Halloween goes back about 2,000 years

by Gary Kennedy

Halloween began approximately 2,000 years ago in the areas which are now Ireland, United Kingdom and part of France. The people who lived in these areas were known as Celts. The people of this time celebrated their new year on the first of November. Summer and fall was finished and the time designated as winter began. Winter was a cold dark time of year as you can imagine. There was no electricity for lights of any kind. The Celts were a people of very deep superstition. The night before New Year was feared with great reverence. The Celts believed that on October 31 the hours before the New Year (November 1), that a neutral area occurred and during this time, the living and the dead became blurred.

October 31 was celebrated as Samhain (sow-in). It was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. A tremendous amount of calamity occurred with this event. Problems with crops and other dastardly things would occur.

During this time, Celtic priests known as Druids were able to make predictions regarding the future. These predictions made by the priests generally gave comfort and offered direction to a world without good direction and purpose. The Druids would build great bonfires where the people would gather and burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. You can imagine what a frightful show this would be with the locals dressed in costumes made from skins, bones and heads. At this time everyone tried to be a seer and read others’ fortunes. When this event was concluded they re-lit their household fires using torches from the bonfire. This would help protect them from the cold long winter, and offered an amount of protection from other things.

By 43 AD, the Roman Empire had conquered the Celts. For approximately 400 years the Romans ruled and combined two festivals of Roman origin with the traditional Celtic Samhain festival. The Roman Festival of Feralia, Roman passing of the dead and Pomona, which was the honoring of the Roman Goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol for Pomona is the apple, thus the tradition of bobbing for apples, which we use at Halloween.

In approximately 609 AD, Pope Boniface II dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of the now Christian Martyrs. Pope Gregory III later moved the observance to November 1. From Halloween the name went to All Hallows’ Eve, which is the day before All Saints Day. Some countries, such being the case in the South Pacific, call this particular holiday All Saints Day ( November 1). In this part of the world, this holiday is literally celebrated religiously. People will camp out on loved ones’ graves for the night and eat, drink and sing. Something that I found interesting is the living bring the dead gifts of their favorite things that they enjoyed in life; from a cigarette and beer to a candy bar. These items are left at the graveside.

In the USA, the Irish put energy into this holiday with “Trick or Treat” and pumpkin carving, etc. Of course, throughout history costumes were always part of these holidays.

In the 1920s and 1930s Halloween here was not so cool. Actually, at times it was downright dangerous. There were break-ins and vandalism, as well as other sorted misdeeds. As time progressed we accepted the holiday as a fun time for children. Today we tend to lean toward private parties so as to protect our children. Just as much fun can be obtained by a well organized Halloween event and it is far safer and can be enjoyed by young and old alike. We kids tend to allow more freedom to older people than in the past. They usually spend most of their time in another room, anyway. So, have a happy and safe Halloween. Enjoy yourselves and God Bless! Happy holiday from us to you.

Pages in Time: A parrot gives me the bird

page8pict1by Milt Huntington

We had just come from a Celtics games at Boston Garden and had decided to stay at King’s Grant just outside of Beantown on the way home to Maine.

We had stayed there before and knew the food would be good and the rooms comfortable and quiet. The Inn boasted a delightful cocktail lounge and live musical entertainment on the weekends. A small swimming pool in the lounge was centered in a jungle-like atmosphere. It was a little steamy, but all in all, rather pleasant.

Large columns were located around the pool to add to the atmosphere, and a wooden foot bridge crossed over what appeared to be a stream feeding the indoor pool. During the course of the evening we notice a large parrot sitting in a cage behind one of the columns. When we cooed “Hello” to the colorful bird, it would politely respond: “Hello! Hello!” We kept it up until the bird got sick of the routine and refused to speak anymore.

The next morning, I woke up a little early, so I decided to don my swimming trunks to take a dip in the pool. The place appeared to be deserted, so I had the pool to myself. After splashing around awhile, I sat in a chair to dry off approximately where we were the night before, right up against a column.page8pict2

It was at that point I remembered the loquacious parrot from the previous night. I leaned forward in my chair and peered around the column. Sure enough, there was the talkative bird half-asleep in his cage. “Hello!” Hello!” I cooed to my feathery friend in a high-pitched falsetto greeting. The bird didn’t move, but the man sitting on the other side of the column moved. Did he ever move! He dashed out of the lounge as though his bathing suit was afire. He stole one quick frightened glance at me over his shoulder as he pushed through the door and out of my life forever.

It was sometime later when I told my good friend, the late John Gould Jr. about the humorous incident. That was a mistake. It was a big mistake.

John Gould, a Maine paper industry lobbyist, would frequently go to great lengths in the interest of playing a practical joke. On one occasion, he casually asked me over to his house in Hallowell for a couple of drinks. It sounded like a relaxing way to end a day of lobbying at the State House in Augusta. Upon arrival, I discovered he had neglected to tell me a candidate for Governor of Maine was also there. As it developed, I wound up writing some of the candidate’s campaign speeches. The candidate lost the election and I felt partially responsible for having written a rather biting presentation near the end of the campaign. John assured me the candidate would not have done as well as he did if not for the speech.

A few years later John had moved to Washington to take a federal lobbying job with his company. I had flown down to attend a Maine State Society banquet, and responded to John’s kind invitation to stop by his house in McLean, Virginia, for a libation before we both headed for the banquet in downtown D.C.

When I arrived at John’s home, I couldn’t help but notice a sleek stretch limousine parked in his driveway. I didn’t find that too unusual. John’s company provided him such transportation on special occasions from time to time. John’s two sons were playing basketball in the driveway. I grabbed the ball and flung it over the limo. Nothing but net! Without so much as a word, I turned and strode into the house, knowing full well I couldn’t do that again in a million years. I hope I impressed the kids. It certainly surprised the heck out of me.

I entered the house, was warmly greeted by John and his wife, and got myself another surprise. John introduced me to the then current Governor of Maine. We all rode to the banquet in the big old limousine.

Now, getting back to the parrot. As I recounted before, I had unwittingly told John of my experience in the King Grant’s cocktail lounge. He couldn’t wait to tell the Governor all about it. Then John asked me about my plans for the following day and I told him I had an appointment to meet with Senator George Mitchell on Capitol Hill. He seemed to think that was wonderful.

That next day, I walked into the Senator’s office, and announced very formally: “Mr. Huntington to see Senator Mitchell. I have a 10 a.m. appointment. The receptionist and the entire officer staff broke into a falsetto chorus of “Hello! Hello!”

I guess you could say they gave me the bird!

Milt Huntington is the author of “A Lifetime of Laughter” and “Things That Make You Grin.”