Like many avid genealogists, I find myself looking at my roots often. As Saint Patrick’s Day rolls around, I find myself contemplating my Irish roots. I’m sure there are more than I can begin to count, but I specifically know of the Shaw family. These are my grandmother, Harriett Byer’s ancestors. The thing that I find to be sad is that the records are not as extensive as I wish they were. My DNA connects me to this family, but the 1600s is as far as I have been able to trace. I suppose that many people would think that the 1600s is a long way back, but it is barely to the point of their immigration from Ireland to the United States. Even in America, the records aren’t well kept. I find it quite sad that some families are so meticulous in their record keeping, while others just weren’t.
My Grandma Byer and her siblings were proud of their Irish roots. In their later years, they took a trip to Ireland to search for family information, graves, and living family members. I’m not sure if they found much information, but without computers, information was harder to find then. It’s not that computers didn’t exist, but rather the simple fact that none of them knew how to use one. Nevertheless, they had a wonderful trip. They explored castles, town and villages, and they saw the amazing green fields that are synonymous of Ireland. They also did something that I have found interesting, when the had the opportunity to kiss the Blarney Stone. For those who don’t know about the Blarney Stone, “The Blarney Stone (Irish: Cloch na Blarnan) is a block of Carboniferous limestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle, Blarney, about 8 kilometers (5 miles) from Cork, Ireland. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of the gab (great eloquence or skill at flattery).” It’s really just a goofy tradition, but I suppose it is a fun idea, and one they decided was worth testing.
The big Saint Patrick’s Day parties are far more an American tradition than it is as Irish one. In fact, people might be surprised at the real background of the day. Saint Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day in the early 17th century and is observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Lutheran Church. In reality, It is a day that commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. It also celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general. Celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals, cèilidhs (a social event at which there is Scottish or Irish folk music and singing, traditional dancing, and storytelling), and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks. Some Catholic Christians also attend church services and historically in Ireland the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol were lifted for the day, which is likely where the holiday’s tradition of alcohol consumption came from. So, whether you celebrate in the tradition of America or the tradition of Ireland, Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to one and all.
When I was a kid, dressing up for Halloween was for kids. Things have changed since then and these days you see lots of adults going to parties, teenagers roaming the streets trick or treating, scaring kids or just acting weird…and of course, there are still the little kids doing their usual thing…collecting candy. It’s the night when everything is turned upside down. Kids are taken to do things they normally aren’t allowed to do…knock on the doors in their neighborhoods and ask for candy. Of course, most are also, schooled in all the safety tips designed to keep then safe as they go, because lets face it, they are excited, and there is always the possibility of one of them running across the street without really looking first…hence the need for watchful parents.
It’s much different today, than things were in my day, because while my dad always took us out trick or treating, we didn’t have to be worried about the candy we received. We made a haul. In fact, we took a pillowcase to collect our candy in, knowing full well that we would almost fill it up, and sometimes we even had to go home, empty it out and go out again. These days, kids only go to the homes of people they know…for the most part. Candy must be x-rayed to assure its safety. Many children are taken to places like the mall or to parties. All this to insure their safety in this unsafe world we live in now.
Most of the teenagers either don’t participate, work, or stay at home to hand out candy, but lots of them go out with their friends. One hopes that the majority of those teenagers are not out getting into trouble, but often that is not the case. At least for the troublemaking group. There are still good teenagers, who respect authority, their parents, and their elders. I am thankful that I live in a state where most teenagers are still taught good values, and I wish that was so in all the states in our nation.
This year, my youngest grandson, Josh Petersen is participating in something new for Halloween. Although it is not a Halloween event, it requires him to don a costume, but please don’t call it an outfit or costume, because it has a specific name…bunkers. Josh’s event is not a party or haunted house or really anything that has anything to do with Halloween, but is does require going into a situation that is very much out of the ordinary for him, and strange for us, his family, to think about. Josh is doing fire science training at the drill tower today. The training will include a practice fire, in which real fire will be used…hence the unusual situation involving a building, that most of us would consider a nightmare if it happened in a building we were in. While these are not a real fire situations, it is these training sessions that prepare our firefighters for the real life scenarios they will face on the job. Yes, this is an unusual way for a seventeen year old to spend a Saturday, especially on Halloween, but it is one that Josh will find exciting, inspiring, and a great learning experience for the career he has chosen to take on. We are all very proud of him.
