Friday, October 21, 2016



   Halloween, as we know it has been a tradition in our country for many years, but have you ever wondered where it came from?  The Celts, or people from and around Ireland, the United Kingdom and Northern France around 2000 years ago had their new year as November the 1st.  So that meant  the end of the year for them, the time when the harvest was over and the start of the long cold winter was October 31st.  Due to the facts that many people died in the winter, and the living world and the dead opened up.  On this day the dead could invade the world of the living and priests would be able to predict the future and talk to the dead more easily.  They would dress up and at a large central bonfire, pay homage to their Celtic deities, sacrificing animals to the gods.  They would also try to tell each others fortunes while dressed up in costumes of animal skins and heads.

  These festivals of sorts was known as Samhain (pronounced sow-in).
   Later on after the area has been conquered by the Romans, they combined two Roman holidays with the Celtic one, this occurred over a 400 year period that the Romans occupied the area.  Feralia, was the Roman day that they commemorated the passing of the dead,  it was held in Late October.   The other was to honor Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees.  The symbol of Pomona is the apple, the origin of our present day bobbing for apples.

Pomona, the Goddess of Fruit and Trees

   In the 7th century, after Christianity had spread into the Celtic lands, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1st as All Saints' Day, a day to honor saints and martyrs.  The celebrations were call All-Hallows or All-Hallowmas and the night before became All-Hallows Eve, eventually becoming our Halloween.


Pope Boniface IV


   Trick or Treating has it's origins in a tradition in England, called the All Souls' Day parade.  During the festivities of the day, the poor would beg for food from the residents and those better off.  They would be given soul cakes, little pastries and were asked to pray for the souls of the relatives of the ones who gave the cakes away.  The practice which was sanctioned by the church as a replacement for the ancient practice of leaving out food and wine for the roaming spirits, was soon referred to as "going-a-souling".  Children soon took this practice up, leaving it to kids, to get food, ale and money from neighbors.  
   Wearing costumes come from both Celtic and European heritage, dressing up was thought to make the wearer unrecognizable to the ghosts of the dead.  The dead would confuse them with other spirits, and to further protect themselves, people would leave bowls of food outside their doors to appease the ghosts.  When immigrants came to America, the tradition continued with a few twists, adding mostly due to the varying beliefs of the groups in different areas and with different religious convictions.  The merging of separate groups of religion, nationality and even Native American traditions changed the All-Hallows Eve into more of a party for the harvests of the year and a celebration to honor the dead.

   At the turn of the century,in the1900's, the government and newspapers encouraged people to have more of a celebration and less of the ghoulish and frightening aspect of Halloween.  Parades and festivities were encouraged and over the years a national holiday emerged.  Sometime between 1920 and 1950 the tradition of trick or treating was revived. Thought of as a way for the whole community to share the holiday traditions.


      The Jack O'Lantern got it's origin from a popular tale from Ireland.  The story goes that a man named Jack was very stingy, an old miserable drunk who liked to play tricks.  One day he even played a trick on the Devil.   He got him to climb a tree and when the Devil was up in the tree he placed crosses all around the tree, the Devil could not get down.  Jack made the Devil promise that when he died, the Devil would not take his soul.  The Devil promised, and years later when Jack died, the Devil kept his promise.  After Jack was denied entry to Heaven for his miserable life and mean tricks, he met the Devil in Hell where the Devil told him he could not enter.  Jack was now scared, he would forever walk the dark areas between Heaven and Hell.  The Devil gave him an ember from the fires of Hell to light his way.  Jack put it in a hollowed out Turnip, which he always carried as it was his favorite food.  In Ireland, the Irish would place a candle in hollowed out turnips, gourds, rutabagas, potatoes and even beets to ward off stingy Jack.  When Irish immigrants arrived in America, they discovered the pumpkin, and found it could be hollowed out and carved much easier than the smaller vegetables.


    We get both the tradition of pumpkin carving and pumpkin pie from Native Americans.  The Native Americans used it as a food staple, before the first settlers in America knew about  the pumpkin.  They got this plant from South and central America, where seeds have been found dating back thousands of years.  The immigrants who arrived, soon used the pumpkin in many dishes including one that they would scoop out the seeds and pulp from inside of it and bake it with milk, honey and spices and then eat it, thus the pumpkin pie was born.


    Most of our traditions of Halloween do not come from America at all.  They all have their origins from European countries in both religious and spiritual beliefs.  The day of Halloween is not just about the dead or pranks to pull on other people but about the end of the harvest and the warm part of the year coming to an end.  The remembering and honoring the dead is not done by any one nationality or people, but by many.  Most people in one way or another honor and remember the people they have loved and knew on this day.  Halloween is a day that we can celebrate the people of the past and help to keep their memories alive.



   Superstitions abound around the Halloween holiday.  And why wouldn't they?  It's that time of the year again, where the dead rise and the spirits abound.  Or at least that's what alot of people believe.  Many people have very strong beliefs involving this holiday and the days around it.


