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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.

It’s almost that time, kids…

Halloween is nearly upon us, and you know what that means for the Walton family, don’t you?

CELEBRATEALLOFTEHOLIDAYS

Last year’s celebrations were cut sort due to some family issues, but this season, we’re giving it another shot! We hope you’ll join us for a whole lot of holidays in 2014-2015!

Dec. 21st – HOLIDAY EXPLOSION!!!

December 21st is host to several worldwide holidays and events, particularly those involving the marking of the winter solstice. I’d love to give each of these their own blog post, but I’ve been a bit pressed for time lately, so I’m providing links to each of them so that you can explore them on your own.Image

Winter Solstice – The literal “reason for the season,” this astronomical event occurs when the sun’s path across our sky creates the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere. (Wikipedia – Winter Solstice)

Soyal – The winter solstice ceremony of the Hopi and Zuni, to “bring back the sun from its long winter slumber” (Wikipedia – Soyal)

Yaldā – An Iranian winter solstice festival marking the birth of Mithra, the Persian angel of light and truth. The holiday is celebrated with food (especially red foods like pomegranates and watermelon) and gifts, and has a special significance to engaged couples. (Wikipedia – Yaldā)

Saturnalia – A Roman festival in honor of the deity Saturn. This one has been going on since the 17th, and will end on the 23rd. (Wikipedia – Saturnalia)

Pancha Ganapati – A five-day Hindu festival (21st-25th) celebrating Lord Ganesha, Patron of the Arts and Guardian of Culture. As you can probably guess, I like where that Ganesha guy is coming from. (Wikipedia – Pancha Ganapati)

Today is also the last day of Zappadan, a totally made-up holiday celebrating the life and music of Frank Zappa, which runs from December 4th (the day of his passing) to the 21st (his birthday). Fans celebrate by listening to and sharing his music, and making blog posts about concerts they’ve seen or other Zappa-related memories. In the past, I have participated by creating artwork based on some of his songs (as seen above, for “What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body?”)

Whew. That’s a lot to pack into one day. We may have to spread it out a little over time!

Dec. 13th – Saint Lucia Day

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“What in the world are they doing NOW? They’ve got candles on their heads or somethin’!” – Our neighbors, peeking out of their windows

Saint Lucia Day or “Saint Lucy’s Day” is the feast day of Saint Lucia of Syracuse, and is most commonly celebrated in Italy and Scandanavia. Stories of Saint Lucia (whose name means “light”) tell of her unwavering faith and devotion to the Christian way, despite persecution from the Romans.  She is often portrayed as wearing a white dress with a red sash, and a wreath with candles on her head. This unique choice of headwear comes from another popular story in which she helped persecuted Christians escape through the catacombs during the oppressive rule of Emperor Diocletian.

Saint Lucia Day was intended to coincide with the winter solstice, but is now celebrated on the 13th instead, due to a discrepancy between the Gregorian and Julian calendars.  In Italy, Saint Lucia brings gifts to good children and coal to bad ones sometime in the night between the 12th and 13th, and children leave coffee for her and a carrot for her donkey. If any children dare to sneak a peek at her while she delivers their gifts, she throws ashes into their eyes, blinding them temporarily.

In Scandinavian countries, Saint Lucia is honored with processions, hymns, and services, and is considered a “beacon of brightness” in the darkest time of the year.  (Wikipedia – Saint Lucia’s Day)

To honor the day, the girls both dressed as Saint Lucia, and I whipped up a couple of quick candlelit wreaths for their heads (we stuck with the electric variety, for safety).

And as we did so, we considered our own fortunate situation, being relatively non-persecuted ourselves – at least not in any way that is directly harmful or dangerous – and very thankful to live in a time and place where persecution is rather low, and an ongoing effort is being made to eliminate all of it that remains.