As most of you know, this weekend was Thanksgiving here in Canada. I went over to my step mother's house to have dinner with her and my dad. It was an incredible meal. G. always puts on a wonderful spread. Mind you, I was absolutely starved by the time dinner was ready. I had a long, leisurely lie in and left the house at midday without ever having eaten anything. When dinner time rolled around, I was ready to eat my own arm.
Speaking of eating arms, I watched the movie Snowpiecer last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. You would understand the segue if you have seen the movie. Alas, Netflix in Canada is appalling and didn't have it, so I rented it via Amazon. I hate doing that, but there wasn't much else I could do.
First world problems, I know.
Yesterday, after another colossal sleep in, I went to brunch with good friends Jen and Eric Desmarais; the lovely husband and wife couple behind JenEric Designs. They are such wonderful people, and it's always lovely spending time with them. I walked to the brunch place. From my place, it was just over an hour; a little more because I stopped at the bridge to take photos of the stunning autumnal colours on the river.
This is my favourite time of year. There is something about autumn which I find so very invigorating. The colours are stunning. The air is cool and clear, and usually carries to smell of spice and wood smoke. There is genuinely nothing more lovely to me.
Growing up in tropical North Queensland, the change in the seasons wasn't ever really a thing. I think part of my love for autumn is the fact that it's still, despite my thirteen years here, novel and new.
It also happens to be the season of my favourite day of the year:
A brief history of Hallowe'en:
It's a survival from the pre-Christian Iron Age of Western Europe - a bona fide Celtic holiday that has been celebrated for, literally, thousands upon thousands of years. Though there is good evidence that this was a pan-Celtic celebration (as in, all the various cultures under the monolithic moniker of 'Celtic' celebrated this day), the only surviving Celtic name for this day is Irish.
Pronounced Sahw-in, this three day celebration marked the end of the Celtic year and the beginning of the next. The Celts counted the beginning of the day at sundown and thus the beginning of the year when the light begins to leave. During this festival, they would carve turnips and gourds, fill them with light and place them at windows and doors.
A family meal would be had, with places set for the ancestors, who would use the lights in the windows and doors to find their way back from the Otherworld to their loved ones to share in the festivities. A special bread called Barmbrack would be made.
Trick or treating would have taken place, I am sure, but the earliest example we have comes from Britain in the medieval period. Then called souling or guising, the children and the poor would go house to house and, in exchange for bread, offer songs or prayers to the dead (souling) or, in Scotland, would perform (tricks with cards, singing, telling a story, etc) while in costume in exchange for a sweet/treat (guising).
Despite the intervention of the church, declaring November 1st All Saint's Day, the Samhain celebration persists to this day. Dia del Muertos is a three day celebration in mexico. It spans the same three days the Celts celebrated Samhain, and it's all about the dead (ancestors). While nothing to do with the Celts insofar as anyone can tell, and probably of Aztec origins, this celebration still makes me happy.
All over Europe, people tend to take the day off and visit cemeteries, laying flowers on the graves of loved ones. In Brittany, they also pour libations of milk over the graves as offerings. Offerings are left in Spain and Potugal, and special cakes are sometimes left out for the returning spirits in various places around Europe.
I'm not against Christianity, but I am a sucker for all things Celtic, and the fact that Samhain has survived the tumult of history makes me incredibly happy. No. Seriously. You have no idea how much I love Samhain.
There are, of course, complaints from the religious right in the United States, calling this celebration evil and satanic (seriously, I just saw a headline that read: Halloween, a Covenant with Death and with Hell. Sigh). It holds no water, of course. Today, no one believes they are inviting the dead back to their family homes for a feast. Today, people carve pumpkins and take the opportunity to dress up. They take to the streets in the hopes of scoring some lollies for their trouble or, if they're more adult, head out to a party or several. Today it's just a fun celebration to fill the time before Christmas.
But for me, I'll be celebrating more seriously. Like always, I will use this time to think of my own ancestors; my sassy grandmother, her grandmother etc. While I shan't be setting up an altar, I will take an extra moment to think of them and, perhaps more importantly, thank them. Or perhaps I'll scrub down the kitchen, bake up some Barmbrack bread and set the table to seat the visiting ghosts of who I am today. I owe them at least one meal a year, don't you think? I wouldn't be here without them.
I'm a little pagan at heart...
Anyway, the too long; didn't read version of this is I love autumn and I love Hallowe'en.
Now, because it was a holiday this weekend, Nights at the Round Table took a little break. Instead of the regular episode, we have another blooper reel. You can find it below. There are a lot of shenanigans that go on while we're filming...