Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween (via the wayback machine.)

(I was getting ready to post this just before the lights went out on Monday night.)

Ancient Romans celebrated a holiday called Feralia on February 21. At first it was a simple day off to recover from the holiday of February 20 (Salvia Divinorum), and to take care of last minute shopping before the holiday of February 22 (Salta Boca).

It was, coincidentally, the last day of the year according to the Roman calendar.

Over time it became a sacred day in its own right. It became a festival to honor the dead, and like most Roman holidays it involved some serious drinking. Feralia also resembled most other Roman holidays in that it outlasted the western Roman empire. The jolly men and women of the Mediterranean basin saw no reason to give up the riotous holiday, with all its drinking and orgies, despite countless reminders from an ascendant Christian church that drinking was bad (unless it was Jesus' blood) and orgies were worse.

At last, in the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV decided that the holiday was Christian after all, except that instead of honoring all the dead it should honor only dead saints, that instead of Feralia it should be called All Saints' Day, that instead of drinking and orgies it should be a day of prayer and meditation, and that instead of February 21 it should be observed on May 13.

The good peoples of the Christian world happily accepted the new name and date, but persisted in drinking and orgying. As punishment for this inappropriate enjoyment, Pope Gregory III moved it to November 1, and unwittingly laid the foundation for our modern Halloween.

Hold that thought.

Since as early as the 5th century BC, the ancient Celts had considered October 31 the last day of summer. They called the day Samhain (rhymes with Clamhain), and they believed all the divisions between the world of the living and the world of the dead were dissolved for that brief period. They thought the dead used this window of opportunity to possess the souls of the living, and the thought scared the piss out of them.

A variety of bizarre rituals to ward off the dead accumulated around Samhain over the centuries, including the sacrificial burning of virgins (when any could be found).

When these Celtic rituals collided with the Christian All Saints' Day, all hell broke loose. People didn't know whether they should pray, drink, orgy, burn virgins, or what. They tried a lot of different combination: they got drunk and prayed, they burned virgins and got drunk, they prayed to have orgies and got drunk with virgins, they prayed then got drunk and had orgies with virgins.

Eventually they settled on sending their kids out in silly costumes to ask their neighbors for candy. This was intended to keep them out of the house while the drinking and orgies raged, but since everyone's doorbells kept ringing from everyone else's children, the drinking and orgies gradually faded away.

Of course, this brief outline only traces the development of Halloween as we know it in America. The holiday is still celebrated in countries all over the world in an astonishing number of ways.

In Bulgaria, for example, October 31 is a national holiday called Pazardzhik. In rural districts, children dress up as kitchen utensils and dash from farm to farm tying chickens' feet together. Any unhappy farmer attempting to shoo the children away from his chickens will find himself pelted with manure and glass shards as the children sing playful Pazardzhik carols. In Mexico, the Day of the Dead lasts from October 31 through November 2, which has long been a concern to students of the Mexican calendar. The celebration is a fusion of sixteenth-century Spaniards' All Souls' and All Saints' Days and the Aztec festival honoring Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec goddess of the dead. (Mictecacihuatl was said to have died at birth as the result of complications relating to pronunciation.)

One can't help but marvel at the similarities between the Day of the Dead that arose in Meso-America and Kyrgyzstan's Day of the Very Sick (Nov 1), Papua New Guinea's Evening of the Emotionally Exhausted (Oct 31), and Vanuatu's Cardiovascular Appreciation Days (Oct 31 - Nov 2).

In Saudi Arabia, October 31 is Sandy Night. As soon as the sun sets, children scamper out into the desert and fill their home-made bags with sand. The holiday is believed to be derived from the ancient Bedouin tradition of sending children out to fill bags with sand.

In Chile, Halloween is infused with ancient Incan traditions. Fretful mothers extinguish the fires in their hearths for fear of attracting Spaniards while naughty children take their parents hostage and demand their weight in chocolate.

In Wittenberg, Germany, October 31 is celebrated as the day on which Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in 1517. Many of the town's children frolic giddily about, nailing Theses here and there with impish delight, while others try to catch and burn them as heretics.

Whatever your own tradition, enjoy Halloween. Be carefull out there though - if there is no power or lights in your area. why not stay inside.

Enjoy your day

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Runnin' over with joy

 (Sorry for the delay in posting.  I'll try to get back into a regular schedule.)

