31 October 2005

Happy New Year!

All Hallow's Eve represents a cultural practice dating back to the Neolithic. The Celts used to dominate most of Western Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East; however, my use of the word "dominate" doesn't mean the Celts were a unified people who conquered all who stood in their way. No, that task was left for the road-building Romans.

The Celtic people stand as a close comparison to Native Americans. They lived in tribal units with no central governing body. And when they did choose to establish a "kingdom," as found in the ruins at the Hill of Tara in Ireland, the king sat in a seat of figurative power, unable to make decisions until the major gathering of the tribes. Their traditions reflected the place they lived in, and just as happened with the Aztecs in Mexico, their customs still haunt Catholic religious practices. In addition to having their traditions taken and mixed with some non-heathen religions, the Celts, like Native tribes the world round, were slaughtered or enslaved by empire-building nations.

So, why "Happy New Year"? Being a society richly connected with the Earth, the Celts held celebrations during down or transitional times. They marked winter as the year opening season. Samhain, or All Hallow's Eve (a Catholic perversion), was a high holy day that followed the harvest. The weather was still just warm enough to allow parties, and party they did. Many of our current Halloween practices stem from the Celts, who believed that a veil separates our departed loved ones from us. During the New Year, Halloween, the veil is at its thinnest, so the Celts would leave a plate at the table for the deceased. Anyone who's familiar with Los Dias de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) can appreciate the similarities, and can hopefully note the lack of fear of, nay, the connection to Death. It happens to all of us, so why not honor the ancestors who came before?

So, Happy New Year everyone. This Halloween, please take the time to remember someone you love who passed onto the other side of the veil, and maybe leave a shot of their favorite bourbon out.

.This year, I remember Edith June Stich, my father's mother. I leave her my best version of her thumbprint candies. I miss you, Grandma; May you and Richard be dancing to his swinging sax as we speak


theresa said...

You tell a nice story. Very educational with sweet nostalgic tenderness at the end.

Robert Casserly said...

Did you know Reeses makes a twix-like bar with peanut butter flavor? I didn't, but 1/2 pound of them later I am convinced they rock.

We had hardly any tricking treaters here at Casa de Casserly this year, so lots of candy to plow through. Oh well, I guess you gotta do what you gotta do. Musn't grumble.

BTW, thank you, Kyle, for standing up for the Celts. I have a Jamesons stocked in the bar and waiting to do your honor.