Well, here it is, Halloween again. 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",
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
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 tonight 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?
*All true Irish-invented things.