing. How about instead, you just dress up like dead people! And, ooh, you can go door to door (as soon as doors are invented) and have your neighbors give you Snickers bars and those little peanut butter things wrapped in black and orange wax paper. Oh, and maybe instead of hollowing out human heads, we'll make the lanterns out of pumpkins instead, if that works for you".

Well you've probably figured out by now that the Druids bought it, even agreeing to change the name from Samhain to Halloween. And when the Irish all began fleeing Ireland like somebody had farted in a small room, they brought the traditions of those ancient days with them across the world. And that's why next Monday night you'll see glowing Jack O'Lanterns, scary ghosts, ghouls and goblins and hordes of wandering trick or treaters. It doesn't explain all the sexy nurse, sexy witch, sexy pirate, sexy cat, sexy librarian and sexy stewardess costumes that apparently all women in America are supposed to wear on Halloween. But we won't look a gift horse in the mouth, will we?

Happy Samhain! Boo!

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