Feile Samhna – Happy Hallowe’en!

In honor of that day of the year when the door between this world and the next creeeaaaks open, I’m sharing a post I wrote on this day way back in 2008. Forgive the references to snow. It used to snow in my mountains.

Happy Hallowe’en and Feile Samhna to you all!

Without further ado, a repost from my past. Before kids:

Snow in October, Hallowe’en in My Head

On Tuesday morning, it snowed in Brevard. And not just a few, miserly flakes: the stuff came down–so thick it hid the mountains from view, and made my drive to work feel like inching through a blizzard. But, because it is the South and only October, it melted by 9 a.m.

I am a fool for snow. If it had stuck around long enough, I would’ve tromped my students outside to stand in it, and somehow managed to make the weather relate to writing… just so I could get my time in before it melted. I come by this snowmadness honestly: When I was growing up in South Carolina, my parents–especially my Dad–made snow days more magical than Christmas. (And Christmas was pretty freaking magical in my house.)

The year of the Big Snow, something everyone who grew up in the ’80s in Greenville, S.C. still talks about, it snowed well over a foot, and school was out for nearly two weeks. My father took buckets of water and washed down our driveway and road, so it’d be perfectly slick for sledding. He and his friends tied our sleds with old ski ropes to the back of someone’s Waggoneer, and they tugged us around our neighborhood for hours, the moms in the way back with the hatch open, giggling and hanging on. We sledded for hours down the hill near a local Baptist church, a gang of StayPuff marshmellow kids in our snowskiing gear (bibs, jackets, gloves, boots, hats)–which the nearest house with the nearest mom would dump into her dryer, filling us with hot chocolate before sending us out again.

My neighbors, formerly of the coast, pulled out their surfboards and removed the fins, and we surfed down the hill in front of my house. My black lab, Magic, raced circles around the house in a blur of white. Each morning, my sister and I woke up, raced to our parents’ bedroom where they had the radio on by their bed, to wait anxiously to hear whether My 102.5 would announce that school was cancelled again in Greenville County. My God, it was magic.

It doesn’t snow much any more. And even though I’ve moved to the mountains of Western North Carolina, a much higher elevation than my hometown, I’ve only seen a few inches each year–mostly ice–that melts in a day, leaves me sad and a little slushy. I long for those preternatural sunrises, pressing my face to my cold bedroom window and praying that my world would still be white. I miss the igloo my Dad and his friends built us, the real fires in the fireplaces, the way my neighborhood became a festival of friends for two straight weeks, the fun neverending.

But now, there’s Hallowe’en in my head. Feile Samhna to all!  Happiest of All Souls’ Days, All Hallow’s Eves, the night just before Samhain, the night when the door supposedly creaks open between this world and the next, and the spirits roam. No matter what anyone says, or how much we’ve ‘roided Hallowe’en up with commercialism, it is a preternatural night: a night our ancestors (just about all of them, no matter what your DNA looks like) recognized as different. If you stand outside in the chilly dark tonight, away from the squealing kids and orange lights and ringing doorbells, you might feel it brush your face, give you a little shiver. If you do, I say you’re lucky. Hallowe’en has many faces, many traditions, many legends associated with it… and not all are scary.

My husband and I have been debating for a week about what to do with ourselves tonight. Our neighborhood, which is not even a half mile from downtown, will become swamped with trick-or-treating children at about 6 p.m., and will not cease until after 10 p.m.  They are mini-vanned in from all corners of the county… and sometimes the street up from us is blocked off by police cars so the kids can wander freely. It’s not anything out of the ordinary for folks in our neighborhood to spend $400 on candy each year.

Suffice to say, we cannot afford this. And so, we flee after a time… and I think that’s what we’ll do tonight. But first, we’ll buy a couple of bags of candy from the dollar store–if they’ve any left–and pass it out to the first little ghouls, the cutest ones of the entire night, and then we’ll walk downtown to eat, maybe to a movie. We’ll leave Scout, our dog, to guard the dark house.

For the Scottish poet Rabbie Burns’s famous poem about Hallowe’en, click here.

For an interesting article on the Celtic origins of Hallwe’en, click here.

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