Samhain Revisited   27 comments

Halloween/Fall is coming, do you celebrate? What does that look like? Is it different this year?

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Separating Celebrations

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I love fall. It’s my favorite time of year and I decorate for it. Alaska only has a couple of weeks of fall in early September, so I would get gypped if I didn’t hang fall floral swag in my living room. I generally take them down when I decorate for Christmas on Black Friday. When we had dogs, we’d stack their winter bedding bales on the porch for an impromptu autumn display and our daughter would usually provide a friendly scarecrow and a couple of happy jack-o-lanterns.

Halloween

Halloween started as Samhain – a Celtic high holiday when, it was believed, the veil between the living world and the underworld thinned and the spirits of the dead could walk the earth. The Catholic Church tried to turn it into All Souls Day followed by All Saint’s Day on November 1, but they weren’t wholly successful because the Hispanic countries still celebrate it as Dia de la Morte – a holiday honoring the dead. In most of the Western World, the 20th century saw a marketing blitz that morphed these holidays in a fun kids holiday we call Halloween, although in recent decades, the pagan movement has revived Samhain celebrations.

Winter fell on Fairbanks this past weekend and we already have about four inches of snow, so by Halloween, it will truly be winter and might be 20 below zero on that day. Needless to say, that affects Halloween celebrations. Yes, we still have tricks and treats at the door, but our kids can’t really dress for it because they need to wear outerwear. And you don’t linger at the door giving out candy because that’s heating oil fogging out into the air trying to heat the planet. I always remember Halloween as an exercise in flirting with frostbite. We thoroughly enjoyed one Halloween when we visited in New Hampshire. No snow, incredible leaves, our daughter could wear her costume. But most years, Halloween is kind of painful here.

I also don’t particularly care for the holiday since we lived next-door to practicing pagans who would host Samhain bonfires complete with invocations to various underworld gods, including Satan.

Yes, I know it’s morphed into a fun holiday for children and adults looking for an excuse to party. I used to celebrate it myself. It was my husband’s favorite holiday for many years and he always took the kids around. Our daughter is a total actress and Halloween was a holiday made for thespians. But that experience with those former neighbors reminds me that it’s not all fun and games and there’s some people who remember the “old ways” and believe that modern society celebrating it feeds the power of worship to their preferred gods. As a Christian, I hesitate to encourage them with my own celebration.

In 1st Corinthians Christians are told that the rituals of this world have no meaning or power over those who don’t believe them (like Christians), but the apostle Paul also warns that when we participate in the world’s rituals and it causes others to stumble, we’re responsible for the harm that stumbling causes. I can’t comfortably celebrate Halloween knowing that there are pagans who think there is deeper significance than candy apples and the latest Disney character costume. I couldn’t escape the feeling that participating made me a hypocrite, so I stopped.

If you’re still celebrating Halloween, enjoy! I absolutely have no problem with people other than me celebrating it as a fun celebration. This is just a personal choice I made.

Instead of manning the door and the candy bowl at home, I now often volunteer at our church’s Fall Festival, which is an (indoors!) Halloween alternative. It’s got the candy, the games and the fun costumes (no ghouls or witches) without the Samhain/Dia de le Morte connotations. Brad might still make an effort if winter arrives late and we have near-freezing temperatures (that’s comfortable for us and with polypropylene underwear, you can actually wear costumes), but most years he locks the gates and keeps the lights low.

I guess that makes us Halloween grinches (though the kids seem to really enjoy the Fall Festival). Halloween is a fun time for kids, but when I look at it reasonable, it’s got this whole dark side that most people prefer to ignore and which our former neighbors made sure we were fully aware.

Covid19 Differences

I don’t know if it will be different this year. Our neighbors who celebrate it decorated their lawns again this year. The church hasn’t mentioned the Fall Festival, but I missed last weekend to go out to a cabin in the woods with my husband and friends (conveniently located near a hot springs resort) so I might have just missed the invitation and will learn of it on Sunday — or if I’d bother to read my email. I have noticed a lack of advertisements for indoor Halloween (the malls often host something, but there’s been a rash of store closures in the CVD19 pandemic, so maybe the malls can’t afford it this year) and I know for certain the Halloween Horror House won’t happen this year. Our daughter used to be a participant, so we got the notice that they wouldn’t need her acting skills this year. She was a truly scary mental patient one year.