   Every one knows that black cats are supposed to be bad luck, especially if they cross your path.  Years ago it was thought that black cats are supposed to be bad luck, especially if they cross your path.  Years ago it was thought that black cats were actually the devil, or at least filled with evil spirits.
   For unmarried girls, there were many ways to find out about your future husband.  On Halloween night, if you keep a rosemary herb and a silver sixpence under your pillow, supposedly you will dream about your future husband.  For a better glimpse of your future, a girl must carry a broken egg in a glass, take it to a spring of water, and mix some of that water into the egg.  She will then see her future husband and her future children.  Or she can just bring a lamp on Halloween night to a spring of water and see a reflection in it of her future husband.


   Want to frighten the ghosts and spirits away?  All you need to do is ring a bell.  Or you can bury animal bones all over your front yard.  Easier yet, just set a picture of an animal as close as possible to your doorway to keep the evil spirits away.  To get rid of all evil, it was said all you needed to do was to walk around your house three times backward, before the sun sets on Halloween night.
   A "dumb supper" is an old term meaning that nobody talks while having supper.  For those that WANT the spirits around, try this old folklore, as it is said it encourages the undead to come to the table.  Bats are very much associated with Halloween now for these reasons.  If a bat flies into your house on Halloween, there's a good chance a ghost or spirit let it in, and that they are near.  Some people believed that if bats come out early on Halloween night, then the weather is going to be good.  But if a bat flies about your home on Halloween three times, then death is coming.

   Owls are another flying creature sometimes thought to be spooky.  Supposedly they swoop down on Halloween to eat at the souls of the dying.  To prevent this from happening, all you need to do is turn your pocket inside out and leave it hanging. 
   Don't turn around if you hear footsteps behind you on Halloween night, as it may be the dead following you.  If you do happen to look back, you may join them very quickly.
   Want to see a witch in the sky on Halloween night?  Just throw your clothes on inside out and backwards, and you might.  Common misconceptions of witches is that they are evil and associated with the devil.
   If you catch yourself watching a spider on Halloween, you may just be peering at the spirit of a deceased loved one who is watching over YOU!!


  Now that you've chosen the perfect pumpkin, carved a flawless design into the pumpkin and made it into a Halloween jack-o-lantern, how do you keep the pumpkin fresh until Halloween?  You must keep your pumpkin hydrated, and there are several ways of doing that.  Here are some tips for keeping your jack-o-lantern just-carved fresh until Halloween.


   After you have carved the jack-o-lantern design into your pumpkin, coat the cut edges and the inside of the pumpkin with petroleum jelly.  Good old Vaseline will help seal in the moisture of the pumpkin and extend the life of your jack-o-lantern.  Vegetable oil can be used instead of Vaseline, or spray the inside of the pumpkin with hair spray.  Either of the three will seal in moisture and keep your pumpkin fresh until Halloween.



   If the cut edges of your jack-o-lantern have begun to curl, soak the pumpkin in a tub of water overnight to re-hydrate it.  After removing the pumpkin from the tub of water, allow to drain for about half an hour and then pat dry.  If you add one teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water for the pumpkin soak, it will inhibit the growth of mold in your pumpkin.  Of course this bleach and water solution will not work for a jack-o-lantern that has painted designs, or other ornamentation's, but there is another way to keep a highly decorated jack-o-lantern hydrated.


   To keep a painted or decorated jack-o-lantern hydrated, mist the pumpkin with water daily.  Cover the jack-o-lantern with a damp towel when it's not on display or place the jack-o-lantern inside a plastic trash bad and put it in your refrigerator.  Doing any or all of these things will keep your pumpkin hydrated and extend the life of your jack-o-lantern that you worked so hard to create.


   A battery operated faux candle inside your jack-o-lantern will keep the pumpkin fresh looking longer than a regular candle or tea light.  A battery operated faux candle does not produce heat, they are also safer than a candle, no flame inside your jack-o-lantern, no fire hazard.
   If you must use a candle in your jack-o-lantern, sprinkle a little nutmeg or cinnamon on the underside of the pumpkin top.  When the candle flame warms the top of the pumpkin, the nutmeg or cinnamon will release a nice fragrance.  But when using a real candle, you must diligently hydrate your pumpkin with some of the above mentions tips, or your jack-o-lantern will not survive until Halloween.


  There is no shortage of haunted houses in America, but perhaps America's most famous house, the one that resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House.  The White House was built near the end of the 18th Century, and today it's composed of 6 stories of 132 rooms and 412 doors.  With so many rooms, is it any wonder that some of them are haunted by past presidents and first ladies alike?  The more doors in a house, the more of a chance some of them might open and close on their own.  But who is haunting the executive mansion and playing havoc on our senses of reality?  Most obvious of all, past presidents and their wives are the most frequent haunters of the White House and for some of them their haunting are more memorable than their tenures in office.


