Everyday Is Halloween

At last, it is here! Our beautiful holiday, the finest of all holidays, Halloween!! And since this year it’s on a Wednesday I get  bookends of revelry!! Last weekend was full of mayhem, both in celebration of the All Hallow’s Season and another very important event here in San Francisco--the Giants winning the World Series. So party goers and baseball fans, clad in clown wigs and witch hats, spilled out of bars and homes alike, throwing black and orange streamers high into the air. (Black and orange happen to be the team colors–fitting for freaky SF.) The streets were mobbed, City Hall was lit up orange, and fireworks exploded in the sky.

This next weekend is the wonderful Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) parade and celebration in SF’s Mission District, including amazing altars to honor those who have died and celebrate the beauty of life.  And in between, there are bat cookies to bake, fake mustaches to perfect, candles to light, and candy to procure. Here’s a song to get you in the spirit:  Everyday is Halloween  by Industrial music gods Ministry in their earlier gothpop days.

Though I’ve been busy I do want to share with you one of my favorite stories about the origins of Jack O’Lanterns.

Wandering Jack
The origins of the jack-o’-lantern are told in a popular Irish folk tale. A man named Jack chased the devil into a tree, then drew a cross on its trunk so the devil couldn’t get down. Pleased with himself, Jack walked away, back to his rather unseemly life of greed and sloth. When Jack died, he was denied access to heaven for being sinful. And the devil, who had eventually managed to get out of that tree, wouldn’t let Jack into hell, either. Jack was doomed to walk the earth forever. The devil, in a rare sympathetic mood, felt pity for Jack and gave him some burning coal to light his way. Jack was eating a turnip at the time. He took one bite, decided he would rather go hungry, and put the burning coal inside the turnip. And that was the first jack-’o lantern ever made. When Halloween came to the United States, people started making their jack-o’-lanterns out of pumpkins.

And for those of you who may be plunged into darkness more than usual thanks to the Frankenstorm, may the lights of the Jack O’Lantern guide you home!

Ray Bradbury Is So Cool

I was settling into my annual reading of The Halloween Tree, which is a ritual I have invoked and maintained for the last few post-Halloweens–a great way to come down from the witches’ high of the Big Night and prepare for Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead.  I was savoring my copy of the book–pilfered from my Grandma’s basement when I was but a teen–and I noticed something for the first time in several years. The words on the dedication page read thus:

With love for

MADAM MAN’HA GAREEAU-DOMBASLE

met twenty-seven years ago in the graveyard at midnight on the Island of Janitzio at Lake Patzcuaro, Mexico, and rememebered on each anniversary of The Day of the Dead

Oh now, I have read these words before. But I hadn’t noticed them of late and this is significant because I actually visited that island! I guess Ray Bradbury was in my subconcious because two years ago on The Day of the Dead I was crouching behind mourners and candlelight vigils, taking orb-ladened photos and sips from a flask as the icy chill of midnight and the mountain lake’s waters settled all around us.  I was in the same cemetery as Bradbury, doing the same thing. Only he is way cooler because he did it back before it was really something tourist did. The influence of the Mexican culture, specifically their Day of the Dead tratiitons are all over Bradbury’s books.

In honor of his friend, and in honor of a few of mine who have gone to the great beyond, tonight I burn the candle I bought on Isla Janitzio those moons ago. And I think of those who have passed, the loved ones, the family and friends, and even the forgotten souls who wander. Tonight is the celebration of life in honor of the dead. And if you are lucky enough to live somewhere with a celebration, its time to paint your face like a skeleton and join the parade!!