Friday, October 28, 2011

Hallow-weekend! Dead Man's Dinner

It's Hallows' Season! Hallows' is the time of the traditional Celtic New Year, and we usually have a nice fire in the woodstove and harvest the last of our garden. It's all fun, but aside from good old trick-or-treating our favorite event is Dead Man's Dinner. Yes, it was inspired by the Oingo Boingo tune, and we kind of follow that theme for our Dinner.  We usually start by carving a few pumpkins while dinner is cooking, remembering folks who have passed in the past, particularly the ones who have passed on during the year while having soda (it's like liquor to our kids- mainly forbidden and make them act kooky) and lots of cocktails for me and Ash. I have tons of appropriate music and playlists, so it's loud enough to wake the Dead and let 'em know Dinner's on the way. We put on campy horror movies, build a new fire in the woodstove and wait for dinner to.... manifest... (insert spooky laugh here). Here's a bit of a digression to entertain you while I'm... looking for... the... rum:

The spiritual tradition is taken from is a combination of Native American and ancient European harvest festivals, where the Ancestors and recently-deceased were invited to come and visit, hang out with those who remember them and then PARTY til the dawn. In some societies it was quite debauched, after the initial solemnity of respectfully asking the Dead to join the Living for a night, a festival replete with pigging out and drinking copious amounts of the previous years' spirits. Traditionally children were excluded from what was a very adult time: what kid wants to be at a dinner where Mommy and Daddy start the night with something like the Last Supper but ends up resembling a tailgate party at a Pink Floyd concert? Right-O... Well, we don't do it like that here... not anymore, at least... plus, our harvest consists of tomatoes and peppers- pretty tame stuff. What's important to us is that we teach the kids that the Dead are immortal through our memory of them, that we miss them and this is our way of keeping their memories close by. Some traditions (I'm using the term loosely here) teach that the meal is eaten in silence out of respect for the Mighty Dead, but nobody I know wants to be remembered with tears or grief hence the Dead Man's Dinner motif.  Aren't you fond of your departed whom you've chosen to remember? Were they fun to hang out with? Then have a good time, like you're glad they've dropped by! Any excuse to whip up a feast, I say. And when I've passed, remember that I like rum and rare meat. And Snickers Bars...

We like meat, so Dead Man's Dinner usually includes something a bit out of the ordinary like a rib roast or Cornish hens. Some years we get creative with the sides and I try to make them campy with references to horror movies or haunted houses, lots of candles and red and orange colors in the food. Most importantly, we remember our Dearly Departed and invite them to dinner, and the kids have learned over the years that we do not simply wink out when our physical body breathes its last- the soul moves on after death, but there's a Party in our house every year and the Dead are always welcome!