Wednesday, October 31, 2007

from Wallbank's Almanack of Holidays

The ancient and revered Celtic Festival of Samhain is celebrated throughout the Celtic world at this time of year. Those unfamiliar with Samhain may assume that it is a pagan celebration of harvest culminating in the Dressing Like Pirates Night. The wall between the The Living and The Dead is thinnest on Samhain, but you can't complain to the management if they have the damned game on too loud or they keep at it playing Big&Rich while you're trying to wrestle with the mini-bar.
For the 31 days of October, people indulge in the Annual Discussion of How To Pronounce Samhain. Each night during this time, the youngest child in the house edits the Wikipedia with a revised pronunciation of Sow-inn, Sam-Hane, Sha-veen, Shev-inn, Shown, Sewn, Swane, Suffrin, Seg-ween, Shih-bane, She-Bang, Sab-on, Shwing, Saw-bane, Sob-wen, Snwe-oin, Sop-ben, Swiffer, Swee-hen, Stew-meat, Sad-oaf, Shiffon, Sov-neh, Swen-oon, and so on. ("So on" is not one of the accepted pronunciations. Although it probably is closest to the Gaelic.
The next ritual is The Oldest Gentleman in the House's donning of the "But This Fit Fine Last Year!"
Traditionally, the House Goddess stands by, dressed in comfortable apparel and drinking liberally, answering the door and tossing individually wrapped Granola Treats at visitors while intoning "And now what do you say?"
Those visitors are the backbone of the Samhain ritual. Wearing the clothing (sometimes the actual clothing) of the famous or dead, the "visitors" must adhere to a specific set of symbolic actions which denote the harvest and the preparation for Winter. First, there is The Mutilation of The Gourds. The history of gourd mutilation is long and filled with arcane detail, much of which has to do with turnips. Then, The Chaperoned Ride of the Crops, where the youngest visitors, having taken on the role of Migrant Farm Workers, are tossed into the car and brought far away. They traipse around in their costuming, followed by the Cropmasters who wield torches or lanterns and lead the "workers" through the fields, where they become Highwaymen, demanding trinkets of some worth, proffering the choice of "Trick" or "Treat." Since confections are the most prized Treats, the tradition has evolved to include candies, although Susan B Anthony dollars and handfuls of bling are accepted. The owners of the "field" (house) then take on the role of that guy from the "What Not To Wear" show, loudly and critically guessing the costume and/or identity of the costumed, who has now taken on the role of "Slathering Greedster." In ancient times, this character was allowed to express his or her displeasure with the quality of the Treat by perpetrating embarrassing physical damage to the property. Since those dark and violent times, Treat Providers have become much more discriminating in their choice of more savory Treats. In greater numbers. (Hence the Post-Samhain run on at-home diabetes testing kits.)
This time-honored rite is repeated until the End of the Evening, the time determined by the most haggard adult, who brings the "workers" back, where they then dump their Harvest into bowls that will sit on the kitchen counter along with the candies that didn't get given away and DON'T YOU DARE START EATING THAT NOW and yes the "Barn" really is a little far from the road and nobody left the porch light on, so the other costumed participants never went there, so we never gave away forty dollars worth of Tootsie Rolls and Fun-Size 3Musketeers and we ended up getting egged...

Captain Wallbank’s Almanack is not intended to be used as reference material for school projects, masters theses, magazine and newspaper articles, partisan hack radio talk shows, commencement addresses, valedictory speeches, catechism classes, or, especially, as an authorized authority for bets involving someone buying someone a drink.

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