Monthly Archives: October 2006

What the Heck is Halloween?

Ok, anybody who knows me understands that I am not particularly big on traditions, holidays, birthdays, and the like. Halloween is no different, though I will admit to hating it much less than Christmas and Easter.

As a hater of the holidays, it is my duty to inform the world of its origins, and trash the holiday if at all possible on my blog. So here we go.

It is generally accepted by historians that Halloween dates back to the Celtic celebration of Samhain (pronounced sow-in, meaning the end of summer). For the Celts, October 31 was actually New Year’s Eve, the end of summer and coming of long nights and very cold days. People tended to die more often during these cold months, and this day it was thought that the lines between the living and the dead became blurred.

Furthermore, the prophetic powers of a Druid became more powerful on this day, resulting in more accurate predictions of what was to come. Druids would often build huge bonfires where Celts could sacrifice animals and crops to their gods. Celts would also wear costumes, typically made from the heads of animals.

Then along came the Romans.

The Romans just so happened to have a celebration that nearly coincided with Samhain called Feralia, a commemoration of those who had died. When the Romans conquered the Celtic lands, Feralia and Samhain occurred so near to each other that they couldn’t help but incorporate each others traditions.

And of course, what would any holiday be without the corruption of Christianity? As usual, the Catholic Church attempted to gain converts by absorbing the traditions of heathens.

By the late 1st century, the Pope had declared November 1 All Saint’s Day in commemoration of saints and martyrs (ie: dead people). The Middle English term for All Saint’s Day was Alholowmesse, and so Christians often referred to Saint’s Day as All-hallowmas. Thus, October 31 became All-hallows Eve. Can you see where this is going?

So how did Halloween become what it is today? Most of the traditions come from the area in which it originated: Ireland. As I mentioned in a previous post regarding St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish have a tendency to exaggerate their stories, and I believe that the tendency to exaggerate also tends to result in changing traditions from generation to generation.

The Irish managed to twist Samhain into a celebration of dressing up and going door to door to collect treats. The costumes protect you from the dead, who cross over on this night.

Traditions also tend to incorporate traditions of the cultures they come into. By the time Halloween made its way to America, we were incorporating stories of witches and warlocks, scaring away evil spirits with scary costumes, and so forth.

The pumpkin is has always been a symbol of the harvest season in America, and it somehow got integrated into Halloween. There is also a legend of a man named Jack who tricked the Devil into keeping him out of Hell.

When Jack died the Devil, true to his word, refused to let Jack into Hell. Thus Jack carved out a turnip to use as a candle holder for light and left to wander the earth. He is known as “Jack of the Lantern”.

As a young boy, I was told the story of pilgrims that carved out a scary face into a pumpkin. At night they placed a candle in the pumpkin. This was used as a method to scare off Native Americans that were stealing from them. The Native Americans, believing it was a ghost, never returned. Whether that story has any validity at all is unknown to me.

In some parts of England there is a festival on November 4, called Mischief Night, in which children play tricks on adults. Thus the “trick” in “trick or treat”. Essentially, give me a treat or I’ll play a very bad trick on you!

Sadly, Halloween in America today has nearly become a sex fest, with costumes becoming more revealing and taking on a sexual tone (which can get pretty scary when the wrong body wears the wrong costume (or lack thereof)) as adults more and more celebrate with wild Halloween parties.

It becomes increasingly more difficult to find costumes that are “decent.” Hey, I like scantily clad women as much as the next guy, but Halloween is supposed to be a celebration for the kids. What sane parent is going to sex up their 10-year-old daughter? Just another sign of the times I suppose.

Now if you think I’m bad, check out this article by Kim Harrington, who seems to hate Halloween far more than I.

When Customer Support Doesn’t Support

About a year ago, I requested that the company I work for get me Kaspersky Antivirus for my computer. What I got instead was Symantec Antivirus.

This was to replace McAfee, a trial that came with the piece of crap Dell I was issued. I hated the McAfee program with a passion, and was happy to rid myself of it. Although, I had a feeling Symantec would be only slightly better.

Well, aside from being a resource hog, apparently the term “antivirus” also means anti-adware, anti-trackware, anti-this, anti-that according to Symantec. Thus, since I run the Alexa toolbar on my system, Symantec keeps trying to delete it. Every time is does, I reinstall it. I had to fiddle with the settings for several weeks, but eventually I thought I had solved the problem. Several months had gone by without any problems (aside from the normal slowing of my ‘puter thanks to all the hoggy software on it… that and the fact that the Dell piece of crap is, well, a piece of crap.)

Then one morning I come in, boot up my computer, and discover that Symantec had once again deleted my Alexa toolbar. I reinstalled it, only to have Symantec uninstall it again just a few minutes later.

Okay, I figure it’s time to contact Symantec customer support and resolve this issue. I decide to go the Live Chat route. I had to wait about 20 minutes just to reach an agent on Symatec’s Live Chat support. Here’s a copy & paste of the conversation that took place once I finally got a hold of someone:

Thendral K: Hi, thank you for contacting Symantec Live Technical Support. My name is Thendral K. How may I help you?

Stuart: Yes, Symantec AntiVirus keeps deleting my Alexa Toolbar, though I’ve instructed it, everywhere I know to, to ignore it

Thendral K: Okay…

Stuart: So what I’ve done is gone into each of the different scan types and set Trackware.Alexa as an exception, then did the same thing under “Configure”… it worked for several months, then just recently it’s started deleting it again

Thendral K: While I review the issue in further detail, will you hold for 1 or 2 minutes?

Stuart: sure thing

Thendral K: Thank you.

–about a 5 minute wait–

Thendral K: Thank you for your patience.

–another 5 minute wait–

Thendral K: I see that this is out of my support scope,i request you to contact 1-800-721-3934.

Stuart: ok, I’ll give them a call

Thendral K: This is our free phone number, im sure they would resolve this issue.

Thendral K: Is there anything else I can help you with?

Stuart: that’s all, thanks

Thendral K: Thank you for contacting Symantec Live Technical Support. Have a great day!

This experience cause me to think back to the days when I worked support. Why didn’t I ever think of doing that?

“I’m sorry sir, but that’s outside my support scope. Let me transfer you to the next support tier. Hold please.”

Boy, that sure as heck would’ve made my life easier! Too bad I actually made a real effort to help people. I found out the hard way that being good at support is one of the quickest ways to get fired.