The Legend of Pokerween

Halloween is an ancient Celtic tradition that falls on the last day of the pagan calendar, October 31.  As the end of the year, it is the time to bid farewell and remember the dead.  The day was called “Samhain” after the Druid god of death, or “All Allows day” in recognition of emotionally needy spirits that would rise out of their tombs to make you remember them.  People dressed in scary costumes to frighten away evil spirits seeking attention.

When the Romans invaded and kicked everyone’s asses, they incorporated Halloween into their own pagan traditions.  Roman tradition celebrated the pagan harvest on October 31st and All Saints Day or “All Hallows Day” (honoring dead saints) on November 1st, so the whole death thing worked out logistically. The colors of Halloween became orange (the Roman pagan color of harvest) and black (the Irish pagan color of death).

The fact that pumpkins are orange and bats are black had nothing to do with anything.  Pumpkin carving originated from an old Irish legend about a stingy drunkard named Jack (i.e. an Irish man named Jack) who tricked the Devil into climbing an apple tree (or changing into a coin). Then Jack cut the sign of a cross into the trunk of the tree (or put the coin in his pocket with a silver cross), thereby preventing the Devil from climbing down (or escaping). Jack made the Devil relinquish all claim to his soul to be released.  When Jack died, he was not allowed into heaven because he was an asshole.  He was not allowed into Hell because of the Devil’s promise.  As the Devil turned him away from hell he threw a hellfire coal at Jack.  Jack put the coal in a hollowed-out turnip to make a lantern to light his way as he wandered the earth for eternity.  The Irish called him Jack-of-the-Lantern, i.e. Jack O’ Lantern.

That story later became associated with “All Hallows Eve” in Ireland, Scotland, and England.  The tradition arose to carve faces in turnips and put candles inside to resemble Jack O’ Lantern and put them in the window to scare away evil spirits.  The Brits used large beets instead of turnips.  Neither makes a good pie.  When those folks came to America, they brought their stories and traditions, and discovered pumpkins, a fall fruit native to America, which were even better for carving lanterns.  And pie.

Bats are associated with Halloween because they are creepy and nocturnal.  Bats always turn left when exiting a cave.  (That is true.)  Left is the “sinister” direction and is a sign of evil.  (That is false.)  Of the 4000 species of mammals on the planet, 900 are bats.  Because bats are awesome.  They live in old scary houses, and blood-licking species inspired some vampire shit that would later become the most annoying of all angsty teenage obsessions in the history of western civilization. The traditional vampire stories actually tell that Halloween is the one night of the year that vampires don’t go out, because they think it’s tacky.  And it is.  Halloween is second only to Christmas in American holiday spending.

Which brings us to POKERWEEN.  Halloween has never landed on a Wednesday since poker has been a CAFC tradition, so I’m not sure what we do about that.  I know lots of you guys have kids, and lots of you have alcoholism, and I’m not sure how it plays out.

I will be at home tonight, in costume, carving pumpkins and passing out candy to little urban children.  I actually get a lot of trick-or-treaters at my house.  You might be wondering why I am carving pumpkins tonight, when I already made a big deal of how my housemates and I carved 9 giant pumpkins in advance of poker last week.  Well some punk teenagers smashed my pumpkins last night, so I need to carve some new ones so that I can have proper jack-o-lanterns on display when those same punk teenagers bring their babies trick-or-treating at my house.

If there is interest for Halloween poker, come IN COSTUME to [———-] around 8 pm tonight.  There will be mulled wine and pumpkin curry and lots of candy.  Please RSVP so we know whether there is quorum and so I know how much candy to buy.

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