Tag Archives: traditions


First Halloween?

cat bat

In the 5th Century BC in Ireland, October 31 was seen as the divide between summer and winter and was called Samhain (pronounced sow-han because after a few days of partying, you have a really hard time pronouncing the letter “m” – not really, it’s just that their language is weird like that).

It was the night that the spirits of the dead could walk the Earth. To encourage the spirits not to linger, people would put out the fires in their homes (to make it cold and unwelcoming) and dress as demons, goblins, and witches. They would parade through the houses, making as much noise as possible. (Parents of small children can relate.)

Then they would gather outside the village where the druid priests would light huge bonfires. The fires were a tribute to the sun god in thankfulness for the crops they had grown. It was also meant to frighten away spirits who might want to inhabit a villager’s body over the next year. Sometimes, if someone seemed to be already possessed, that person was thrown onto the fire. (The 5th Century BC was not a high point in caring for the mentally ill.) This was to warn off other spirits from trying to take over any of the other villagers.

The festivities changed some over the years. The Romans came and banned burning the crazies possessed, and burned effigies instead. The Christians came and the holiday began losing its connection to the old religion. In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as All Saints Day, a day to honor saints and martyrs. Church sanctioned holidays were moving in on the holidays of the old gods and taking over their festivities.

People probably didn’t care much. They still got bonfires and a night of partying. While churches in other parts of the world had All Saints Day on November 1, not much was going on for All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) until the potato famine forced Irish immigrants to come to the United States. America in the 1840s discovered Mischief Night where young people in costumes would go out and destroy stuff (knock over outhouses, for example). They also brought the custom of trick-or-treating.

Even in the 1880s people were already talking about making the holiday less frightening so as not to upset the children. Now, a little over a century later we’re just trying to take away the fun and creativity. The only appropriate costumes anymore are generic store-bought ones that are guaranteed not to offend anyone – funny how most of them are licensed comic book or movie characters. (But the change isn’t for profit, it’s for the Chiiiiilllldddrrreeennnn!)

At least we can still dress our pets up in weird costumes.

cat lobster

santa pigs

Story of Winston the Christmas Whale Started?

The story of Winston the Whale dates back to the 1800’s, where young children would ask of the merfolk, who were once well acquainted with the land dwellers. The merfolk then told them what they tell their young: The story of Winston the Whale.

Winston’s story is a bit long, but the shortened version is that while the reindeer could fly, they could not swim, and Santa had no way to take the gifts to the merfolk. As he sat on the beach worried for those young mer-children and how sad they would be finding no presents left for them, a whale arose a short distance from the shore, asking what ailed Santa so. Once explained, Winston offered to help, but he could not hold his breath forever. Santa accepted, and with the help of magic, he was able to hold his breath twice as long! He would store the gifts, in his mouth as Santa, who could in fact breath underwater himself, rode him to deliver the mer-children’s gifts.

Today, Winston is still a well known figure for Christmas, bringing ocean themed gifts to the children of the land every year.

Also to good little piglets, because let’s face it, they’re all way cuter than most human children.


Tradition of the White Wedding Dress Started?

It became popular in Europe after Queen Victoria wore a white lace dress when she married Prince Albert in 1840, primarily to show support for the handmade lace industry in England which had been damaged by the rise of machine-made lace. Victoria’s twelve bridesmaids also wore white.


In 1849, Godey’s Lady’s Books said, “Custom has decided from the earliest ages, that white is the most fitting hue, whatever may be the material. It is an emblem of the purity and innocence of girlhood, and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one” but making white symbolic of purity or virginity was a more recent attribution, not something “from the earliest ages”.

White didn’t become a popular wedding dress color in the U.S. until the 1860s, and then it was still only for those who could afford it since it was difficult and expensive to make a truly white cloth and, before dry-cleaning, or even reliable bleaches, it was an impractical color to keep clean.

Brides had worn white before but they also wore many other colors, depending on their wealth and status and what ways the gown would need to be repurposed for later.

See History of Wedding Dresses and Queen Victoria’s wedding, or why modern brides wear white for more information.