Whatever Halloween finds you and your family doing, I hope you have a great evening, be safe, watchful, respectful, and have fun. Happy Halloween!!
It’s hard to think of your aunts and uncles as being young people. To you, they have always been adults, and they probably never sewed any wild oats…I mean, old people didn’t do that sort of thing did they? I suppose that the way kids sewed their wild oats in days gone by, is very different than the way kids do that today. In fact, I’m sure that wild oats in the 1940’s were really pretty tame oats in all reality. It was during this time period that my Uncle Bill, and his sisters, my Aunt Laura and my Aunt Ruth were working in the shipyards. On their few days off, they liked to get together with their friends for what Uncle Bill called a party. My dad missed out on those little gatherings, unfortunately, because he was in England fighting in World War II. but if I know him, he didn’t begrudge them their parties, because he did have R & R after all.
Parties on those days might have meant a big gathering at one of the area lakes, somewhat like a reunion of sorts., but I seriously doubt if the gatherings they called parties were anything like even some of the tame parties of today. If they had beer or anything like that, I would be surprised…but I could be wrong. No, I think they had picnics, went for rides on the lake in a small boat, and probably did a little fishing. What better way to relax. I do know that fishing was a part of their little outings, because Uncle Bill took a picture of the fishing.
As to the wild oats, well maybe Uncle Bill did sew a few. These parties were, of course, men and women, and being a bachelor, and a definite ladies man, Uncle Bill very much enjoyed those outings, because of all the pretty girls that went along. It probably worked out very well too, if there was an equal number of men and women, but if not, well…it’s every man for himself right. So maybe they did sew some wild oats, and while their parties were quite a bit more tame than those of this century…it’s all about socializing, relationships, and fun…right.
Every year on October 31st, kids all over the country take to the streets, knocking on doors to collect a bounty of candy…whether they need it or not. My kids and grandkids are all beyond the trick or treat stage now, but that doesn’t stop some of them from dressing up for work and parties they have been invited to. My nieces and nephews have a great time each year, and the costumes are as varied as the imaginations of the people wearing them. My niece Jenny and her husband Steve always have a party on Halloween, so that all the family can gather and enjoy each other’s company. Jenny and Steve have come up with a variety of costumes over the years…from Indians to cowboy and dance hall girl. And then there’s my niece, Kellie, who uses the workplace to create a costume…I guess writing insurance for Progressive has it’s perks…I should have thought of that, since my daughter Amy and I write for Progressive too. My granddaughter, Shai has told me that she is planning to dress up for work tonight too, at Outback Steakhouse. I think she should go as a Bloomin’ Onion, but I don’t expect her to take my advice.
When I was a kid, Halloween was pretty much a kids game, and while Dad always took us trick or treating, the night belonged to us. My parents never dressed up, nor did any other adults I knew. We didn’t bother with a little Jack-O-Lantern basket for our candy, because that didn’t hold enough…just take a pillow case. It was sure to be full by the time you got home. Dad was always a good sport, taking us out as long as we could stand it, which was quite a while if the night wasn’t too cold. We didn’t go to places like the mall…we didn’t have one anyway…or other businesses, because there was very little worry about tainted candy. It was just a very different time. These days people must be much more careful, and maybe that is why there are more parties, and less trick or treating.
Halloween will always be a kids game, I suppose, but these days it’s not just for kids, and the people I am around that dress up are not kids…or maybe they are. They say some people never grow up, and it could be that the ones that dress up just have a little bit of a kid still living on the inside of them. Here’s to childhood, and never growing old!! Happy Halloween everyone!!