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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: October 31, 2019

Jane Thibodeau Martin

Samhain

This story starts with me wondering about the origin of the word "Halloween."

Several sources point to the Celtic pre-Christian celebration of Samhain. (In Wales, this would have been pronounced "Sow-een," tantalizingly close to the sound of Halloween.) Samhain means "summer's end" and early Celts believed the ghosts of the dead returned to earth on that day. Some accounts say people would dress in costumes representing the souls of the deceased, and were given offerings. Calling this same activity "trick or treat" may be a modern evolution.

The word Halloween first appears around 1745, with one attribution being a Scottish term for All Hallows' Eve " the evening before All Hallows' Day. Scottish language uses the word "even" for eve, and this is then contracted to e'en or een. Thus, Hallows-een. All Hallow's Day was (and still is) a celebration in the Christian faith commemorating all the saints who reside in heaven.

It could be that Samhain became the Christianized All Hallow's Day, and then became Halloween, a secular activity. So it appears this fall holiday/holy day consistently has been tied to the dead, and possible visits to earth from deceased people via spirit apparitions.

I almost think we'd have to invent Halloween if it didn't already exist. This is the time of the year when the harvest is well underway, or finished. Diets shift from summer foods to a winter diet, with more focus on stick-to-your-ribs concoctions. Root cellars and porches are full of squash, pumpkins and corn shocks, both for food and for decoration. The weather changes to the first hints of winter; hunters take to the lakes and woods in search of waterfowl, turkeys and deer to supplement winter diets. Mornings come later and evenings earlier. Yet there are still a few beautiful mild days to celebrate; and we want to make the most of them, knowing the harsh Wisconsin winter will be on us soon enough.

Labor Day is well behind us and Thanksgiving still weeks away. Having an interlude of costumes, hayrides, parties, pumpkin contests and candy is just what we need to have a little bit of fun. For reasons I don't fully understand, some decide our present day Halloween smacks of evil influences, so it morphs into fall festivals " no matter; the fun is nearly the same.

My house's remote location makes it unlikely I will get Halloween visits from little goblins and ghosts, or more likely, Spiderman and princesses. So I make up bags for the little people I love and deliver them to relatives and neighbors instead. Because I need a little Halloween too, with all the memories of my childhood and the childhood of my own children it conjures up. The smell of a pumpkin lid scorching in candle flame takes me back decades, and I enjoy that mental journey so much.

I wish you all a safe and happy Halloween, hopefully enlivened by a little goblin or two. If you buy too much candy for too few little visitors, no worries. You can eat the leftovers yourself " there are fewer calories in leftover candy. That's my theory, and I am sticking to it.

This week I leave you with a yoga teaching which hit home with me today. "The body needs motion to be healthy. The mind needs stillness to stay healthy."

In these days of division and bitter attacks, no matter "what side" you are on, break away from the news and on-line rants occasionally; breathe deep and let peace settle your brain.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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