Photo by Fred Durant

Arrg!  Cap’n Big Al, here.  Happy Hallow e’en all ye landlubbers, and make it a safe and semi-sane one.

Let me tell yer bout the day yer bout to be celebratin’.  It be round fer a mighty long time, you see, so I’ll jes give ye the fax fer now.  If ye be one o’ them skool’d types – gone on all the way up to the 3rd grade, or sech, like me brother Davy, ye can be lookin’ up the long o’ it yerself.  Since I cain’t writ meself, I done tole Davy what ta writ down here.  Davy be a good lad, but got hisself mixed up soldierin’ fer the King.

He tells me, “Big Al, yer goin’ ta wake up on the gallows some fine day ifin ye don’ quit the piratin’.”

An I tells him right back, “Better dyin’ a rich pirate, then windin’ up at the end of a sword fer the puny pay the king gives ye.”

Well, I gots information thet a Spanish galleon be headin’ this way, an’ it be loaded with gold an’ silver an’ dimonds an’ sech.  Gotta go piratin’, I do.  Hoist me sails an be lookin’ fer a fair wind.  Ye listen good to little Davy, now, he be a bright yung lad fer all ‘is other failins.

Cap’n Big Al

* * *

If you’re wondering how a man who stands 5’ 2” in his boots can be called Big Al, it’s for no other reason than that our father who stood 4’ 10” with his boots on was called Little Al.  I’m little Davy, at least to my big brother, Al, although I stand 6’ 2” in my stocking feet.  That’s because I was the youngest of 10 children.  I attended University, and Al did actually make it to the 3rd grade.  I’m a major in his majesty’s Royal Army and attached to sea duty in the Caribbean.  As for Cap’n Al ever dying rich, he’s more likely to have his ship run over and sunk by a French frigate, it’s happened, or to be outrun by a rowboat, also happened, than to actually cause a Spanish galleon to strike her colours.  Let’s get on with it, then.

* * *

Although refuted by the Christian Church, our ancient ancestors in Great Britain are believed by many to be responsible for what is today called Halloween.  Between the years 1000 – 100 B.C. they celebrated the New Year on what we now consider November 1st.   They called October 31st Samhain, (pronounced SOW ehn) and it was considered to be the end of summer.  They also considered Samhain to be a day in which a portal opened between the living and the dead – a day when the dead could return to Earth and walk among those they had left behind.  But these weren’t GOOD SPIRTS.  They were EVIL, and the Celts painted scary faces on gourds to scare them away.  They also believed that fairies dressed as beggars visited on this day and begged door-to-door for handouts.  If not appeased, the fairies would make mischief for those who refused them.

In the 800’s A.D., the Christian churches established the new holiday of All Saints’ Day on November 1st, which was also called All Hallows’ Day (Hallow meaning saint or holy).  The day before came to be called All Hallows’ Eve.  Frequent usage caused that to be referred to as All Hallows’ E’en (e’en for evening).  It was finally shortened to Halloween.

Soul cakes topped with crosses were set out with a glass of wine in the Middle Ages in the parts of Great Britain that are now England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland as an offering to the dead on All Hollows’ Eve.  Children and the poor would visit homes and sing songs for a cake to eat.  This was called souling.  They carved turnips and made them into lanterns for their trips through the dark and scary night.

Leave it to the Americans (at least the American’s in training).  In the 1600’s A.D. the New England Puritans (NOT to be confused with the New England Patriots) decided that Halloween, Christmas, and Easter were mere fabrications made up by the Catholic Church.  So they banned them all.  Halloween was not to be celebrated again for 250 years.

I surmise that in Scotland in the late 1900’s A.D., the wearing of costumes on Halloween would come into fashion.  Children would dress up in their costumes, and while carrying turnip lanterns they would go from house-to-house seeking treats.  I also surmise that those treats would be in the manner of food or coins.  I must surmise this, of course, because I’m still stuck in 1680.  EGAD!  Soldier on.

Major Davy


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