The Orange and Black

Time to carve a gourd, it’s Halloween!

Here it comes. Creeping down dark alleys. Overturning garbage cans and spooking black cats. The scariest day of the year. With the exception of your next birthday, that is: Halloween. All Hallow’s Eve. The night preceding All Saint’s Day. Time to carve a gourd.

Besides being an excellent excuse to gorge on candy corn and toffee apples, it is also an occasion used by many religions to honor deceased relatives by placing lighted candles on the graves of the dead. Probably where that whole ghosts and witches and ghouls and devils thing got started. How pink princesses, Ninja Turtles and Mickey Mouse got thrown into the mix, is anyone’s guess.

Supposedly, Celtic pagans (or is it pagan Celtics) originated the merrymaking way back in the B.C.s with something called Samhain, a harvest festival halfway between the autumnal equinox and the Winter Solstice. Designed as a blowout before the onset of winter, (Winter is coming!) it featured much feasting and not a little drinking, if you catch my drift. There very well may have been carousing. Not to mention reveling and frolicking. These were pagans, after all.

Then around the 8th century, Catholics introduced All Saints Day into their liturgical calendar to honor dead saints; just happening to coincide with the extant partying. So all good little Christians could still have their fun honoring dead people; but do it in the name of the Lord instead of some Wicker Guy destined to burn up in a big bonfire. If you can’t beat em, conjoin em.

Today Halloween has morphed into a hodgepodge of ever evolving rituals including scary movies and wearing costumes and traipsing door to door begging for treats and threatening to play tricks if none are given. Behavior, seemingly leaked over from Halloween’s holiday neighbor: Election Day.

In some municipalities the orange and black has become nothing less than a loosely organized bacchanalia. (named after Bacchus, one of the old gods of which we previously spoke) Entire districts of whole towns given over to mass feasting and much drinking and very definitely — carousing. Because we are the neopagans. Of course, for those living in San Francisco and New Orleans, Halloween is redundant.

It is a murky and confusing time, which may come from October and November stemming from the words eight and nine, but being the tenth and eleventh months of the year. For this we can thank Julius, that wacky Emperor, who altered the Roman calendar from 10 months to 12, naming one of them after himself. And his buddy Augustus. It was a Caesar thing. Like a salad.

Then, when Halloween ends, the black and orange will be taken down and the red and green will go up. And every third radio station will begin playing non-stop Christmas songs. Another Christian celebration merging with a pagan one. Saturnalia was held following the solstice to celebrate the dragon not eating the sun, and the return of the light. Again: pretty much exactly what Christmas is all about.

Then down the line, there will New Year’s Eve, and both it and Christmas and Thanksgiving, will all be observed by a whole lot of feasting and not a little drinking. Not to mention carousing, reveling and frolicking. Oh, my, yes, there will be frolicking. Anyone beginning to detect a pattern here?

Will Durst is an award-winning, nationally acclaimed political comic. Go to for more about the documentary film “3 Still Standing,” and a calendar guide to personal appearances such as his hit one- man show “BoomeRaging: From LSD to OMG.”

Will Durst
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