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Monthly Archives: November 2015

Nov. 2nd – Soul’s Day

From my friend Morgan comes this blurb from Celtic Family Magazine’s Facebook page:

November 2nd is a day of reflection. A day to pay tribute to our ancestors, speak of family stories, leave flowers and mementoes at their graves. A Soul’s Day is thought to be a pre-Christian Celtic tradition of visiting ancestors cemeteries after the Fall Harvest.

I’d nearly missed this one! Looks like the Celts had their own Dia de los Muertos. (One thing I’ve learned from doing this the last couple of years is that every one of these holidays shares something with practically all of the others.)

We live too far away from the burial sites of my parents to make a trip today, but I’ve shared some stories about them with my daughters (as I do most days, really) – in particular, my stepfather’s penchant for used station wagons (the old Plymouth Fury one was my favorite) and what he had to go through to keep them running.

Nov. 1st – Calan Gaeaf

Reasons for the Season

IMG_20131101_072547 My friend Brad: “I didn’t know you guys were Welsh.”
Me: “We’re not.”
Brad: “Oh. Then why do you have a-“
Me: “It has a dragon on it. Duh.”

Calan Gaeaf is the recognition of the first day of winter in Wales. According to Wikipedia, “People avoid churchyards, stiles, and crossroads, since spirits are thought to gather there.” (Wikipedia – Calan Gaeaf)  Avoiding churchyards and stiles is easy enough, but I’ll be passing a LOT of crossroads on the way to work and back home again. Other regional traditions include placing stones with names written on them into a fire to see who may die within the year, cutting ivy leaves and wild roses to get prophetic dreams, and rushing home before dark to avoid Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta, a spirit in the form of a tailless black sow accompanied by a headless woman.

Those are all pretty difficult…

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Samhain, Oct. 31st (sunset) – Nov. 1st (sunset)

IMG_20151101_195309_314Samhain (pronounced SAH-wane) is a Gaelic festival celebrated from sundown on October 31st to sundown on November 1st, marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.

From Wikipedia: “Samhain is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and is known to have pre-Christian roots. Many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain. It was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter. As at Beltane, special bonfires were lit. These were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers and there were rituals involving them.[2] Samhain (like Beltane) was seen as a liminal time, when the spirits or fairies (the Aos Sí) could more easily come into our world. Most scholars see the Aos Sí as remnants of the pagan gods and nature spirits. It was believed that the Aos Sí needed to be propitiated to ensure that the people and their livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink were left for them.” (Wikipedia – Samhain)

I’m a big fan of fairies and liminal time (no, really!) so I made a small offering to the Aos Si on our back step – a nice ripe apple and a small cup of milk. Here’s hoping they’ll be pleased with my humble gift and help us survive the winter (and that the squrrels and/or neighborhood stray cats don’t get to it first!).

And it begins… (Halloween & Dia de Muertos, Oct. 31st – All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1st)

Halloween, or Hallowe’en (/ˌhæləˈwiːn, -oʊˈiːn, ˌhɑːl-/; a contraction of “All Hallows’ Evening”), also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It begins the three-day observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dspooky usheread, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers. (Wikipedia)

Halloween marks the beginning of our celebrations, because I just decided I wanted it to be that way. I know it’s not technically a winter holiday,but as a kid growing up it always felt like the beginning of the holiday season for me.

This year, the girls and I celebrated by handing out candy to visiting trick-or-treaters – something that is still kind of special for us, since we have only recently moved into a place that actually gets them.  After that, we went our separate ways – they to a Halloween party, and I to a special showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Schwartz Center in Dover, along with a few of our theatre friends.

My makeup for the evening doubled as a tribute to Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, which Wikipedia tells us is “is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and acknowledged around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey.”

We’ll be doing a bit more of that in our upcoming All Saints’ Day celebration which happens the next day, when we’ll light a few candles and give some thought to friends and family who are no longer with us.