Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Story of Halloween

Halloween is one of the oldest holidays with origins going back thousands of years. The holiday we know as Halloween has had many influences from many cultures over the centuries. From the Roman's Pomona Day, to the Celtic festival of Samhain, to the Christian holidays of All Saints and All Souls Days.

Hundreds of years ago in what is now Great Britain and Northern France, lived the Celts. The Celts worshipped nature and had many gods, with the sun god as their favorite. It was "he" who commanded their work and their rest times, and who made the earth beautiful and the crops grow.

The Celts celebrated their New Year on November 1st. It was celebrated every year with a festival and marked the end of the "season of the sun" and the beginning of "the season of darkness and cold."

On October 31st after the crops were all harvested and stored for the long winter the cooking fires in the homes would be extinguished. The Druids, the Celtic priests, would meet in the hilltop in the dark oak forest (oak trees were considered sacred). The Druids would light new fires and offer sacrifices of crops and animals. As they danced around the the fires, the season of the sun passed and the season of darkness would begin.

When the morning arrived the Druids would give an ember from their fires to each family who would then take them home to start new cooking fires. These fires would keep the homes warm and free from evil spirits.

The November 1st festival was called Samhain (pronounced "sow-en"). The festival would last for 3 days. Many people would parade in costumes made from the skins and heads of their animals. This festival would become the first Halloween.

During the first century the Romans invaded Britain. They brought with them many of their festivals and customs. One of these was the festival know as Pomona Day, named for their goddess of fruits and gardens. It was also celebrated around the 1st of November. After hundreds of years of Roman rule the customs of the Celtic's Samhain festival and the Roman Pomona Day mixed becoming 1 major fall holiday.

The next influence came with the spread of the new Christian religion throughout Europe and Britain. In the year 835 AD the Roman Catholic Church would make November 1st a church holiday to honor all the saints. This day was called All Saint's Day, or Hallowmas, or All Hallows. Years later the Church would make November 2nd a holy day. It was called All Souls Day and was to honor the dead. It was celebrated with big bonfires, parades, and people dressing up as saints, angels and devils.

But the spread of Christianity did not make people forget their early customs. On the eve of All Hallows, Oct. 31, people continued to celebrate the festivals of Samhain and Pomona Day. Over the years the customs from all these holidays mixed. October 31st became known as All Hallow Even, eventually All Hallow's Eve, Hallowe'en, and then - Halloween.

The Halloween we celebrate today includes all of these influences, Pomona Day's apples, nuts, and harvest, the Festival of Samhain's black cats, magic, evil spirits and death, and the ghosts, skeletons and skulls from All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday Thirteen-Halloween Trivia

In honor of Halloween this Saturday, my Thursday 13 is full of Halloween trivia!

1. Orange and black are Halloween colors because orange is associated with the Fall harvest and black is associated with darkness and death.

2. Jack o’ Lanterns originated in Ireland where people placed candles in hollowed-out turnips to keep away spirits and ghosts on the Samhain holiday.

3. Pumpkins also come in white, blue and green. Great for unique monster carvings!

4. Halloween was brought to North America by immigrants from Europe who would celebrate the harvest around a bonfire, share ghost stories, sing, dance and tell fortunes.

5. Tootsie Rolls were the first wrapped penny candy in America.

6. The ancient Celts thought that spirits and ghosts roamed the countryside on Halloween night. They began wearing masks and costumes to avoid being recognized as human.

7. Halloween candy sales average about 2 billion dollars annually in the United States.

8. Chocolate candy bars top the list as the most popular candy for trick-or-treaters with Snickers #1.

9. Halloween is the 2nd most commercially successful holiday, with Christmas being the first.

10. Bobbing for apples is thought to have originated from the roman harvest festival that honors Pamona, the goddess of fruit trees.

11. Black cats were once believed to be witch's familiars who protected their powers.

12. Signs of a werewolf are a unibrow, hair palms, tattoos, and a long middle finger.

13. The average American consumes 25 pounds of candy each year? Now how much of those 25 pounds do you think gets eaten on Halloween?

To participate, go here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What's On Your Nightstand?

It amazes me that it's already time for this again! Where is the time going?!

This month, on my nightstand, you will find:

- Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I was reading this for Banned Books Week and got as far as Chapter 8 when I reached
the max on renewing it. I was able to find it at a used book store though and hope to get back to it.
- Nora Jane by Ellen Gilchrist
- History Lesson for Girls by Aurelie Sheehan
- Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

To check out others' nightstands, click here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

In Memory of my Dad...

