Saturday, 31 October 2009

All hail Halloween




I was rather miffed in an icy English way when trying to make a rendezvous for youngest a couple of weeks ago. The Orthophoniste, leaning over her desk, pen hovering, said “hmm you will be going to England for the holidays so we shall have to book a rendezvous after school re starts”.

“How dare she presume we would be trooping back to England” I growled at youngest en route home, I bristled at been branded with those expats who hurtled backwards and forwards across the channel like demented yo-yo’s . How, I seethed a vrai Madame Grognonne, did she know we were going to England anyway! We rarely go, well only for funerals or the visiting of sick relatives, which is what in fact we were doing this time.

“C’est Toussaint” said youngest with the calm tone reserved for idiots . Thus the truth dropped with an audible clunk. It is indeed Toussaint and of course she would presume we were going “home” nothing to do with my compatriots’ obsession with returning to stock up on sliced white mothers pride or instant gravy browning at all. She had just assumed that, I like any good Breton would be travelling to the land of my fathers to visit and honour the family graves armed with car load of Chrysanthemums like some mad peripatetic paysagist.

Despite the jollity of Chrysanthemums (can they be jolly? I am not sure but in the language of flowers the symbolize Cheerfulness, optimism, rest, truth, long life, joy except bizarrely in Europe where it is the symbol of death and grief so you rarely see them used as garden or house plants here) there is a certain penetrating sadness about Toussaint, it marks the passing of time, the loss of old friends and family and the changing of ways of life. Not many I suspect keep the all night vigil at the graveside as they once did. But at least they are remembered around the dinner table where the family meet in the dark of All Hallows eve and tell old stories of the dead family members, gone but not forgotten. It is important to mark the passing of the year to remember how deep our Racine’s run no matter how far we have grown from our place and people who gave us life.

Historically the Celts started the whole dressing up as ghouls and making a racket thing. They would extinguish their fires dress up as horrible ghouls and wander the village making lots of noise and generally being unpleasant in an effort to discourage lost spirits attempting to hijack the bodies of the living. Summer officially ended on November 1st in the Celtic calendar with the feast of Samhain and it was on the eve of that feast that the barrier which kept apart the worlds between living and dead was weakest thus allowing disenchanted spirits to pop back to the old world to see what they could grab, a bit like the expats with their sliced white loaves I suppose.





Anyway The pumpkins are lit and my two ghouls are all dressed up ready to trot off and maraud about the Bourg as soon as Daddy gets home from work. Meanwhile outside the owls are hooting and the dogs are howling fit to wake the dead and I shall sit in the kitchen preparing dragons blood and witches eyes for tea and remembering those who have gone before us marked one hopes with the sign of peace. I do hope they are marked with the sign of peace, I really do not think I have the wit or wisdom to do battle with evil spirits this evening although I may manage a gin at a push!

10 comments:

Preseli Mags said...

Well cheers! I hope the only evil spirits you encounter are gin-shaped too. A lovely, thoughtful blog. Enjoy your blood and eyes!

Elizabethd said...

Definitely stay with the gin, so much healthier than eyes etc.

Fennie said...

Oh gosh, well I'm glad I am on this side of two Channels (if you count the Bristol) which you should, I suppose - but as one Celtic Nation to another - did you know the one thing that connected Exocets, the Britsh and Argentinians in the Falklands war was the Welsh/Breton language, Brittany being the place where Exocets are made, so I'm told and Welsh being the common language of many of the soldiers on both sides in this improbably anachronistic but sad conflict - anyway - so no pumpkins for me - dai iawn, os gwelwch yn dda. Curiously enough I am just off know to have dinner with my French neighbour - also from Brittany - as it turns out, but not returning to the land of her fathers (I hope) otherwise I shall go hungry this night.

Pondside said...

All my ancestors are buried on Cape Breton, with the exception of the G-Grandmother who is under a beautiful tree in Vancouver. We won't be visiting any graves tonight, but I'll be sitting with my sister as she gives out candy at her door. I like to see the little ones all dressed up.

Frances said...

You've beautifully given a truly contemporary lesson on what is so good about traditions and what each year might contribute to evolving those traditions.

xo

ChrisH said...

Beautifully written. Hope the visit to England wasn't too traumatic.

bayou said...

How I enjoyed reading that! Really very nicely put in words and so touching. And so true for the chrysanthèmes flowers.

Tattie Weasle said...

Now I understand why the Welsh have a thing about death! Auntie Mary 144 and Nanna always went on about dying long before actually either of them did - I fear it is in the blood.

Friko said...

Not fair, not fair at all, talking about All-Saints and All-Souls when I can't go back home to the graves of my forefathers etc. etc. Well I could, but there's nobody left to sit round the table with and reminisce. I got to do it all by my lonesome and lonesome it do feel, particularly during high days and holy days. On top of it all I went to a Catholic girls' school and although I have been a lapsed catholic for decades you can take the girl away from catholicism but you can't take catholicism out of the girl.

muddyboots said...

I really am not a great fan of chrysanths, to big,flash & floppy for my liking, now a good white cana lily your talking! Have always found graveyards fascinating places. Finding old family graves covered in ivy & lichen, Mum used to tell the tale of one grave at l think clehongar that belonged to a little girlwho ate the berries of the wild arum thinking they were strawberries, not ghoulish at all me.