I hope you noticed the apostrophe there in the word Hallowe'en folks. It is there because e'en is short for evening just as e'er and ne'er are old-fashioned short forms of ever and never. The "Hallow" part is short for All-hallows, and that is a very old way of saying All-holies, or All-saints. So, the first of November is the day on which we should remember all the holy people, known and unknown, down through the ages, and Hallowe'en is the evening before that. Q.E.D.
Somewhere along the line the notion grew up that the other crowd, Old Brimstone's buddies, who couldn't even bribe their way into All Souls – on the second of November – chose Hallowe'en to whoop it up and be unpleasant. And so that night they rushed about being mean and nasty and swishing their tails. Their trouble was, that instead of being In Command, terrible and frightening as they might really be, they only looked ridiculous. They had already lost the battle away back a millennium or two ago, and there were the Saints right in front of them to remind them of the fact. So, instead of being lions and tigers in the heart of darkness they are only domesticated pussycats with falsetto voices, fiercely demanding – trick or treat!
Well I got to thinking about the way we seem these days always to be celebrating things before they happen so that, when the big day finally comes, we can all breathe a sigh of relief and say, "Thank goodness that's over," and go back to business as usual. In the case of Hallowe’en, we ignore the day entirely, preferring to remember the devils and forget the saints.
Have you ever noticed how, if you want to buy a new shirt to wear in the Summer, you have to buy it in the dead of Winter because by the time Summer comes all they are selling is Back-to-school-clothes? My wardrobe has been getting steadily more and more dilapidated because I can't bring myself to buy a short-sleeved shirt when the temperature on the back porch is a couple of clapboards below freezing.
Christmas is the same way. I expect any day now to hear about the number of shopping days I have left to procrastinate in. Everything happens before Christmas, like one of those rocket launchings down in Florida. The count-down starts, things get more and more tense until there is a roar and a tremendous lot of local activity, with smoke and lights and all, and a few minutes later it's all over.
Seems to me elections and political life are in the same pickle. Where did all these pollsters come from? Were they always there, but kept in dark corners, where they didn't bother anybody, or have they suddenly materialized? I don't really think they are space aliens – they're too much in tune with the times for that. But every time you turn around these days there is another poll being announced that says nine out of 10 dentists believe that the world will end before a cure for tooth decay is found, or something equally startling. It's hardly worth-while to hold an election anymore because the pollsters have already declared the winner usually before the balloting is over. We don't seem to care what happens really. When was the last time you heard a news broadcaster announce the last seven predictions about whatever it was, to have turned out be all wet?
Even banks have gotten into the anticipation act, and when something as conservative as a bank starts talking to you like a Mississippi gambler, watch out! But there they are, handing out little plastic cards that enable you to have it all, and have it now, even if you don't have, and almost certainly won't have, the money to pay for it.
Humans have always done some petty things, I guess, and so there is no real cause for concern. The situation is hopeless but not serious, as the fellow said, and next week or next year we will have invented some new form of madness to amuse ourselves with. One thing worries me though. Have you noticed that fall came early this year?
Words & Images
We moved to our farm in Sussex, New Brunswick from Toronto in 1977, only moving away in 2014.