Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Today’s the day when all the spooky things we’ve ever feared get hauled out of closets and garages and put on display.
Spider Webs.
Grinning skulls (some pumpkin, some not).
Halloween is one of the oldest celebrations in European history.  It was originally celebrated as Samhain, a Celtic end-of-harvest time that also marked the beginning of winter.
The Celts believed at this time of year the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living, because Samhain was when the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the otherworld.
When Christianity grew throughout Europe, the new religion stamped out pagan beliefs the easiest way they knew—they co-opted the traditional days of celebration.  Christmas took the place of Saturnalia, the Roman mid-winter festival that marked the winter Solstice.  Easter was a spring festival celebrating the rebirth of the land.  And Samhain, once the most important Celtic holiday, became All Saint’s Day, November 1.
And in preparation for All Hallows (or Saint’s) Day, the evening leading up to it was the busiest time of the year for the spirits of those who’d died.  Treats were made, families feasted and remembered their dead.  Some of the Spanish cultures, including Mexico, still celebrate with Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.
From a way to say good-bye to the dead, Halloween has morphed into an evening when we embrace our fears and try to outdo one another with macabre costumes, decorations and foods.
How many of you will be eating eyeballs or veins or bones or brains tonight? (And later, how many of you wil be ransacking you kid’s trick or treat bags for the best candy?)
Most of the scary symbols of Halloween come from our recognition and fear of death and these traveling spirits have become our witches, warlocks, vampires and zombies, all characters in our own psyches.
There is one symbol that most kids know however, who was real.  Not a goblin or a ghoul or a skeleton or a ghost. It’s the bogeyman.
The bogeyman is a faceless fear that has kept kids behaving for about two hundred years. Ever wonder why there’s no bogeyman costume?
It’s because the bogey man was Napoleon Bonaparte, the French emperor who almost invaded England.  When invasion was close before the Battle of Trafalgar, mothers on the south coast if England threatened their misbehaving children with “Bonaparte will get you if you don’t watch out.”
Today, though, not many kids would be frightened by someone dressed up as a French general!
Some things just aren’t what they used to be.

Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian.  She’s lived and worked all over the state, calling both Southern and Northern California home.  During her career in journalism — as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers – she won awards for producing investigative series.
Her mystery Edited for Death, called “Riveting and much recommended” by the Midwest Book Review and a Memorable Book for 2011 on DorothyL, is available in paperback at Amazon and B&N.
Her paranormal romance series, SNAP: The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, is available in ebook format at Amazon.  The first book, SNAP: The World Unfolds, received a 4-star rating from the Paranormal Romance Guild.  The second book, SNAP: New Talent, also received 4 stars from PRG.  The third book of the Chronicles, Plague: A Love Story, was published in June 2012, the fourth, Danube: A Tale of Murder was published September 13, 2012 and the fifth,  SNAP: Love for Blood is scheduled to be released in December 2012.