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  • Writer's pictureFern

Oiche Shamhna

(Ee-ha How-na-hunna-ghweev, pronounced in Gaelic) Or, as we say here in the U.S. - Happy Halloween!

Halloween, a time for spooky costumes and wonderful traditions. Did you know the holiday began in Ireland? Trace Halloween back to its origins and you’ll find yourself in the mists of pagan Ireland over 3,000 years ago, when the ancient festival of Samhain (pronounced Sow- in), the word for November in Gaelic, was celebrated in the heart of Ireland's Ancient East to mark the beginning of winter.

At this transition, the Celts believed that the veil between the physical world and the spirit world was at its thinnest, allowing spirits to interact with the living. Fearing that all manner of beings might pull them into the otherworld before their time, the Celts would disguise themselves in costumes to confuse and scare off the roaming ghosts, fairies, hobgoblins and demons. 

The Festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the harvest season and takes place at the midpoint between the fall equinox and the winter solstice. It begins the dark half of the year.  It’s a time when the deceased are remembered and honored, the autumn harvest is reaped, and the preparation for winter begin. Samhain is also considered The Celtic New Year.

The modern practice of dressing up at Halloween is rooted in these old pre-Christian  Celtic customs, as is the tradition of lighting bonfires, which began on hilltops in Ireland with clans and communities gathering to light huge ceremonial Samhain fires.

This year, Halloween will be different for many, but kids will still dress up and parents, family and neighbors will find ways to hand out or deliver candy to them, keeping the tradition alive.

On my first Halloween in Woodstock, almost thirty years ago, I was thrilled and excited to walk into town and see, not just kids, but their parents, and all the merchants from the shops, dressed up in the most fabulous costumes! The kids trick or treat in all the stores, and the merchants give out thousands of pieces of candy that night. One year, as manager of a shop, I was in charge of handing out the goodies. After two hours of "here you go; what are you?" and trick or treat, my arm was sore and stiff - Halloween carpal tunnel! But I loved dressing up every year.

How many memories do we hold of our favorite Halloweens, our costume choices, fooling friends or trying to scare people? What was your favorite costume?

Enjoy your Halloween. Dress up! Confuse and scare off the roaming ghosts, fairies, hobgoblins and demons.  Or get Silly! Forget our troubled times for just one evening, if you can.

And remember to turn the clocks back too...

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