••• The International Writers Magazine:Feasts in Chicago
Feasts and Festivals in Chicago
Fred C. Wilson III
“For me, religious festivals and celebrations have become an important way to teach my children…”
November in Chicago is a time for celebration; (shootings don’t count) but especially this year. Those ‘lovable losers’ aka the Chicago Cubs have finally won the World Series after a 108 year wait. The ‘lovable losers’ topped the Cleveland Indians in the World Series in Game 7. They haven’t won it since 1908. The Series traditionally starts the latter part of October. The ‘Fall Classic’ is baseball’s grandest event when the National and American Leagues top two teams battle for baseball supremacy. People here are going gaga over the biggest win. The Victory Parade will be held November 4th.
Halloween October 31st is close enough to be considered a November event in my opinion. When I was a kid I looked forward to Halloween. My brothers and I would don bed sheets and pretend we were ghosts. Halloween was a time for parties and candy. I fondly remember our mother would cut three holes in the middle of our ‘costume’ for us to see and breathe while warning us to “watch out for cars and cranks.” We didn’t have much money and couldn’t afford ‘store bought’ costumes. The simple ghost costume was sufficient. We’d stop at every home in the immediate area yelling “Trick or Treat!” This mantra guaranteed us a good haul of goodies.
Kids in the old neighborhood rarely pulled pranks on unfriendly households; however there was one home where the owner hated children. Every year this old guy would curse us out when we visit him shouting “Trick of Treat!” We in turn would shower him with a barrage of swear words until he’d call the cops. I’m over 70 and I regret my uncharitable acts toward this bitter old man. When I grew up I vowed never to be disrespectable towards the neighborhood kids when they came a’ callin’ at my door; I’ve kept my word.
Our candy bags would be overflowing with goodies all of which our conscientious Mom would inspect before letting us dig in. Even in the so-called quiet 1950’s the local papers were awash each year with Halloween horror stories of not-so-fortunate youngsters who were poisoned or had tongues slashed with razor blades placed by sick adults who’d slide razor blades in fruit. Our mother never took chances with our safety. When I became a teacher I’d caution my class to let their parents scan their candy for unsafe items before eating. My brothers and I stopped ‘Trick-or-Treating’ once the gangs took over the neighborhood. In my young adulthood I still attended occasional costumed parties but the best ones were when we were kids. Somehow the magic fades when you grow up no matter how fancy the party.
Halloween has unique origin. The word Halloween or Hallowe’en is a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve. The day is also called Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve as mentioned and All Saints Eve. People in my neck of the woods simply call the day Halloween. Very few people know the origin of the day. The celebratory day has mixed Pagan-Christian roots and has spread throughout the world. It started as the first of three days remembering the dead starting with aforementioned Halloween then All Saints November 1st ending with All Souls Day November 2nd. In Latin America All Souls is known as Dia de los Muertos the Day of the Dead.
In Latino areas deceased relatives are honored by special prayers for the departed. Masses and day long graveside vigils are customary ways of honoring the dead. Families bring picnic lunches/dinners and share meals with living relatives. Food and drinks are laid out at grave sites as a way of inviting dead loved ones to share meals with living family members. Skull candies, decorations with deathly images help ease the sting of death. These rites are measures to keep families together and ask dead family members to pray for the living.
Chicago has a very large and vibrant Hispanic community. Our Hispanic residents add color with their lively customs. Special Masses are offered at Catholic cemeteries on All Souls Day. My wife and I are in the habit of visiting our relatives’ graves, saying prayers, sprinkling holy water, lighting thick incense sticks after attending the Liturgy at our parish church. At the time of this writing my wife is at a relative’s home offering special prayers for her cousin who died only two days ago at the time of this writing prematurely from a stroke; he was 47.
All Saints another November festive day honors all good people who have passed on since the dawn of creation. It gives praise to ordinary people who passed their lives in relative obscurity who were great in their own quiet ways. All Saints’ Day aka Solemnity of All Saints and a few other pious names is Christian in origin as are most holy days in the calendar. Though the traditional day of celebration is November 1st that wasn’t always so as antiquity attests. We Christians believe that there is a joyous bond between the ‘Church Triumphant’ those who died after living good lives between people living in space and time. Though the festival day started out Roman Catholic many mainline Protestant denominations also honor the souls of their deceased.
Honored individuals include Patriarch Abraham, Moses, King David, St. Peter the Apostle, St. Therese Martin, John Wesley, William Booth, the Buddha, Mahatmas Gandhi, Muslim saints, righteous non-believers, Mother Theresa and all faith greats are honored along the countless trillions of good people who’ve lived in eons past including those sentient beings on other worlds if they exist; this is their big day!
My wife and I are in the habit of celebrating the Liturgy on that day. When we were younger we used to visit our dead offering prayers for their souls. Here in Chicago each Christian denomination celebrates in their own unique manner as befitting their customs. Like with the previous All Souls Day Chicago in November is no place to be outside for too long; its’ damn cold! Graveside visitations are usually brief though more hearty souls spend longer time at gravesites.