Today is the 5th anniversary of my Dad's death and it still doesn't seem possible that he's gone. Not a day goes by that I don't think about him and miss him.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Daybook

For today... Sunday, October 25, 2009

On My Mind...tomorrow is the 5th anniversary of my dad's death. It doesn't seem that long and I still can't believe he's really gone.

Outside My is dark. It was a beautiful Fall day today!

What We're Reading...finished White Ghost Girls for the Take A Chance Challenge. (Still have a few more to read for this!) Now reading An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott for Children's Classics on November 2nd. We started a Magic Tree House book tonight A Good Night for Ghosts, in honor of Halloween. A favorite of Tucker's this week was How To Potty Train Your Monster.

What We're Listening To...almost finished with South of Broad.

What We're Watching...Sad about Russell last week on Survivor; I really liked him! I hope he's okay! One of the girls at work was saying they should have a show of Survivor contestants who have been med-vac'd off the show to give them another chance! Glad that So You Think Can Dance is finally down to the Top 20! Now maybe I can figure out who they all are! As for Dancing With The Stars, I'm not sure how the guy dancing with Chelsea (is a skateboarder?) is hanging in there...still like Melissa and Kellie. My favs on Amazing Race are the dad and son. Still trying to keep up with Three Rivers, Cold Case, and Extreme Home Makeover. Also the Yankees have been on and Michael's watching them now (upstairs, I'm watching cold Case down here,; so I;m not sure who's winning!)

I am hoping...for a less crazy week.

Quotable Quote...This one always makes me think of my dad: When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cried and you rejoice ~ Anonymous

In the Kitchen...we had Chicken Brushetta tonight (haven't had it in awhile-yummy!). For the rest of the week: chicken pot pie, not sure what else.

Around the House...the dishwasher's going...clothes are in the dryer, everything else is folded and put away...spent some time cleaning/de-cluttering yesterday so it looks pretty good!

Coming Up This Week...I'm off tomorrow and going to an apple orchard with Tucker's class in the morning and then helping with the Book Fair in the afternoon...finishing the Halloween cards and pumpkins tomorrow night...lunch with my mom Tues (I'm off again) practice Tues and game Sat...trick or treating with Tucker's friend Freddie on Sat.

Some Picture Thoughts

When I checked on Tucker one night this week before going to bed, I found him curled up with his Shrek and couldn't resist taking a picture!

We went to the Demo Derby at the local Racetrack Tucker and his firend Andrew play with cars before everything starts.

Take A Chance Challenge-Judge A Book By Its Cover

White Ghost Girls by Alice Greenway
Something about this book cover of two girls playing on the beach intrigued me during the summer. It is the story of two American girls, Frankie and Kate, who are living in Hong Kong in the summer of 1967. The story is told in first person from the perspective of the younger sister, Kate. Their father is a photographer in Vietnam and though he doesn't come home often, he is still an important figure in the story, as the girls and their mother battle for his affection when he is at home. They are considered an oddity, white ghost girls, in China. The story is of their close bond which works both for and against them.

I wasn't sure if I was going to like the book at first but by the end, found that I couldn't read it fast enough and had to re-read the ending a few times, as it has a very unexpected twist that I never saw coming. I'm glad I stuck with it because I did end up enjoying it.

Lots of catching up to do...

We've been busy, busy, busy here in the Doyle household and now I need to take the time to catch all of you up on what we've been doing! (I know...I've kept you in suspense for way too long, right? LOL)

They say a picture's worth a thousand words so I'm going to just post the pictures and only comment when I need to expalin...

Starting with the Corn Maze...

Tucker and I walked in the American Cancer Relay last weekend. It was my first time walking since my dad died five years ago (I had walked the three years prior to his death, including the year he died). Tucker has walked all but one of the seven years he's been alive (he was sick one year), plus the year he "walked" when I was 4 months pregnant with him!
Here's our group of friends:

My mom and Tucker pose with my dad's best friend Larry. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer about 6 months after my dad died and has been fighting hard ever since!

My mom's friends Gail (L) and Laura (R) are both breast cancer survivors. Gail was diagnosed this past summer and had just completed her chemo on the day before the walk. Laura is a two-time breast cancer survivor, most recently three years ago.

My mom, Tucker and I pose together holding our assorted signs for my dad, grandmother, and a survivor sign for my dad and Laura

The survivors traditionally do the first lap and then the rest of us join in. Here, Tucker and I walk...

