Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Take Back The (Halloween) Night

The good old days
The ancient Celts knew how to celebrate the dead. It's an art that, sadly, has been lost to our modern culture. Sure we still carve up the occasional vegetable and scare small children with grisly tales of the dead, but the true meaning of Halloween is lost.

Sinn Fein's Sandra McLennan wants to restore Ireland's former Celtic glory. She wants the government to do it, but she's Sinn Fein and they expect the government to do everything anyway. It won't happen, however, unless the Celts get behind her and stand up for their right to the night.

The old ones called it Samhain, the night of the dead, and they celebrated the holiday like it was a genuine holiday. It was also a date that marked winter's approach, an event of some importance to the ancients who had no government to offer subsidies or welfare payments if the crops were poor or a farmer didn't get his livestock secured before bad weather hit.

What was Samhain became Halloween as the ancient practices were absorbed into Christianity. Who doesn't enjoy Christmas, right, and it's just the old Roman festival in fancy dress. So here we are, us modern types, still celebrating all things that go bump in the night on the same day as the old Celts. Except us modern types have distorted Halloween into a time for terrorizing the elderly neighbors or engaging in acts of vandalism after some heavy drinking and drug use.

You might think it's all in fun until it's your dustbin that gets blown up by fireworks and you have to clean up the mess. And if your neighbor decides to build a bonfire that runs out of control, you won't be pleased to learn that the fire brigade is busy up the road and sorry about your shed burning down.

Sandra McLennan wants Halloween to become Samhain again, with a national festival that would run along the lines of Culture Night.

Her suggestion has hit a barricade in the form of Heather Humphreys, the Arts Minister.

As the Minister has pointed out, Ireland already has Culture Night so why try to clone it and then confuse people about which night is the big night. In addition, the State is already paying the costs of one Culture Night to draw in the tourists, and there isn't a lot of spare cash around to pay for another.

Then there are the many local festivals that would be lost in this nationalization of Halloween. That's a lot of toes to be stepping on, especially the toes belonging to those who work so hard to create the local celebration and organize the many activities. Someone from Dublin is going to waltz in and take over? The reception won't be warm, and the grumbling will be loud.

Unless everyone were on board with Ms. McLennan's idea, that is. The local groups would have to be brought in under the national umbrella, and what better selling point could Ms. McLennan have than the need to eliminate anti-social behavior on Halloween? The ancient Celts weren't blowing up dustbins or throwing firecrackers at the gardai attempting to keep order. Wouldn't everyone in Ireland like to be more Celtic for one night of the year?

The Irish essentially invented Halloween. Why not make it a cultural event and then promote it as a tourist attraction? The Druids are always up for a good party.

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