Alaska hardly closed for CVD19. Our church was closed two months (two weeks of that voluntarily before the State mandated it) and the State of Alaska lifted restrictions in late-May. Mask-wearing is voluntary here except a few businesses have made rules that people more or less ignore. We are currently experiencing a spike in positive tests (in keeping with the start of cold and flu season here), but hospitalizations and deaths remain low (0.1% and 0.06% respectively), so I suspect door-to-door will still happen. After all, if you believe masks protect us all from CVD19, Halloween is a perfect holiday to show it.

Posted October 26, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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27 responses to “Samhain Revisited

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  1. Wow, you’ve got snow already – no wonder you don’t want to go traipsing around door to door! It’s about 15 degrees here, so no snow on the horizon at all. Hallowe’en’s become very commercialised over here, but I’ll be happy to sit indoors and ignore it all!

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    • It’s very commercialized here too, which is another reason I don’t celebrate it. But we can’t let the weather dictate our lives here or we would have no lives. We just got an email from some friends who are talking about doing a bonfire that night. There’s a house, so we can wander in and out and drink hot chocolate and the kids can make smores and wear their costumes.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Sounds a great evening – and I’m sure the bonfire would be a welcome addition! I’m sure you take the weather in your stride, which is something we don’t do here. One snowflake and all the schools shut in case of litigation when little Johnny slips over in the playground.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, yeah, that’s how they do it in Seattle and other places where they don’t get snow very often. We were in Seattle once visiting family and we went to dinner. It started to snow and everybody in the restaurant panicked. My cousin handed the keys to his Mercedes to my husband and said “Can you get us home?” We were the only ones on the road, so there wasn’t a problem. I suspect the restaurant had to find pillows for 50 people.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Lol! There’s tales here of people spending the night in their cars on motorways, when I’m sure you’d be laughing at them as you found your way home.

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      • Oh, yeah! Don’t get me wrong. It is raining right now on top of six inches of snow. I’m not going out since I don’t have to. My son got up a half-hour early this morning so he could drive to work during the lull between the 7 am construction-worker rush hour and the 8 am everybody else rush hour. He texted me at 7:45 and said “well, that was a non-event. I’m going to get breakfast now.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • It was 7 degrees when I drove to work this morning. For the first time in ages it felt cold outside.

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      • Last winter we had about six weeks of minus -30 degrees between November and March (with interludes of -10-20’F to give us hope we weren’t entering an ice age) and so far, this year has hovered around freezing. I think yesterday it was at +20’F, but now it’s got to be right around freezing because it was raining until a half-hour ago. I hear it’s pouring in Anchorage on the other side of the mountains..

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      • -30? I can’t even begin to imagine what that’s like!

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      • Ever go into a walk-in freezer? It’s basically like that. Our houses are heating, our cars have special devices to warm the engines so they’ll start and we upgrade to beefier interior heaters. We have clothes for it. And you still walk outside and gasp because you are literally breathing ice. But you do get used to it. Our kids would get bored in the winter and don polypropylene under coats, hats, boots, and gloves and go outside to play. Our husky Lab mix was always thrilled to see them. Black Dog saw no reason to move indoors until it got at least -40’F and then she’d usually want to go back outside after a half-hour. Sometimes our kids would go with her — and come back in after an hour. Long as they kept moving and covered everything but their eyes, they were fine.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lol Lela, I imagine you as one of those Amazonian ladies wrestling bears and chopping logs to build cabins in the wilderness. Perhaps I’ve been watching too many survival films!

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      • Wrestling bears never works out well for the human. We’ll use chainsaws for building the cabin. Most of it will be built with dimensional lumber because that’s just easier, but the siding will be natural wood, probably from spruce trees on the land. My husband likes the idea of a “stealth cabin.” Disguising it as a tree might cut down on the amount of taxes we have to pay for a structure.

        Liked by 1 person

    • When I lived on the west coast, we didn’t get snow (except maybe once every 10 years!) Anyway, it was amusing to watch everyone else panic when there was barely a trace of snow on the ground.

      Liked by 2 people

      • That’s what happens here. Teachers are terrified of being sued. Therefore when it snows they suddenly ‘can’t get to work’. The schools close, and kids slide down hills and damage themselves even more than if they fell over in the school playground.

