Best Bets

Like several holiday traditions we Americans enjoy today — religious or otherwise — we once again have the Celts to thank.

The ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (which is pronounced “sow-in”) is the earliest nod to what we now call Halloween or All Hallows Eve. It marked the end of summer, the beginning of darker, colder times and was associated with death.

The Celts held a belief that, for one night a year, the veil separating the lands of the living and the dead became passable and ghosts of loved ones past could once again walk the earth. This belief is mirrored in celebrations long held by other cultures as well, such as Dia de Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, which is celebrated throughout Mexico.

All Saints’ Day came into being in 609 A.D. when Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon to all Christian martyrs. An “All Martyrs Day” feast was then established in the Western Catholic Church. Later, the celebration was conveniently moved from May to Nov. 1. In 1000 A.D., the church declared Nov. 2 “All Souls’ Day.” The night before, when the original Celtic celebration of Samhain was held, came to be known as “All Hallows Eve,” which eventually morphed into “Halloween.”

The great thing about our holidays is that there’s no one “right” or “correct” way to celebrate them. Many families have their own personal traditions that vary from the norm. Different cultures have different rituals stretching back hundreds or thousands of years, like the Celts.

So if you want to throw on a white sheet, poke some holes in it and go around coaxing Snickers bars out of your neighbors, that’s perfectly fine. If you want to hit the dance floor at Alice’s Champagne Palace tonight for their annual Halloween bash, that’s an equally acceptable way to spend the night. If you want to dance naked in a field around a bonfire under the light of the moon covered in the blood of an animal sacrifice … well, you might not have many takers to join you, but this is Homer, so have at it.

Whether you’re on a door-to-door quest for the ultimate candy stash, spending the night in trading ghost stories with friends or monster mashing the night away on the dance floor, take a look at these Best Bets to round out your spooky weekend:

BEST HISTORICAL BET: Have some traditional Halloween fun with a scoop of history on the side with trick or treating at the Harrington Cabin at the Pratt Museum from 4-6 p.m. tonight. Stop by the Pratt Museum for some festive fun with trick-or-treat at the Harrington Cabin, a spooky scavenger hunt, macabre additions to museum exhibits inside, and possibly even bone-chilling delights along the Pratt’s Forest Trails.

BEST BUT IT’S NOT HAGGIS BET: Speaking of celebrating other cultures, head on over TO the Homer Scandinavian Dinner at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Faith Lutheran Church if you’re curious about the Scandinavian — especially the food. Celebrate this heritage with lutefisk, lefse, Swedish meatballs, lingonberries and desserts. Also, be entertained by the Homer Children’s Choir. Tickets are $20 for adults, $12 for high school students and $8 for children. Call 235-7600 to reserve tickets.

BEST JUST GREAT BET: It’s gonna be a great Halloween weekend when the Salmonfest Music Series presents Great American Taxi on its Great Alaskan Pumpkin Tour, featuring Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon. The music starts at 9 p.m. Friday at Alice’s Champagne Palace and runs until 1 a.m. or when you blow out your dancing shoes. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door.

BEST GET BETTER BET: If the Halloween festivities leave you feeling like you should maybe get back on the health train (especially if you performed parent patrol on your kids’ candy take), the 36th Annual Rotary Health Fair is just around the corner on Saturday. From 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Homer HighSchool, get free health screenings, discounted blood tests, free flu shots and information from more than 70 business and services vendors.

BEST WINTER IS COMING BET: Halloween isn’t even over and done with and already we’re talking about winter and ski gear? You bet we are! The Mountain States have been getting all our snow, but that doesn’t mean things couldn’t shift an week now. Get ready for winter with the Ski and Winter Gear Swap from 5:30-8 p.m. Wednesday at Homer High School. Find great gear, sell your gear, get your skis waxed, and register and pick up skis for Junior Nordic.