If you know someone who is a Celt, wish him/her a Happy New Year.
Forget Times Square and Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve. November 1 is Samhain, an important festival on the old Celtic calendar, marking the beginning of a whole new cycle.
You see, the Celts believed their day began at night, that dark silence helped spawn suggestions of new beginnings. Hence Samhain is the seasonal doorway where life slows down and new thoughts can be thunk and pondered for the year ahead.
There is much to be done before Samhain. Here's a couple of things to check against your ancient Celt to-do list:
1) Have your crops been harvested and tucked away? If not, you're toast. The faeries are gonna get 'em.
2) Do you have enough peat and wood for winter fires? With predicted oil prices, here's hoping there's plenty of woodstuff to stoke the fireplace when the winds start blowing.
On November 1, the old Celts believed the gods drew near to us earthlings, so there were great gatherings around bonfires, particularly at a place called Tara. Gifts were offered in thanks for the harvest. Individual Celts could also petition for personal healings and requests. One had to find an object symbolizing the hope or dream and cast it into the bonfire.
At the end of the shindig, one placed a stick in the great fire of Tara and brought it home to rekindle the home fire to mark the new beginning. It was believed a Celt could sense the answer to their festival request by contemplating the flames of the new Samhain fire.
As I was walking the Black Labs this evening, I noticed a bonfire and heard the sound of the Metallica rock gods down by the river. Lots of loud prayers as beer bottles were thrown into the fire, including wishes for another six-pack and just-leave-me-alone-it's-Friday-night-peace-on-earth, I suppose.