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      • Yeah, in Alaska, we won’t see the ground again until April — barring a freak rain storm, which can melt all the snow, but the ground will still be frozen solid. Every three years we get a new slug of military people and they used to demand that we close schools for snow, but about 10 years ago, the post command figured out that New Arrival Training needed to include “The local schools do NOT close down for snow. They do occasionally close for rain, however, but only in November through March.” They still complain at church and stuff, but yeah, you can’t just quit living here because of weather. But hey, two years ago when an earthquake destroyed a major highway in Anchorage, my coworkers rebuilt it in 3 days. We take most things natural in stride here. It’s just life. And, those military families, next year they’ll be telling the new ones — “yeah, this is just normal.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are hardy folk!

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      • One way to look at it, but it’s just life for us. I’m going to visit my sister in Montana November 5-10 and my Seattle relatives are like “You’re DRIVING Snoqualmie Pass? What if it SNOWS?” Meanwhile my husband is more worried that I’m going to be caught in a riot post-election than he is that Idaho might experience winter while I’m driving through it. It’s just a different viewpoint on life, I guess. I’m not really worried about the potential for riots. I think they’re a possibility, but I trust my instincts to keep me safe.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lol. I don’t think I’d last very long in Alaska. I think I must be what our northerners call a ‘Soft Southerner’. The lowest temperature I ever remember was driving to work one morning and the car’s thermometer read -12. That was a few years ago now, and we haven’t had anything like that in the East for at least 10 years.

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      • It was warmer here in Alaska for about two decades, but I think the trend is toward colder temps now. Which is consistent with what the Geophysical Institute is seeing on other planets in the solar system. By the time our kids are the age we are now, they’ll be worried about the “coming ice age” and “global warming” will be a quaint notion that didn’t quite pan out. We notice it more here because you can feel a substantive difference between parts of the temperature scale. After you’ve spent a couple of weeks at 0 to -20’F, it doesn’t feel so bad, but when it drops into the -30s, it starts to hurt. Then you adjust and -40 is what hurts. Anything below that, your car will object to functioning, so it’s all painful at that point.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, I haven’t heard anything about colder temps, it all seems to be about global warming here in the UK and how the Arctic ice is melting at an alarming rate.

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      • According to the Geophysical Institute, the temperatures moderated more than a decade ago and may be cycling to colder overall temps. Of course, we’d discussing fractions of a degree. The computer models global warming are based on don’t show that, but GeoPhys is looking at real numbers. They’re not making definitive statements yet, but that is what the trend they’re seeing.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Interesting…

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      • Yeah. My daughter just moved to Hawaii — she’s on the Big Island, so could drive up to the ski resort for snow – but she’s been in No Cali’s mountains for the last five years. It snowed every winter she was there and NOBODY could drive in it except her. Every two-week of winter, she’d have orders to drive down the mountain to the grocery store for her community and she’d do it because an inch or two is nothing to her. One afternoon when they were expecting snow, she went early and then it snowed. Nobody expected her to get back that night, but she bought a roll of poly rope and created tire “chains” for the borrowed truck she was driving and just pushed up the mountain at 10 mph. She couldn’t believe they doubted her.

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  2. They’ve just about removed snow from the Texas vocabulary except for the panhandle. But the rest of it, fall festivals, no trick or treaters is what it has come down to.

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    • I don’t think Texas ever got much in the way of snow outside the Panhandle. I knew a lot of Texans here back in the days of the TAPS construction. Always a learning curve for them, the first snowfall.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah. We lived in Pennsylvania for a very short time. They got a light snow, like a couple of inches. My wife called to see if they were closing school. They laughed. “You must be new here.”

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      • My husband grew up in New Hampshire where they would cancel schools for the day of a snowfall and then open back up because they knew the snow would hang around for a while. Then he lived in New York where they closed everything down until the snowplows could get through. Then he lived in Houston for about three years where nobody had ever seen snow. He moves here and he always went to work when it snowed because he became a furnace repairman and there’s nothing like snow to convince people that odd squeak in their burner motor might need to be looked at.

        Then we had kids and he was like “What do you mean there are no snow days?” It had nothing to do with safety for him and everything to do with a good excuse to take a day off school.

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