Unlike in a previous article I won’t endorse any Presidential candidate. Two months ago I wrote and conducted an interview about the two American Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump- BIG MISTAKE! I had no idea that feelings were so intense, especially about a certain political aspirant. Here in Chicago feelings are running so high that there are several websites devoted exclusively for persons suffering emotional meltdown worrying about the outcome of the election. In the high rise where I live things have gotten so out of hand that the mere mention of a certain unfavorable candidate will trigger arguments or outright hostility. In the murder capitol of the U.S. one must be cognizant of every word they say or face the possibility of ending up a statistic. I recently spent a fortune removing a number of computer viruses I strongly suspect were planted in my machine by disgruntled 'Mr Bigly' backers whose Hollywood Walk of Fame star was destroyed by irate Californians.
It got so bad that I was fired from my position as political columnist for a regional newspaper after nearly two decades of service! My politics didn’t agree with their agenda so I got sacked. Hilary Clinton is a native Chicagoan. People here are expected to support her candidacy in large numbers on November 8th Election Day. Only hours ago I received my absentee ballot through the mail. I was an active member of the Greenpeace movement before my knees went south. I’ll cast my vote for the Green Party candidate. Let the majority Americans squabble over the other two. With all the action going on nationwide Chicago is the place to be in November 2016.
Veteran’s Day is a national holiday that honors the men and women who served in America’s many wars and lesser conflicts. Chicago a city that’s enamored with all things military. November 11th holds a special place in the hearts of all true Chicagoans. This is the day to celebrate the military. As expected there are a large number of ways this city will remember.
One of my former favorites is the National Veteran’s Art Museum; (www.nvam.org) as a practicing artist I used to take an active part in the yearly art shows that this museum hosted until I had an exhibit that was considered too controversial. Part of my exhibit was ‘liberated’ by certain parties. I wasn’t invited back. Ya’ just can’t please all the people all the time; shit happens but anyway this is a wonderful museum one which I’m sure you’d enjoy if you should take your holiday here. To come to Chicago lease search ‘Chicago vacations.’ For other exciting Veteran’s Day events go to ‘Veteran’s Day in Chicago, IL’ and take things from there.
Our archbishop has been named a cardinal. On November 19th Pope Francis will elevate Chicago archbishop Blaise Joseph Cupich the 7th cardinal archbishop in city history; a great honor. Cupich is a Midwesterner born in Omaha, Nebraska. He’s one of only three Americans named to the College of Cardinals. My wife and I met him only once. In my opinion the man has an aura that reflects his deep spirituality. He’s a nice guy. Maybe he could make a difference in a city that’s menaced with problems of all sorts. With all the bad press we’ve been getting the November festivals is just the tonic we need.
Chicago is the best and the worst of all worlds. The food is among the best on the international world culinary scale, the ladies are beautiful and the schools train the world’s great leaders in all fields. But the Devil will have his due; the City of the Big Shoulders alluding to celebrated Chicago area (Galesburg, IL) poet Carl Sandburg’s ‘Chicago Poems,’ is plagued with problems. Gun violence, extreme racial segregation, horrible weather and political corruption add to our tarnished reputation. This sad scenario was true during Sandburg’s early years during the late 19th century and its relevant today. Sandburg’s recently discovered unpublished poem attests to its relevance:
Here is a revolver.
It has an amazing language all its own.
It delivers unmistakable ultimatums.
It is the last word.
A simple, little human forefinger can tell a terrible story with it.
Hunger, fear, revenge, robbery hide behind it.
It is the claw of the jungle made quick and powerful.
It is the club of the savage turned to magnificent precision.
It is more rapid than any judge or court of law.
It is less subtle and treacherous than any one lawyer or ten.
When it has spoken, the case can not be appealed to the Supreme Court or any mandamus or any injunction or any stay of execution in and interfere with the original purpose.
And nothing in human philosophy persists more strangely than the old belief that God is on the side of those who have the most revolvers.
||Thanksgiving is the start of the Holiday Season. Given these tumultuous times the cycle of celebrations is a godsend. ‘Turkey Day’ as some call this national holiday is both civil and religious. The day honors a group of Puritans who fled England in search of more religious freedom in North America.
Hailing from the port city of Plymouth in the UK they arrived half starved, ill provisioned and sickly to the shores of Massachusetts on the East coast of the then American colonies governed by England. As a matter of historical record friendly Natives felt sorry for their sorry asses, fed them, taught them how to live off the land only to be repaid later by extermination.
Contemporary Thanksgiving celebrations are generally similar throughout the United States. There’s thanksgiving religious services after which comes the traditional festival of gluttony with family and friends.
You might get shot/robbed with far greater frequency than in most parts of the country you’ll never go hungry. Chicagoans are extraordinarily generous. There’s food pantries, free gourmet dinners for the homeless or lonely and homeless shelters. Religious institutions outdo themselves in helping the poor. Up until recently the homeless ate better than many working people until some jealous ***hole sued the soup kitchens. Our indigents used to receive fresh food stuffs from high end restaurants. My wife and I celebrate the opening of the traditional holiday season with the Liturgy and have our festive feast with her large extended family.
Despite much of what you’ve read or heard Chicago is a pretty decent city but the criminality tends to sneak up on people. You have to watch out and NEVER LET YOUR GUARD DOWN even for a moment. I live in a high end neighborhood yet last year as I was coming home from church I was robbed by three thugs only a block from my home! Don’t get caught napping but then that’s any place; God bless.
© Fred Wilson November 4th 2016
Fly to Chicago with BA
The Dream Country
Fred C. Wilson III
Dreaming is the cheapest form of travel I know. Everybody dreams; even those who deny it dream only they’re not cognizant of it. All it costs is your subconscious mind to work the magic.