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Oct. 31st – Nov. 2nd – Dia de los Muertos

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Now I’m craving pie AND coffee…

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a day of remembrance for deceased friends and relatives that is celebrated in Mexico and in many other places around the world. Celebrants traditionally build ofrendas, private altars that include sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and drinks of the deceased.

From Wikipedia: “Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The holiday has spread throughout the world: In Brazil Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain there are festivals and parades, and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones. Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe, and similarly themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures.” (Wikipedia – Day of the Dead)

Sadly, I am not as prepared as I should be. I’m lacking sugar skulls and marigolds, but I have plenty of non-edible skulls around the house, and I found some origami paper to make a couple of paper roses. The candles from All Saint’s Day were still close by, so I see no reason not to include them as well, and I’ve included a cup of coffee to make it complete. My ofrenda is in honor of my mother, father, and stepfather, and Paula’s parents, all of whom have passed on (and all of whom were dedicated coffee drinkers!)

 

Do you celebrate Dia de los Muertos?  Share your traditions in the comments!

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Nov. 1st – All Saints’ Day

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Now the house smells like pumpkin and key lime, and I’ll probably start craving pie every All Saints’ Day from now on.

All Saints’ Day is a Christian holiday in honor of the saints – those who have attained beatific vision, or a direct communication with God. It is celebrated on November 1st in Western Christianity, and the first Sunday after Pentecost in Eastern Christianity (which won’t be until next June, so we’re going to recognize the Eastern version for our project).

Traditions for this day include offerings, children going door-to-door to collect cakes and nuts, burning incense, and visiting the graves of relatives to light candles and clean or repair them. (Wikipedia – All Saints’ Day)

Unfortunately, all of our deceased relatives are buried too far away for a trip to their graves to be permissible this evening. I really wanted to compromise and light some candles at a nearby graveyard, but that may have to wait until later. So instead, I gathered what candles I could find around the house and lit them.

Do you celebrate All Saints’ Day? Let us know all about it in the comments!

Nov. 1st – Calan Gaeaf

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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 for us to participate in. I’m hoping that proudly displaying our Welsh flag will suffice, instead.

Do you celebrate Calan Gaeaf? Share your stories in the comments!

October 31st (sunset) – November 1st (sunset) – Samhain

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I hope the Aos Si aren’t lactose intolerant. Or allergic to peanuts.

Samhain (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)

We don’t have any livestock, and I’m not sure how our landlord feels about bonfires in the backyard – so we’re going to make a small offering of food to the Aos Si (pronounced “EES SHEE”). Aylish put a small bowl of crackers and a cup of milk out for them. Here’s hoping they will show their favor on any livestock we may acquire in the future.

Do you celebrate Samhain? Share your traditions and stories in the comments!

October 31st: Hallowe’en

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The view from the front door of our home. A perfectly spooky Hallowe’en morning!

Hallowe’en – an abbreviation of All Hallow’s Eve – is a holiday celebrated in several countries every October 31st, the day before All Hallow’s Night.

From Wikipedia: “According to many scholars, All Hallows’ Eve is a Christianized feast initially influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, with possible pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic Samhain. Other academics maintain that it originated independently of Samhain and has solely Christian roots. Typical festive Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (or the related “guising” or “trunk-or-treating“), attending costume parties, decorating, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, and watching horror films.”  (Wikipedia – Halloween)

Halloween has been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember. My parents, who were normally pretty conservative about how I looked and dressed as a kid, would throw all of that out of the window every October 31st. When I was in 3rd grade and announced that I wanted to be Corporal Klinger from M*A*S*H, my mother found a dress that she could take in, and did my makeup for me. (Years later, when I started going to see Rocky Horror every Saturday night, it was suddenly a different story…)

This year, I’m staying home to watch some scary movies (or maybe just Beetlejuice) while the girls go out for trick-or-treating (despite being “too old”). Aylish is dressed as Tank Girl, and Nolah is Fiona the Human from Adventure Time. Sadly, our new home doesn’t attract any trick-or-treaters, so I won’t be handing out any candy.

Do you have any special traditions that you participate in for Halloween? Share them in the comments!

Reasons for the Season

It all began, as so many things do, with a careless and ignorant statement.

My daughter came home from school one day in December of 2010 and said that a classmate told her that non-Christians weren’t allowed to celebrate Christmas, because it was an exclusively Christian holiday.

My response (and I hope you’ll pardon the coarseness) was:  “We’ll celebrate whatever the hell we want to, thank you very much!”

I then went off into a barely comprehensible rant (as I frequently do) while foaming at the mouth with great, angry veins pounding on my forehead. The more lucid bits of my babbling involved how many of the current Christmas traditions were taken from pagan traditions, and how most winter holidays were really just solstice celebrations, and a way for people to keep their spirits up through the coldest and darkest time of year. My daughter found it necessary to duck and cover beneath her arms to protect herself from the furious flecks of spittle that fell like so many snowflakes.

The rant reached a fever pitch when I eventually shouted (to no one in particular) “FINE! YOU KNOW WHAT WE’RE GOING TO DO? WE’RE GOING TO CELEBRATE EVERYTHING NEXT YEAR! THAT’LL SHOW ‘EM! THAT! ULL! SHOW! ‘EM!

“That sounds like fun,” my daughter said, from beneath her arms.

I calmed instantly. “You’re right. It does. Let’s do it!”

The idea was mostly forgotten until a few days into the following December. “Rats!” I said (or probably something more coarse, with the same amount of letters). “We forgot about celebrating everything like we said we were going to do last year!”

Luckily, it wasn’t too late. Wikipedia informed me that we’d missed a few holidays in November and early December, but the brunt of the world’s holidays hadn’t happened yet. “Yippee!” I shouted (actual quote). I mapped out all of the holidays in Google Calendar and started posting about them on my Facebook account. It was too late to make any big preparations (like purchasing any special clothing, equipment, or supplies), but we’d still be able to recognize the holidays in simple ways.

It was fun, and we learned a lot. So much fun, in fact, that we’re going to do it again and blog it properly this time, with pictures and everything.

It bears making this clear, before anyone accuses us of being disrespectful: This isn’t about mocking or belittling anyone’s beliefs. It’s about cultural exploration, and discovering that there are more things on this Earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies. It’s about discovering how similar we all really are. It’s about surviving dark and cold times by spreading light and warmth.

Because in the end, that’s the real reason for the season that we found.

Hanukkah Duck!

From the excellent Wondermark comic strip:

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