One story says that, on that day, the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for the afterlife. The Celts believed all laws of space and time were suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living.
Naturally, the still-living did not want to be possessed. So on the night of October 31, villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily paraded around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.
Probably a better explanation of why the Celts extinguished their fires was not to discourage spirit possession, but so that all the Celtic tribes could relight their fires from a common source, the Druidic fire that was kept burning in the Middle of Ireland, at Usinach.
Some accounts tell of how the Celts would burn someone at the stake who was thought to have already been possessed, as sort of a lesson to the spirits. Other accounts of Celtic history debunk these stories as myth.
The Romans adopted the Celtic practices as their own. But in the first century AD, Samhain was assimilated into celebrations of some of the other Roman traditions that took place in October, such as their day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple, which might explain the origin of our modern tradition of bobbing for apples on Halloween.
The thrust of the practices also changed over time to become more ritualized. As belief in spirit possession waned, the practice of dressing up like hobgoblins, ghosts, and witches took on a more ceremonial role.
The custom of Halloween was brought to America in the 1840's by Irish immigrants fleeing their country's potato famine. At that time, the favorite pranks in New England included tipping over outhouses and unhinging fence gates.
The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes," made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul's passage to heaven.
The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree's trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree.
According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.
The Irish used turnips as their "Jack's lanterns" originally. But when the immigrants came to America, they found that pumpkins were far more plentiful than turnips. So the Jack-O-Lantern in America was a hollowed-out pumpkin, lit with an ember.
So, although some cults may have adopted Halloween as their favorite "holiday," the day itself did not grow out of evil practices. It grew out of the rituals of Celts celebrating a new year, and out of Medieval prayer rituals of Europeans. And today, even many churches have Halloween parties or pumpkin carving events for the kids. After all, the day itself is only as evil as one cares to make it.
Veterans Day. (Nov. 11)
This is my tribute to my father, and to all veterans. I thank God every day for him and veterans like him, without whom we wouldn't have the freedoms we've grown accustomed to. Freedoms that too many Americans take for granted. War is a horrible thing, and I in no way am attempting to glorify it. However, in some cases it is necessary.
My father is a World War II veteran. Joining the Navy when he was just 17, he was stationed aboard the U.S.S. Pensacola (CA-24), where he served bravely until the war's end in 1945. The Pensacola was a heavy cruiser, part of the screen of ships protecting the carrier U.S.S. Hornet, and later the Enterprise. The Pensacola saw much action, and earned 13 Battle Stars for her part in 13 major battles fought in the Pacific, including Midway, Iwo Jima, and Guadalcanal.
The Pensacola's armament consisted of 20mm and 40mm anti-aircraft guns, and 5 inch and 8 inch guns. My father was a gunner on a 5 inch mount. The 5 inch guns were multi-purpose, used for ship-to-ship, ship-to-shore, and anti-aircraft. My father has related to me that his scariest moments were during Kamikaze attacks, when the enemy planes had to be literally "blown from the sky", or centrifigul force would carry them into the ship. Fortunately, no Kamikaze planes hit the Pensacola, but she was strafed, bombed, shelled, and torpedoed.
She survived the war, only to be sunk off the coast of Washington State during nuclear bombardment testing in the late '40s. An unmagnanimouse end to a grand career. She was a proud ship, and her officers and crew fought with unwavering courage.
As an aside, I just want to say that I abhor the treatment our Vietnam Veterans have received by this country. Vietnam was a "dirty" war in my opinion, created I believe, by miss-guided politicians. The men and women who fought there were simply doing their duty, answering the call from our armed forces. In my eyes they are all heroes. I salute you!
Thanksgiving! (4th Thursday in November)
Find Out What You Know About Thanksgiving!
This page is dedicated to the holiday that encourages us to step back and give thanks for all the blessings we have. On this holiday site, you will discover some unusual things about the history of Thanksgiving, and you can take a fun little quiz to find out how much you know.
Take the quiz first, then read about the history of Thanksgiving to find out about the answers you missed! When you're finished, I would appreciate it if you would sign the guestbook to let me know what you learned!
Pearl Harbor Day (December 7)
At dawn on Sunday, December 7, 1941, naval aviation forces of the Empire of Japan attacked the United States Pacific Fleet center at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and other military targets. The goal of this attack was to sufficiently cripple the US Fleet so that Japan could then attack and capture the Phillipines and Indo-China and so secure access to the raw materials needed to maintain its position as a global military and economic power. This would enable Japan to further extend the empire to include Australia, New Zealand, and India (the ultimate boundaries planned for the so-called "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere"). The prevailing belief within the Japanese military and political establishment was that eventually, with the then expected German defeat of Great Britain and Soviet Russia, the United States' non-involvement in the European war, and Japan's control of the Pacific, that the world power structure would stabilize into three major spheres of influence:
Christmas (December 25)
At Christmas, people remember when Jesus Christ was born and the Christian religion started. Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem, about two thousands years ago. The people who followed Jesus' teaching were the first Christians.
Today, Christmas is a very important time in the Christian year, but it is also very important to those who do not go to church. It is a time for buying and giving presents, having parties, and being with family.
People start to get ready for Christmas in late October or early November. Shop - keepers decorate their shops with lights, trees and other decorations, and shoppers start to look for presents. Shops get very busy and stay open later. People with family and friends in other countries often send them cards and presents, and everyone begins to make plans for the coming holiday.
Many children have parties at school, and many adults have parties at work in December. Most people have 25 and 26 December off work, and many have a week off, from 25 December to 1 January. They usually spend this time at home with their family or visiting family who live far away.
The Christmas holiday begins on 24 December: Christmas Eve. People often stop work early and have a drink together, or finish their Christmas a shopping. They cover the presents in special papers, and put them under the tree.
Many people go to church at midnight on Christmas Eve. They hear the Christmas story