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October 31, 2011 - Stephen Browne
Amang the bonie winding banks,
Where Doon rins, wimplin, clear;
Where Bruce ance rul'd the martial ranks,
An' shook his Carrick spear;
Some merry, friendly, countra-folks
Together did convene,
To burn their nits, an' pou their stocks,
An' haud their Halloween
Fu' blythe that night.
"Halloween" by Robert Burns
Halloween is from "All Hallows E'en" the evening before All Saints Day. It's older than that though, once associated with the Celtic holiday of Samhain (pronounced "Sow-een") a ancient end-of summer festival when the mundane world and the supernatural world are supposed to be particularly close.
I have fond memories of trick-or-treating as a child, but the most awesome Halloweens I've spent were in Poland. There, like a lot of European countries, it's a solemn festival called "The Day of the Dead."
Families go to the graveyard and sweep off the tombstones (usually horizontal there) with pine boughs and place candles on them. At night the entire cemetery is lit up with thousands of candles, absolutely beautiful. Very different from ours though.
A Polish academic once told me, "That's because Americans turn everything into a party, even death."
Happy Halloween everyone!
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