Today’s Desert Island Disc conversation is with my friend Vivian. I met Vivian about 16 or 17 years ago when we were both working at MTV Networks (Once again, NOT a Bronx High School of Science alumni, only making her that much more interesting to know.)  Not only is she a dear friend of Mary and mine and one of the most warm-hearted persons we know - our daughters look to her as one of their favorite 'aunties'.

We've spent many a happy dinner time with Vivian laughing and playing games with the kids and as any relative will tell you, she is excited to be with us (and happy she can go home and leave the kids with us.)

Vivian had for many years worked in the television industry. She is currently working as a Program Manager at Beth Israel Medical Center, (but she could be coaxed back into the not so glamorous world of TV - just ask her.)

Music: (in no particular order)

1.)  Swearin' to God  Frankie Valli 

I was definitely a fan of the Four Seasons, back in the day.  Pop music was a very big part of my life from grade school through college.  If it was on the radio, I was singing along!

Whenever I hear the song, it takes me back to my sweet youth in Brooklyn.  My first apartment was on Coney Island Ave near Kings Highway.  I was one of the first people in my group to be on my own, so my apartment was a regular hangout for mine and my brother's friends.  The song also reminds me of the good times I had,  hanging out with friends dancing the hustle, (that's the only place we did the disco dancing ... never out in public.)  I'm sure if asked many of those people now, they would deny ever having taken a step. 

2.)  Vivaldi's  The Four Seasons

This is a great piece of music and listening to this piece reminds me that I actually do like some classical music!  There wasn't a lot of classical music in our house when I was growing up.  My first real introduction to classical music was at a friend's house.   Her father loved classical music and it was always playing when I visited. That's where I heard "The Four Seasons." 

I also had a boyfriend who played piano and he introduced me to Tchaikovsky and Chopin. Earlier in my career,  working at WNET broadened my horizon and also introducted me to other works.   

3.)  Out of Africa Soundtrack

I had been a fan of Meryl Streep (still am) and this film left quite an impression on me.  I admire the fact that her character faced all of her hardships and challenges with such grace and courage.  When things get tough, listening to this soundtrack feeds my soul. There's are a few other John Barry soundtracks that I enjoy very much, particularly Dances With Wolves and The Lion In Winter.

4.)  I've Got You Under My Skin  Frank Sinatra

I've always loved listening to Sinatra sing .  This song in particular has a very special memory: I was working on a Sinatra special one time and it happened to be my birthday. There is nothing that compares to sitting in a dark, intimate edit room on your birthday watching and listening to him perform this song just for you.  An exquisite memory.

5.)  Imagine  John Lennon 

The song always makes me think, if only ... 

I think I was 11 or 12 when the Beatles' music started playing on US radio.  I remember having an "I love Paul" button in the seventh grade but I wasn't one of those "screamer". I probably wore the button more because all the girls wore a button and I wanted to be one of the group.  I don't have a particular Beatles period I love more than other.  If I had to choose only one Beatles album it would be Abbey Road.

6.)  Living On A Prayer  Bon Jovi

It not that I'm a big Bon Jovi fan. This song makes me think of the video game Rockband and having fun playing it with two very special girlfriends. (Editors note: I wish I had a video to show you of Vivian rocking out on Rockband with my daughters.)

7.)  Feels So Good  Chuck Mangione

When I listen to this song it always puts a smile on my face and since it has so many "voices," I think it would be a really uplifting listen on my deserted island.  I'd heard the album The Land of Make Believe and liked a few of songs from it. The album got me interested in Chuck Mangione.  I'd lost touch with his work after Children of Sanchez. Now I'm thinking it might be nice to get re-acquainted.

8.)  Island in the Sun  Weezer

This song calls to mind a beautiful memory I have of my nephew and the joy and excitement on his face when we were in Maui on vacation. We were driving along the highway and had to pull over to the side of the road to witness an amazing double rainbow  and this song was playing on the radio.

What Book would you take with you?:
Vivian decided to bring a beautiful coffee-table book with her - Van Gogh:  The Complete PaintingsI asked her what specifically about Van Gogh spoke to her?  

Have been thinking about this one and really can't come up with anything specific.  The first time I saw a Van Gogh painting (in high school art class) it was love at first sight!  The colors, the intensity, the series of self-portraits, are all something I never tire of. (We'll send an actual coffee table with her for the book.)

What one luxury item would you bring with you?:
Vivian decided to bring a King Size Comforter with her (no particular brand) and a (hypo-allergenic) bed pillow! 

Monday, October 8, 2012

I've taken to my bed

I collapsed soon after I attempted to caption this photo:

the possibilities were endless and my brain could not compute them all.