Staring out the window, I find myself at a loss for ideas as far as this column goes. Each time I think I am getting closer to an idea, I am distracted by something. At the moment it is a large collection of birds that have been circling our office building for the majority of the past two hours.
It is a scene right out of a Hitchcock movie, minus Janet Lee.
I suppose this makes sense since it is the Halloween season. I know, reading this column on Sunday means that we have missed the Halloween festivities, but there is always a touch of the holiday all year long.
A year or so ago, I wrote a column about the true meaning of St. Patrick's Day. I thought about it, and wondered if I could do the same for one of the most popular holidays of the year.
Halloween, now, is a chance for people to dress up as something they never have been and never will be and to over-indulge in candy and sweets. We put on makeup and go door-to-door asking for a handout of free junk food. But why?
The real reason is that it all started a couple thousand years ago. The Celts used a calendar that marked Nov. 1 as their new year, separating the growing season and the harvest with the long, cold winter. The winter was a time that was associated with death, and the Celts believed that on the day before the new year the ghosts of the dead would come back to earth.
The return of such spirits was believed to aid the Celtic priests in making predictions for the future. These priests, or Druids, would mark the day by building massive fires so the people could come and make sacrifices of crops and animals.
Well, these Celts would wear strange costumes made of animal heads and skins during this event. That is why you now go out and buy an $80 SpongeBob mask.
The day evolved throughout the years and by the 800s, Christianity had taken control and reclaimed the day as All-hallowmas or the eve of All Saints' Day, which honors the people who gave their lives for the faith. Eventually this evolved into Halloween.
It was the great immigration of Irish to the United States that would come to popularize the holiday here at home.
So, there you go.
Halloween in a tiny little nutshell, but what of it? Few holidays have become such an industry unto themselves. With the exclusion of Christmas, Halloween has become the pop-culture holiday. There are a million and one movies about Halloween, every candy maker on the planet stops what they are doing and starts packaging for the day and the rubber mask factories all across the country snap to attention and start pumping out whatever strange faces they can think up.
It is sometimes interesting to find out reasons why we do what we do. Now comes the best part of Halloween, the discounted candy that is no longer wanted. Now that it's over, I will be able to grab up some Reese's peanut butter pumpkins on the cheap.
I hope everyone enjoyed a safe and happy Halloween.
Joshua can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org