Oíche Shamhna

Latimer: I love Halloween. There’s something about it. And it’s not that I do anything on Halloween- I sort of prefer not to. I like to just ‘be’ on Halloween. I might watch ‘A Nightmare Before Christmas’- I might not.

 There’s something in the air; the world is a very beautiful place this time of year. The chilliness, the memories maybe, of my childhood, when I used to trick-or-treat; and the bonfire! Ah the bonfire, I haven’t been to one in literally years! They don’t do them anymore where I live. Health and safety reasons I’m sure (as I’ve been saying a lot lately).

It used to be that my brothers and sisters and their friends (all older than me at the time- well, still are, but at the time they were older children!)- they would go house to house collecting stuff to use to make the bonfire. And then there was always a dummy/puppet person made for the event. Okay, it sounds weird, but it’s more like the real Halloween- it was symbolic I think. The puppet person was put on the top of the bonfire. Making said puppet involved stuffing an old pair of pyjamas with newspaper and some balloons.

On Halloween night they’d set the whole thing alight. The balloons would pop and bang- very dramatic… that sounds weird to have a burning puppet, but there wasn’t anything macabre in it, even though it was Halloween.

 Now, I don’t remember exactly because I was very young at the time, but I’m SURE there was adult supervision involved in all of this- of course!

Ah, there was a sense of community that night… I have fond memories of finishing trick-or-treating and going to see the bonfire. Darkness, the light of a towering inferno of flames, spinning tires… I don’t know where the tires came from!- but I have a memory of them… anyway, point is, there was a feeling of ancient-ness to the affair. Because that was the old Samhain festival- a harvest, and a fire to keep away the evil spirits on a cold, dark night… that was the old idea, and in some ways when I was young it was more like that old festival than it is now.

I mean, everyone used to have bonfires back then. But now, I’m sure that isn’t the case. Who on earth would let someone have a huge bonfire… ah, it’s a pity. I miss that old ritual. There’s a real sense of the true Halloween in it.

I’m recalling it now as we head into another Halloween, which seems to get overlooked by Christmas. Well, it’s all commercialised to be-damned now… there’s something tacky and un-true about it. It’s just about dressing up… but I miss the old bonfires and the idea of celebrating an ancient festival. I wish it was more like that. I’m nostalgic for my youth I guess or more accurately, the youthful memory of Halloween I have.

There’s something ancient about the night, a connection to the past. It’s a festival of the Irish, Welsh and Scottish really. That’s where it comes from; so it’s a connection literally to my past. There’s certain things we do that never really transferred to other places with the rest of the concept. A small thing that I can think of is barmbrack. We have it every year in my house. Other people in Ireland do too. It’s a cake filled with raisins and fruit and then there’s a little gold (not real) ring hidden inside it.

I’m beginning to think the reason I like Halloween so much is because I have really good memories of Halloween as a child. Going back to my friends house we used to count out what we had gotten- up-ending our bags, rejoicing in the sweets and crisps and tossing the apples and nuts aside! Ah, it’s a good time of the year.

I don’t know what anyone else out there in the vast world does during Halloween- maybe nothing, maybe it doesn’t even register, maybe it’s just dressing up in a magical way for a party… well, whatever it may be, have a nice Oíche Shamhna everyone!

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