Oh no! Its Halloween!

jack-o-lanternHalloween, a term synonymous with a great sacrifice on the humble pumpkins behalf, of costumes both silly and scary, and of merriment… The day is also known for feeding strange children sweets, not in a creepy way though, not so  much in South Africa though. As a lightie, had I knocked on my neighbours door, and asked them for sweets, they would probably have let loose their hounds of war on me. They weren’t the friendliest people though…

There is a totally unrelated story I need to tell before we carry on. Many years ago, someone who is now an old man was still a young man. This was in the days before TV and PlayStation, before cellphones and internet, I’m fairly sure that ordinary telephones connected by wire to an exchange was still fairly new technology then. So naturally, as a teenager, this young boy would have had a gang of friends that he would spend his time playing in the (not so) dangerous world outside. This young man also had a granny with an iron grip and a strong will, who believed that if left to its own devices, your bowels would poison you. So every Friday afternoon, she would grab this young man by the hair, and force-feed him some castor oil, followed by a stern warning to stay inside the house until the castor oil had taken effect.

One particular Friday afternoon, this young man and his gang of friends had planned an adventure not to be missed! The second after the devil had vacated his bowels in its usual rapid fashion, this young man had whipped up his pants and was racing out of the house as fast as his little legs would carry him! He was down the stairs, out the door and on his way down the driveway. Except the devil he thought he had evacuated just moments before was not done with him yet. Faster than he could stop running, his tummy started running… All the way down his leg and into his shoe. And that is where he stood and cried, and where his granny came to laugh at him, waving a finger noting “next time, I’m sure you’ll stay in the house!”

Now, there is more to Halloween than the commercialised version that you see on TV. The costumes and Jack-o-Lanterns go back centuries, as do the pranks, and the treats. But it was done for entirely different reasons. The Christians, of course, claim that they came up with the tradition of Halloween through their All Hallows Eve, that it was a day they fasted themselves of meat, and burned candles for the departed. The scary faces carved into pumpkins and traditionally turnips represented the souls of the dead caught in purgatory.

However, the Gaelic Samhain festival, celebrating the end of harvest season, and the beginning of the dark part of the year, out dates the Christian one by some time. Cattle were traditionally brought back from their summer holidays on Samhain, and those that were to be eaten during the winter months would be slaughtered. To celebrate this, the Irish would light bonfires, which had cleansing and protective powers, and the fairies would come out and play. I don’t mean your effeminate uncle type fairy, but rather the Tinkerbell type fairy. Huge feasts would be held, and the spirits of the dead were expected to attend (those spirits that RSVP’s even had a spot at the table!). The children would dress up as dead people, and go door to door, recite poetry and receive food in return. The Jehovah’s witnesses would do well tonight, were they to embrace this tradition…

At this point, the witches and druids will be saying “heeeeeeey!! That sounds like a Pagan autumn festival! The Irish stole the idea from us! That’s not fair! Watch out or I’ll curse you, and make your feet smell!” Yes, yes, yes. The Celts were pagan, so you’re all on the same page.

And I believe it’s all total BULLSHIT!

So, what does this all have to do with the little boy with shit in his shoe? Well, should you be so unfortunate as to have children arrive at your door, dressed in fancy costumes, with expectations of sweeties, you should be so kind as to reward them for their efforts with a tablespoon of castor oil, before sending them on their merry way. I can guarantee they won’t come back next year. Now that’s something worth celebrating! Happy Halloween! Insert evil maniacal laughter here…

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