By Sarah Schrock

Assuredly, Saturday night at the Winthrop Barn was a night to remember. The Cirque Zuma Zuma, a pan-African Circus, lit up the stage with feats ranging from incredible balancing acts, body contortions, drumming and dancing, and perhaps the crowd favorite — a woman spinning tables on her legs.

It’s difficult to explain this act — unlike anything I have ever seen. In fact, when my 9-year-old came home from school on Friday after the performance, super pumped up about what he saw, he said a woman was spinning napkins on her feet and hands. Off the bat, this didn’t sound all that impressive, but when those napkins were flying between her legs and hands, spinning at mock speed while she perfectly passed them back and forth, then exchanged them for a metal tubular object shaped like an hourglass, and then the finale — a wooden table — it was otherworldly. She probably ran the equivalent of 5 miles, stationary, on a table, on her back on a table — and yes — difficult to explain. Seeing is believing. Thank you Methow Arts, for another world-class performance for the valley!

The nights are getting shorter, and my most-favorite night of all is coming up — Halloween! The Halloween Sale at the Senior Center was packed Saturday morning as super-heroes, mythical gods and goddesses, and creepy creatures were in the making.

Dressing up is quintessential childhood play, and what I love most about Halloween is that it brings out that childhood delight and playfulness in adults. Adults who want the opportunity to be big kids are invited to the 21-and-over Halloween Party at the Twisp Valley Grange on Friday evening (Oct. 26). Hosted by Hillary Ketchum Roseland, the entry fee is a $10 donation to the Open Roads Coalition. Event sponsors include a long list of local businesses. The party will include a DJ and costume contest with prizes from sponsors. It’s a “Killer”-themed event, so it’s not for the timid souls.

Speaking of souls, this tradition continues to intrigue me and scholars disagree as its origins. It appears the roots may be a blend of a Celtic harvest festivals and the Roman “feast of the lemures,” both of which honor the dead or spirit world in some way. What it isn’t, is a day of Satanic or demonic worship as some segments have protested its observance in recent decades.

What is for sure, is it marks the Eve of a Holy Day of Obligation for the Roman Catholic Church, All Saints (or Hallow’s) Day. The holy day is a day of commemorating all saints, which in the church are souls that have ascended to heaven, not just the canonized saints we common hear like St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Agnes, etc. The following day, Nov. 2, is the observance of All Souls Day, not a holy day, but a day of recognition of souls deceased but not ascended yet. The Mexican tradition of Day of the Dead, which spans this same time period, is a byproduct of these days, when ancestral spirits are invited back from the spirit realm to walk among the mortal world for a period of time to reconnect with the living. 

As was the case for many early Christian holidays, the church co-opted pre-existing traditions from the cultures they evangelized. As for the medieval harvest tradition of Samhain, they believed with each turn of the year, evils spirits would overlap with the living, and therefore the living would dress up to trick the evil spirits into thinking they were among their own kind.  They would go door-to-door begging for food and gifts for the poor in exchange for songs and prayers.

The Roman feast of the lemures was a festival of cleansing the lemuria, or spirits, from the homes of Romans. Through careful cleaning of feet, unwrapping of knots in sandals, and spitting or rinsing beans and throwing them out of the house, spirits would follow the beans outside, thus ridding the home of unwanted spirits. It is this feast that scholars point to as the likely origin of All Saints Day that the Roman Catholic Church absorbed and re-incarnated into Christian observance of the hallows (saints).

And for jack-o-lanterns, the Irish originally hollowed out turnips, lit them with embers and placed them outside to ward off the spirits. They brought the tradition to the United States, where pumpkins became the popular candelabra. So, there you have it, my Wiki-Google-Bing Halloween 101 synopsis. See you on Burgar Street, and don’t forget that Burgar Street residents will gladly take candy donations!


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