Hallowe’en

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Happy Hallowe’en all! Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening, wherever ye may read this. Today is Halloween, a grand old Celtic tradition that made its way to North America in the wake of An Gorta Mor. It has other names too, such as All Hallow’s Eve, or All Saint’s Eve. This makes November 1st All Saint’s Day, a global celebration of the London girl group popular in the late 90s and early 00s, and also the long running Australian medical drama that aired in the early mornings and afternoons when I was in secondary school. Ah, great times. No, in all seriousness, All Saint’s Day is a feast of the rememberance of the saints. This makes Halloween the eve of the feast of saints and was a celebration of the dead, at least in Celtic culture.

The festival of Halloween came from the Irish Celtic festival ‘Samhain’, which means ‘summer’s end’, or ‘end of harvest’. Samhain brought about the darker half of the year, probably from mid October until mid April. The border between the human world and the spiritual world was very limited during these few days, meaning that the Aos Si, or faeries, were more active in our world. Old stories of the Aos Si would have been passed down from generation to generation, meaning people knew the powers they had. Offerings of food, drink and crops were left outside people’s houses so that their family would survive the winter.
From as early as the 16th century there are records of people dressing up, or ‘guising’, while going door to door and reciting verse for food. In the 18th century costumes and pranks began to appear in records in the U.K. In all likelihood these early guises were of the Aos Si, the faeries, and other mythical Celtic creatures. You wouldn’t find a sexy witch walking around the town reciting old poems for a bit of bread!
Halloween made its way to the land of the free in the wake of mass Irish and Scottish immigration in the 19th century. This emigration from Ireland was, of course as a result of the Famine. The Celtic tradition was introduced to the Americans and over the last 250 years has been made into a humongous commercial holiday in the States. The holiday is no longer solely about the celebration of the dead and the saints. It is now a combination of entertainment for kids, partying for adults and thrill seeking for horror fans.

I loved Halloween growing up. I loved the dressing up part of it and going trick or treating with my brothers and parents. It is magical as a child. Maybe not as magical as Christmas or your birthday, but it is a special day nonetheless. Going to the community hall in Rathpeacon to bob for apples and listen to scary stories was so much fun. Everyone was so proud of their costumes. Vampires, zombies and monsters would all be beaming up, the happiest group of undead you ever did see. If I remember correctly, a friend of mine dressed up as a mini Hitler one year for a competition in school. He looked the part. He did not win.
As we got older it obviously turned more social. Trick or treating with friends turned into a few naggins down the Gaa Woods or the tower road. Dressing up didn’t happen in the back fields as we tried to give ourselves alcohol poisoning.
A few years later during college we were all dressing up again. Alcohol was still a major factor, as it should be, which probably gave me the courage to dress up as a woman in first year in collge. God, I was pretty.

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I haven’t been able to do much the last few halloweens, working the night shift tonight and last year too. It doesn’t bother me that much as it saves me from a mahoosive hangover the next day but the fun of heading out with all your friends and everyone beaming when people compliment their costume is almost childlike. If it weren’t for the booze, cigarettes and riding going on all around us you could nearly be transported back to bobbing for apples and listening to scary stories with your mates.

Nostalgia

At the end of the day, life is built on memories. Every new experience, group of friends and places we visit and live shape us as people. We make new memories everywhere we go. We spend 5 days a week for 14 years with our best friends in school, and often spend whole summers with them in between. We head off to college and make a new group of friends, sometimes losing touch with old friends and only consistenly seeing a handful. It’s new and it’s scary but it’s freeing. We have more freedom. Some of us graduate and some of us don’t. Some of us don’t go to college. Some of us move away and some stay at home. Some of us will get married and have children and some of us won’t. In all likelihood, some of us will live happy, fulfilling lives and some of us won’t. But we will all make memories. Sometimes it is good to take stock and reflect on where we’ve come from and where we’re going.

I am lucky enough to hold dual citizenship and don’t have to worry about overstaying a visa. A number of my friends here aren’t in that position and are forced to stay here until their status becomes more positive. I can head home at any time I want while they have to stay which makes me feel a bit of misplaced guilt. It’s not my fault that they can’t leave. The guilt comes from being able to satisfy my nostalgic needs if they get too high. I’m not one to let homesickness get the best of me but if there was ever a time that I needed to go home, I could. Nostalgia is a fickle friend, filling you up with happiness and longing all at once.

I follow alot of Irish tourism pages on Instagram and Facebook. I watch a lot of Irish t.v, sports and documentaries on t.v. and streaming services. I keep in touch with friends from home all over the world, thanks to the wonders of social media. I like to keep up with what is going on and scratch my itch of seeing home every once in a while. However, nostalgia and memories can creep up on you and leave you in a heap. A picture of Cork City from Patrick’s hill recently just dropped me back to when I was 11 years old and going to open nights for secondary school. Christian Brother’s School was on the list. I had a knot in the middle of my stomach as I walked through the school, knowing it was more expensive than the other schools. Even then, I worried about money. I knew this wasn’t the school for me and thankfully, despite one of my best friends going to that school, I chose Blarney, where I made other best friends. I chose Music as an elective even though I didn’t particularly like singing in public and only being able to play the tin whistle at an average grade. That class brought me my first girlfriend, constant laughs and most importantly, two of my best friends. We had trips to Dublin where we played Bullshit on the train and went to operas and didn’t understand them, secret looks that we shot at each other in class and inside jokes we would laugh about all the time. I went to different colleges than those friends from the class and we didn’t see each other as much anymore. I wouldn’t say we drifted apart but relationships and distance didn’t bring us any closer.

Thankfully, through living in different countriess and coasts of the same country, and with the help of modern technology, we’re still extremely close. Any awkwardness or distance is forgotten as soon as I see these two girls again and we go for food and gossip and chats. We talk about old times and new times and new memories we have all made in our respective new homes.
I have loads of other memories with these two and with all my close friends from home that I happen to think about randomly from time to time. I could list off pages upon pages of memories with other close friends but the fact is this particular picture put my brain on this particular path to think of these particular girls who I am very lucky to call my friends.
Sometimes I do feel guilty that my buddys here won’t get to see their homeland as soon as I can, but I know that in the future when we are all there together for a wedding or an event or just a casual meet-up, we’ll make new memories.