William Henry Harrison

    William Henry Harrison's presidency lasted less than 32 days back in 1841, yet his ghost can still be heard, rummaging through the White House attic, 168 years later.  Harrison was the first President  to die while in office, of pneumonia on April 4, 1841.  Had he known his presidency would've been so short, William Henry Harrison probably wouldn't have spent two precious hours of it reading his 8,000 word inaugural address.  But then again, maybe that's what he's been spending the last 168 years rummaging through the White House attic looking for.


Andrew Jackson

   Andrew Jackson was an abrasive fellow, and he was elected the 7th President of the United States in 1828.  His toughness earned him the nickname "Old Hickory", so it should come as no surprise to most that death alone couldn't drive him from the White House.  In the Rose Bedroom where he used to sleep, White House staff have heard a hearty laughter like Jackson was said to have.  Mary Todd Lincoln used to hear cursing from Old Hickory's ghost, and an aid to Lyndon Johnson heard the same sort of yelling in the Rose Bedroom in 1964.  Others have heard Jackson stomping around the White House floors in his heavy boots down the halls.  Clearly Mr. Jackson was never a quiet fellow, not even in death. 

Abraham Lincoln


   Abraham Lincoln served the people during the country's most threatening time to the Union-The Civil War.  But America's turmoils were not the only thing haunting Mr. Lincoln in his life.  In 1862, Lincoln lost his 11 year old son, Willie, to typhoid fever.  Abe and his wife Mary often held se'ances in the Green Room to contact Willie's spirit, successfully.  Willie Lincoln is also said to have communicated directly with the Ulysses Grant administration.  But Willie's father has been a much more active spirit within the walls of the White House.
   Abe Lincoln is said to have dreamed of his own death.  He told Mary Todd that he saw his own assassination three days before he was shot by John Wilkes Booth in 1865.  Since that fateful day, the ghost of Lincoln has been seen at the White House more frequently than some of our more recent vacation loving presidents. 
   Calvin Coolidge's wife, Grace, was the first person to spot Lincoln's ghost standing in a window in the Oval Office, and he reappeared to her repeatedly.  FDR's valet was so spooked by the ghost of Abe that he ran from the White House screaming.  President Harrison's bodyguard once took matters into his own hands when he attended a se'ance to plead with Lincoln to quiet down and let him sleep at night.  Ladybird Johnson, wife of Lyndon, saw Abe while she was watching television.  Ronald Reagan's daughter and son-in-law both witnessed Lincoln standing next to the fireplace in the Lincoln bedroom.  Lincoln's ghost has been blamed for cold and icy spots in various rooms, as well as turning back on chandelier light after they'd been shut off.  Lincoln's ghost has appeared to both Winston Churchill and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.  In Churchill's case, Lincoln was leaning against the mantle of the fireplace as the nude prime minister exited the bathroom.  Lincoln slowly faded away, but Churchill's embarrassment did not.  He refused to sleep there again.  Queen Wilhemina, fortunately, was clothed when she spotted Lincoln's ghost.  One night as she stayed in the Lincoln bedroom, she was awoken with a knock at the door.  She opened the door to Lincoln's ghost and promptly fainted.  With his many sightings, Lincoln's ghost, like Lincoln himself, seems an introspective and trouble soul.


Dolley Madison

   Dolley Madison, wife of  4th President James Madison, frequently showed herself during the administration of Woodrow Wilson, 100 years after she lived there.  Dolley was first lady from 1809-1817.  Dolley's favorite place to haunt is the Rose Garden, which she planted a century earlier.  Perhaps she felt as if she were protecting the garden after Woodrow's wife ordered for the garden to be dug up.  Workmen kept seeing Dolley, and orders to dig up the garden were buried.  The Rose Garden exists unharmed to this day. 

Abigail Adams


   Abigail Adams, wife of 2nd President (and 1st President to live in the White House) John Adams.  Because the White House wasn't fully complete when the Adams family moved in, the inadequate heating created a problem for drying laundry in an age before washers and driers.  Perhaps this is why the ghost of Abigail Adams can sometimes be seen in the East Room on the first floor, which was the warmest and driest room in the White House.  There were numerous sightings of her during the Taft administration.  Often she was seen with her arms outstretched, just as if she were carrying a load of laundry.

Frances Cleveland


   Her cries can be heard coming from a second floor bedroom.  In 1891 Frances became the first First Lady to give birth in the White House, to a daughter named Ruth.
   Whether or not these ex-presidents and first ladies still really roam the halls and haunt the rooms of the White House, it's clear that something about them remains.  Perhaps they're just memories materializing into celestial visions of great leaders forever trapped in our subconscious.  Or perhaps they really never leave office, one we elect them and trust them with the most important job on earth.  Either way, the White House doesn't seem destined to ever rest in peace.