According to an old Welsh saying:
Mae mellt a tharanau cyn Calan Gaeaf yn erthylu’r tywydd garw.
(Lightning and thunder before Hallowe’en prevents severe weather.)
Most unlikely here in San Francisco…the driest October can only mean a rough winter ahead if this saying holds true. Cymru (Wales), over the weekend, experienced a severe storm: a mild winter ahead.
Thursday is Calan Gaeaf, the Eve of Winter. This is time of celebrations and playing tricks. On the Llŷn Peninsula, ghosts return to wander the earth:
“Nos Galan Gaea’
Bwbach ar bob camfa.”
A spirit on every stile.”
Until recently, children in Cymru didn’t participate in the Hallowe’en Trick or Treat events that were so much a part of my American childhood. The origins of “Trick or Treat” are in Boston in the 19th Century when Irish children were encouraged, on All Hallows’ Eve – a Christian holy day on the eve of All Souls’ Day – to ask for money and food from neighbors. This supplemented the family’s very small income since adults couldn’t find much work at that time.
A similar activity is practiced by children in Cymru on Y Calan (New Year’s Day) called a calennig. The children visit neighbors, sing or recite poetry at the door until the occupants offer a small gift of coins. Unfortunately, like many traditions, Canu Calennig (New Year Singing) is disappearing.
Another Irish import is the carved pumpkin. In Ireland, turnips or beets were used. The pumpkin is a particularly Czech influence, as is the pumpkin pie!
Hallowe’en was popularized in Cymru, largely by the film, E.T., but is still not as widely practiced as it is in American culture. By now, All Hallow’s Eve has taken on an industrial quality as well as an astonishing appeal to adults. However much I once enjoyed horror movies, the escalation of what constitutes scary has far exceeded pleasurable from my point of view. The celebrations have also lost most of their Christian connection as has Christmas.
None the less, I will be waiting at the door with my bowl of treats, suitably disguised with dripping and creepy, ready to put a little fright into supplicants for candy. I hope they don’t scare me too much!