October 28, 2011

Spooks and Spirits Time!

Halloween for most of us who have had children was the time of year for collecting candy and playing small harmless pranks; thus the expression "Trick or Treat". It is when the Catholic Church and some Protestant churches celebrate the lives of all saints, known and unknown. The eve of All Saints is known as All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. All Saints Day is November 1. On All Saints Day, we celebrate these saints of the Lord, and ask for their prayers and intercessions. The idea of All Saints Day is tied to the concept of the Communion of Saints. Catholic and Orthodox Christians believe that the saints of God are just as alive as you and I, and are constantly interceding on our behalf. Remember, our connection with the saints in heaven is one grounded in a tight-knit communion. The saints are not divine, nor omnipresent or omniscient. However, because of our common communion with and through Jesus Christ, our prayers are joined with the heavenly community of Christians.

However, most protestant Christians do not celebrate this day as Hallows Eve but as Halloween. Halloween is an annual holiday observed on October 31, which commonly includes activities such as trick-or-treating, attending costume parties, carving jack-o'-lanterns, bonfires, apple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, and watching horror films.

Some folklorists believe its origins to be in the Roman feast of Pomona celebrating the goddess of fruits and seeds. The festival of the dead called Parentalia, more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain. The name of the festival historically kept by the Gaels and Celts in the British Isles is derived from Old Irish and means roughly "summer's end". Later Irish, Welsh, and Scottish folklore use it as a setting for supernatural encounters; but there is no evidence that it was connected with the dead in pre-Christian times, or that pagan religious ceremonies were held. The Irish myths which mention Samhain were written in the 10th and 11th centuries by Christian monks. This is around 200 years after the Catholic church inaugurated All Saints Day and at least 400 years after Ireland became Christian. The word Halloween was first seen in the 16th century and represents a Scottish variant of the fuller All-Hallows-Even or evening. Although the phrase All Hallows is found in Old English, All-Hallows-Even is itself not attested until 1556.

All the Halloween symbols are taken from many sources, including national customs, works of Gothic and horror literature and classic horror films. Among the earliest works on the subject of Halloween is from Scottish poet John Mayne in 1780, who wrote about pranks being pulled at Halloween. Robert Burns' Halloween 1785 made the idea of ghosts and ghouls running around on Halloween quite popular. Elements of the autumn season, such as pumpkins, corn husks, and scarecrows, are also prevalent. Homes are often decorated with these types of symbols around Halloween. The carving of jack-o'-lanterns springs from the souling custom of carving turnips into lanterns as a way of remembering the souls held in purgatory. The turnip has traditionally been used in Ireland and Scotland at Halloween; but immigrants to North America used the larger, more available, native pumpkin. The American tradition of carving pumpkins is recorded in 1837. It was originally associated with harvest time in general, not becoming part of the Halloween celebration until the mid-to-late 19th century. Other Halloween symbols include death, evil, the occult, or mythical monsters. Black and orange are the holiday's traditional colors.

Trick-or-treating is a customary celebration for children on Halloween. Children go in costume from house to house, asking for treats such as candy or sometimes money, with the question, "Trick or treat?" The word "trick" refers to a "threat" to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat is given. In some parts of Scotland children still go guising. In this custom the child performs some sort of trick, like singing a song, or telling a ghost story, to earn their treats.

The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays dates back to the Middle Ages and includes Christmas wassailing. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling, when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls' Day (November 2). This tradition started in Ireland and Britain, although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy. Shakespeare mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593). In Scotland and Ireland, Guising is a traditional Halloween custom. It is recorded in Scotland at Halloween in 1895 where masqueraders in disguise carrying lanterns made out of scooped out turnips, visited homes to be rewarded with cakes, fruit and money. The practise of Guising at Halloween in North America is first recorded in 1911, where a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario reported children going "guising" around the neighborhood.

American historian and author Ruth Edna Kelley of Massachusetts wrote the first book length history of the holiday in the U.S; The Book of Halloween (1919.) Americans have adopted these practices. They are making this an occasion something like what it must have been in its best days overseas. All Hallowe'en customs in the United States are borrowed directly or adapted from those of other countries.The earliest known use in print of the term "trick or treat" appears in 1927, from Blackie, Alberta, Canada. The thousands of Halloween postcards produced between the turn of the 20th century and the 1920s commonly show children but they are not trick-or-treating. Trick-or-treating does not seem to have become a widespread practice until the 1930s, with the first U.S. appearances of the term in 1934, and the first use in a national publication occurring in 1939.

Halloween costumes are traditionally modeled after supernatural figures such as monsters, ghosts, skeletons, witches, and devils. However; with the passage of time, the costume selection extended to include popular characters from fiction, celebrities, and generic archetypes such as ninjas and princesses. Costuming became popular for Halloween parties in the US in the early 20th century. Just as often for adults as for children. The first mass-produced Halloween costumes appeared in stores in the 1930s. Halloween costume parties generally fall on, or around, 31 October, often falling on the Friday or Saturday prior to Halloween.

Because the holiday comes in the middle of the annual apple harvest, candy apples or toffee apples are great Halloween treats made by rolling whole apples in a sticky sugar syrup, followed by rolling them in nuts. At one time, candy apples were commonly given to children, but the practice stopped fast because of widespread rumors that some individuals were embedding items like pins and razor blades in the apples. While there is evidence of such incidents, they are quite rare and have never resulted in serious injury. However; many parents assumed that such horrible practices were going on because of the mass media. At the peak of the hysteria, some hospitals offered free X-rays of children's Halloween hauls in order to find evidence of tampering. One custom that persists in modern-day Ireland is the baking of a barmbrack. This is a light fruitcake, into which a plain ring, a coin and other charms are placed before baking. It is said that those who get a ring will find their true love in the ensuing year. This is similar to the tradition of king cake at the festival of Epiphany.

Notice: All information for this article was taken from Wikipedia.

Experiencing God!

I feel as though I have been traveling for most my life. Well of course, I have physically moved from place to place; but my spiritual journey is more what I am contemplating.

These days it doesn't seem as though people like to hear you say anything about your faith; but at this time in my life particularly I am not very interested in keeping myself aligned with the status quo. I am more concerned with my relationship with the Almighty. I want to make it clear; that what I am about to say, has nothing to do with Jim Carey, George Burns, or any other Hollywood idea of the divine. Sometimes, I wonder if all the speculation, comedy, sarcasm, and inappropriate drama around the subject, from that quarter, isn't doing more harm than good. But that is another subject entirely. Not even going to broach that one.

At present, I am involved in a bible study; that talks about how we humans can go about really 'experiencing' God. I have learned so far that a lot of my ideas were sort of impractical and unfounded in a lot of ways. For instance, the word servant has always meant to me a
person employed by another, especially to perform domestic duties or a person in service of another. This isn't a workable definition when it comes to a the reality of our relationship with God. To be a servant of God is quite another thing. God tells us that He does His divine work through us. That we can do nothing, for him, on our own. Not even, Jesus does anything on his own. The Father works through Him as he he works through us. This is illustrated in John 5: 17, 19-20. Well that is one of the paths I am taking spiritually in my life at present.

On a less theological note, I wanted to say in this blog; that I am taking the sidebar update off my blog today. Having it on a site that I see many times a month does not help me
forgive and forget these people. I will leave it on the other site as I have rewritten it to be a little less mean spirited. It has to be out there; as a sort of warning to others who find themselves on their own.

Note: The book 'Experiencing God' by Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King is the one I am in the studying within a group.