That's all I have time for right now! Stay tuned for Part II, which will have my mom's retirement party, family time at my Uncle's, and the Scout's Halloween party!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kids' Picks - October

Yes...I realize I am a day late but I didn't want to miss another month because I do enjoy sharing Tucker's books with all of you! That being said, here's what he enjoyed the most in the past month:

So, You Want to be an Explorer by Judith St George
I picked this up for Columbus Day and it was a lot of fun! It went through all the major explorers, dedicating a page and a small poem to each. The illustrations were wonderful and Tucker enjoyed looking at all the details!

Castaway Cats by Lisa Wheeler
Another wonderful book! It's the story of 15 cats who are washed up on the shore of a deserted island. They spend their time working to get off the island only to come to a surprise conclusion (for them, anyway) at the end! It's a great story of working together. Tucker enjoyed the rhyming text and again, the illustrations and attention to detail were amazing! Because Tucker loves to count everything, he enjoyed counting all the cats to make sure there really were fifteen on every page!

The Day the Stones Walked by T.A. Barron
Ever since Tucker saw Night at the Museum, he has loved the statues from Easter Island. I've been looking for a book about these amazing statues and I finally found a great one! This is the story of the people who built the statues and the myth that the statues come to life when no one is around. A big tsunami hits the island and the statues do come to life, saving the people of the island. Tucker loved the story of the statues being built (he's all about the process of building anything) and really enjoyed finally reading about these amazing statues!

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Daybook

For today, Monday, October 19, 2009

On my tired I am; it was a busy weekend!

Outside my is dark. A little warmer today which felt good after the horrendous rain we had yesterday and the SNOW on Thursday!

What We're Reading...I'm taking a break from The Grapes of Wrath and am now reading White Ghost Girls (for the Take A Chance Challenge). I also read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (Tucker had recommended it to me!). Tucker's favorite books this week were So You want to be an Explorer by Judith St George and Castaway Cats by Lisa Wheeler. In school, his teacher is reading The Cricket in Times Square (which we read this summer); he's excited that his name is one of the characters (he told me "Tucker's a mouse and we have something in common: we both love money!")

What We're Listening to...I finished Black Beauty and am now reading South of Broad by Pat Conroy. It's one of those books I'm glad I'm listening to because I wouldn't get anything done; I'd want to read it until it was done!

What We're Watching
...the usual shows.

I am post the Cancer Relay and retirement party pictures this week (but not tonight!)

Quotable Quote..."Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things" ~ Robert Brault

A Funny of the girls on Tucker's soccer team was telling the coach that she wouldn't be at the game last Saturday because she was going to be in a wedding. The coach, playing with her, said "you're getting married?!" She rolls her eyes, sighs, and says "no I won't be able to get married for a long time!" (she's in 1st grade!) I congratulated her dad on the good training!!!

In the Kitchen...finishing up the pizza leftovers from the weekend; spaghetti and meatballs; chicken pot pie.

Around the House...definitely could use some attention! We weren't home all weekend!

Coming Up This practice Tues and Fri...Cub Scout Den Meeting Wed...haircut Thurs...I'm off Fri to clean the house...Cub Scout Halloween party Fri night...Soccer game Sat...demo derby at the Speedbowl Sat afternoon with Tucker's friend Andrew and his parents...carving pumpkins Sun.

No picture thoughts this week...taking way too long to load!
(don't worry I will make up for it!)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Children's Classics- Re-reading a Childhood Favorite

I was so excited for this week's theme...just imagining all the books I would read (Judy Blume, Nancy Drew, etc). But alas, it snuck up on me and while I won't read them for this week, I certainly can and will in the future!

So onto the books I did read!
Black Beauty by Anna Sewall
Like most young girls, I loved horses and spent hours playing with my friend Brenda, pretending we owned horses. (we even made 'horses" out of broomsticks with a stuffed-sock face-Brenda's creation, she was always more creative than I was and probably still is!) We also read all the Black Stallion books along with this one. It was a wonderful feeling reading this one again; it took me right back to being 10 years old and those care-free summer days.

Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold
This is still one of my very favorite books! The very simple stories and the wonderful friendship that Frog and Toad share is so heart-warming! I very distinctly remember listening to this on cassette tape in the school library (did I just date myself?! LOL)

To see what others read this week, click here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Celebrating October Birthdays

It has been a crazy week and I am just now getting around to posting about the October birthdays we celebrated last Sunday!

