Tuesday, September 4, 2007

My Big Fat Halloween Wedding

by Kim Matzke

Looking nervous

Looking very nervous as
I begin to walk down
the aisle with my sons

Last issue I wrote about the origins and popularity of Halloween as a spooky time to think about those things that scare us. This week I am going to talk about something that is so scary that most men can't even bring themselves to speak its name out loud. Marriage! So, what could be more natural than combining a holiday about Death with "Til Death do us part?" And that is exactly what my husband and I did one year ago.
Chocolate iced wedding cake with transparent separator columns
Chocolate Wedding Cake with Sweetheart Dragon Cake Topper

There I stood, with one son on each arm, gazing down the aisle at the knight that I would spend the rest of my life with. My eldest son was dressed as The Phantom of the Opera and my younger son was attired as Death, complete with black gauze wings and a scythe. As they escorted me down the aisle, I gazed upon the assembly, curious to see who had decided to witness this momentous occasion. I was pleased to see such a wide variety in attendance. There were some pirates, a naughty cook, a dark fairy, the doctor in his scrubs, the hippies, the vampires, the undead and even the DJ from the 1950s in her poodle skirt. And, of course, the contingent from the medieval and Renaissance eras came in satins and brocades to match the bridal party.
Baby in peapod costume

All the guests
came in costume

While we were having the wedding on Halloween, I had decided to go for an Autumnal décor. Instead of having the Maid of Honor toss flower petals, I thought that Autumn leaves might be better. And Jack-o-lanterns lay about the landscape with Fall garlands and accents. Each guest received their very own ceramic candy holder in Fall colors to take with them in remembrance of the occasion—filled with candy of course. After all, they gave up their trick-or-treating to attend our wedding.
So Death and The Phantom finally brought me to my would-be groom and gave their blessings that I was now his responsibility and thus the ceremony began. I had decided that my soon-to-be husband and I would dress in gold and silver. So, my Celtic inspired gown was gold brocade and my fiancé was in silver brocade and black velvet. Our officiant was dressed as a druid priest. As the ceremony unfolded, we treated our guests to an old-time handfasting ceremony that entertained and educated at the same time. My inspiration for the ceremony came from a website I have listed below.
Strong  man playing bagpipes

Bagpipers for

After the ceremony, the photographer took a few formal pictures. Then, we had a plate of finger food, fired-up the bagpipers, and gave outdoor prizes and prizes for best costume. We finished off the evening by dancing to new Celtic music by Blackmore's Night (see below) as well as some fun oldies songs like, "The Monster Mash."
Happy bride and groom

Kim and Steve finally relax
and have fun after
the ceremony

All in all, I think everyone had a wonderful time, and my new husband and I received many compliments on how this had been such a fun wedding to attend. Because it was the second wedding for both of us, we thought we would just have a really good time with it. The last thing we wanted it to be was formal and stuffy. We’ve now been married for almost a year and I still have so many fond memories of the evening; and, so do our friends—they still comment on the fun they had!
Now you may be thinking, “What on earth made you want to get married on Halloween?” Believe it or not, Halloween is a date that many couples are choosing to perform their nuptuals. For us, it was the anniversary of our first date and it is a day that both of us can easily remember. Halloween is popular for pagan weddings because of the New Year/New Life symbolism. It is popular with devotees of goth culture for obvious reasons and nearly everyone else because of its associations with parties and fun.
Here are some websites about Halloween weddings: K.A. Laity has devoted an entire website to her Halloween wedding. Catherine Greene and Nicholas Doubleday share their Halloween wedding experience on the web as well. Tonya Jordan at Best Wedding Articles gives some advice on how to keep your wedding formal and still have it on Halloween. For the ultimate Halloween-themed wedding, you can get married anytime of the year in Las Vegas inside Dracula's Tomb, a Haunted Graveyard, or have a Rocky Horror Wedding. Visit GothicWeddings.com for the details.
Regardless of your motivation for choosing to wed your true love on Halloween, you can be assured that the diversity of the holiday will make it easy to plan your perfect day. You may choose spooky and scary and have the horror wedding of your nightmares. A mythical or legendary theme could give your guests some wonderful ideas for their costumes. Who wouldn’t want to have Zeus, Aphrodite, Pan and maybe even an elf or a dragon in attendance? A medieval or Renaissance theme is always fun. It could be the bride’s opportunity to dress as the Princess she’s always dreamed of being and give the groom the chance to be her Knight in Shining Armor. Then there’s the classy gothic theme with wonderful dark elegance everywhere you turn. Halloween is so versatile that you can opt for anything from fun and frivolous to classic and formal. Your options are endless.

Originally published 09/04/2007 by Gael Stirler and Kim Matzke of © Chivlary Sports

History of Halloween and Samhain

Witch and black cat

Witches and black
cats were feared in
superstitious times

Halloween is the second biggest commercial holiday in America. Millions of people celebrate the holiday each year, but its origins are obscure. Some view Halloween as simply a time for fun with friends and family. Others see it as superstitious in nature because of its symbols of death and supernatual horror. Some religions even view it as an unholy holiday. But, whatever your view, here is the fascinating story of the many rivers that converged to create Halloween.
white robed druid before a bonfire

Druid looking into bonfire

The origins of Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Samhain is pronounced "sah-van", although many neo-Pagans pronounce it as " sow-in" (where "ow" rhymes with "cow"). In Gaelic, "sam" means summer and "fuin" means "end." So, "Samhain" means "end of the warm season."
Two thousand years ago the Celts lived in the areas that are now Ireland, the United Kingdom, northern France, and Germany. They celebrated their New Year on November 1 each year. This was the day that signified the end of summer along with the end of the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold, and often fatal winter.

demons attacking people

People feared spirits
would cause misfortune

The Celts believed that during the transition to the New Year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead could intermingle. They began celebrations at sundown on October 31 to ease this transition. Though scant evidence has been found, researchers believe that during the celebration Druids would build huge bonfires for the people to gather around. They would the burn choice parts of their crops and livestock as offerings to the Celtic deities and ask for protection during the coming cold season. When the festivities were over, they re-lit their hearth fires from the sacred bonfire.
Belief in elevated spirit activity led to attempts to make predictions about the future. Consulting the dead was an important part of the celebrations. Since the people were entirely dependent on the unpredictable and sometimes unkind, natural world, they sought for comfort and direction in prophecies and fortune telling games.
ghosts rising from the dead They feared that the ghosts of the dead who returned could cause mischief, misfortune, and damage to crops. The Celts wore costumes made from animal heads and skins to avoid being recognized by the spirits of the dead. They hoped that the spirits, intent on mischief, would be fooled into passing them by. They also set out bowls of food to appease the ghosts and prevent them from entering their homes. This could be where trick-or-treating originated.
By 43 A.D., the Romans held power in the Celtic lands and, during the course of the four hundred years they ruled, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.
The first was Feralia, a day that started out in February that was intended to give rest and peace to the dead. The Romans made sacrifices to honor the dead and said prayers for them.
Pomona, Goddess of orchardsThe second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of orchards. Her symbol was the apple, and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

Martyr tied to a tree and shot with arrows

St. Sebastian

By 800 A.D., Christianity had spread to the Celtic lands. Around this time, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints' Day, which was a time to honor saints and martyrs. The faithful were admonished to spend their time contemplating the gruesome ways that Christian saints had been tortured to death and how they themselves might be called to martyrdom someday. The celebration was called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before All-hallowmas, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve, eventually becoming Halloween.
Even later, around 1000 A.D., the Catholic Church named November 2 All Souls' Day, to honor the faithfully departed. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and costumes of saints, angels, and devils. Eventually all three celebrations were put together, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls', into one event called Hallowmas.
evil-looking  pumpkinsCarving Jack-o-lanterns is a tradition that came from the Celts—they carved skulls and lanterns out of turnips. The legend starts with a man named Jack, who was a notorious drunk and practical joker. Jack was said to have tricked the devil into climbing up a tree. He then carved an image of a cross into the tree’s trunk and trapped the devil in the highest branches of the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that said if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down. Legend says that after Jack died he was denied entrance to heaven because of his sins. Jack was then denied entrance into hell because of the trick he had played on the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the cold, dark winter. Jack placed the light into a hollowed out turnip so it would burn longer. The earliest written evidence of a Jack-o-lantern is an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1663. The earliest written account of pumpkins being used for Jack-o-lanterns on Halloween was in 1866 in the Daily News (Kingston, Ontario, Canada), where youngsters of the city "sacrificed pumpkins to make transparent heads, lit by tallow candles".
Latin skeleton fiesta, Dia de los MuertosOther countries also celebrate "Death-themed" holidays around the same time. In Mexico it is called “Dia de los Muertos,” or Day of the Dead, which coincides with All Souls’ Day and blends Catholic and Native American traditions. Mexicans decorate their homes and the graves of their relatives with paper skeletons, and set out food for wandering spirits. In England, Guy Fawkes’ Day has largely taken the place of Halloween. It is celebrated on November 5 as a patriotic holiday. Revelers go door to door with a straw effigy of saboteur Guy Fawkes and ask for, "a penny for the guy" then spend the money on fireworks and candy. The effigy is then burned on a bonfire.
engraving  of Guy FawkesThe holiday has a gruesome origin. Guy Fawkes and his conspirators attempted to kill King James I of England, his family, and most of the aristocracy by blowing up the House of Lords in what came to be called the Gunpowder Plot. They failed when one of them sent a letter of warning to a Catholic friend in Parliament. On November 5, 1605, Fawkes was caught in a cellar under Parliament, about to light the fuse on 36 barrels of gunpowder. Fawkes was tortured for three days before he confessed and revealed the names of the other conspirators. After his trial he was tortured again and executed publicly on January 31, 1606. The holiday commemorates the Crown's victory over anarchism. In an ironic twist, Guy Fawkes has come to be viewed as a rebel hero and is said to be "the only man to ever enter parliament with honourable intentions."


So, from its beginnings to now this fall holiday, in all its various guises, has been a time to mock and revere the things that frighten us—whether they are death, ghosts, demons, torture, or even terrorists. Its as though our ancestors looked at their bountiful harvest, bulging storerooms, and safe, warm dwellings, and said, "Oh, Winter, you can't harm us. We spit in your face." And though we have tamed our environment, we still have a need to square our shoulders against the unknown because, in the end, its still our nature to invent evil out of shadows and find courage through humor so we, too, can spit in the face of Death.

Originally published Aug 17, 2007 by Kim Matzke of Chivalry Sports