These were the honorees:

L-R Our niece's boyfrined Eric (he'll be 21), our niece Cassandra (she'll be 20), and my mother-in-law Eileen (who's turning 70)

Of course, we have to stay true to our tradition and they all had to wear the birthday hat. We switched the candles and they passed the hat! (yes we did sing Happy Birthday three times!)

Eileen blew out the candle too fast so I just got the satisfied look afterwards!

Cassandra was next...

Tucker gave Eric some help (that extra candle for 21 made it more difficult!)

Cassandra got a new UCONN shirt from us

I made Eileen hold up her card

Tucker posed with Gra

Then with Cassandra

After the cake and presents, for some reason, Tucker and Michael decided to dance...without music! (and if you know Michael well enought, you know this is a little out of character!) They were hysterical!

My Daybook

For today... October 12, 2009, Columbus Day

On My Mind...our family friend that suffered the unfortunately fall two weeks ago. He is still very critical in the ICU unit. they have not done surgery and the swelling has subsided only minimally. He is basically in a coma at this point but does respond to the nurses poking him, etc. He will have a long road back if he does make it through this. Please continue to keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

Outside My's a little cool right now but it's supposed to another beautiful fall day!

What We're Reading...Not much has changed since I wrote two weeks ago, unfortunately. It's been so crazy; I', not even 1/4 of the way into Grapes of Wrath and I've reached the max on renewing it! I do really like it and I want to try to get my own copy. Besides the picture books, with Tucker we read Flat Stanley's Worldwide Adventures. He enjoyed Diary of A Worm and Annie and Simon (which is the book he got last year for being most improved).

What We're Listening to...I finished The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and have realized that like historical fiction, I do better if I listen to this type of book because otherwise I have to read it out loud to "get" the dialect. I've just started listening to Black Beauty.

What We're Watching...the usual: Amazing Race, Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, So you Think You Can Dance, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. We're also liking Modern Family, Three Rivers, and believe it or not, Jay Leno! tucker is still liking icarly, Dirty Jobs, and Mythbusters, and pretty much anything on National Geographic or History channel..

I am hoping...that this week is not as busy as last week!

Quotable Quote...Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

In the Kitchen...Ham steaks, tacos, spaghetti and meatballs, pizza.

Around the usual, it definitely could use some attention... laundry needs to be folded and more to be done... getting out the Halloween decorations tomorrow.

Coming Up This Week...I took today off to spend with Tucker... we're going to the playground at the Garden Center and then meeting his friend Maddie at Chuck E. practice Tues and Fri nights...PTO meeting Wed...home visit Wed...Relay for Life Sat morning...reunion rehearsal Sat afternoon...retirement party for my mom Sat night (shhh! it's a secret! Don't worry, she doesn't even own a computer!)...getting together with my mom's family on Sun.

A Picture Thought...we went to a corn maze yesterday! ( I plan to write a post about it later!)

Columbus Day

In honor of Columbus Day, here are some quick facts about Christopher Columbus:
Born: 1451
Died: May 20, 1506
Place of Birth: Genoa, Italy
Known as: The first European to enter and explore the Caribbean Sea

August 3, 1492 Embarked with three ships from Spain in search of a westward route to Asia
October 12, 1492 Landed at Guanahaní, an island in the Bahamas, and renamed it San Salvador
March 1493 Returned to Spain
September 1493 Embarked with 17 vessels on a second expedition to the New World, during which he traveled to Dominica, Guadeloupe, Antigua, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica
1493 Founded the town of Isabela near what is now Cabo Isabela, Dominican Republic
1496 Returned to Spain after a royal commission was sent to Isabela to investigate his governing policies
1498 Embarked on a third voyage to the New World, during which he traveled to Trinidad, the mouth of the Orinoco River, and Venezuela
1500 Was arrested and sent back to Spain following criticism of his policies in the Spanish territories
1502 Embarked with four ships on a fourth voyage to the New World, during which he traveled to Honduras and Panama
1504 Returned to Spain, where he died two years later

Did You Know ...
-Spanish patrons King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella funded Columbus's voyages, and allowed him to govern all territories he established.
-Columbus called the inhabitants of the Caribbean Islands Indians because he thought he had reached the East Indies.
-Columbus brought back several previously unknown crops to Europe, including tobacco.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thursday Thirteen-Banned Books

In honor of it being Banned Book Week, my list this week consists of thirteen of the most frequently challenged books (from the top 100). How many have you read?

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
6. Beloved by Toni Morrison

7. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
8. 1984 by George Orwell
9. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
10. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

11. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
12. Bridge to Teribithia by Kathleen Paterson

To participate, click here.
13. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum