The last day of October has always been filled with a sort of spookily magical aura of alluring mystery and superstition. But not always quite like it is today. Actually, it wasn’t until about 80 years ago that the customs we now associate with Halloween came into fruition, though their roots can be followed back thousands of years.
Historians trace Halloween’s beginnings to a pagan Celtic festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The event was held on the eve of October 31st, lasting until November 1st, which is the date of their new year, and signified the need to stock up on food items in preparation for the winter months. They thought that this night was a time when the dead were among the living, so they dressed in scary animal costumes to ward off the evil spirits, danced around a special fire, told stories, practiced divination – the whole shebang.
During the 8th century, Catholicism began to make its way into Ireland and Samhain became integrated with the religious celebrations of All-Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. These holidays take place November 1st and 2nd, and are meant for honoring saints and those who have recently passed. All Saints’ Day is also known as Hallowmas, All Hallows, and Hallowtide (so you can guess where the current name for October 31st stems from). And the whole dressing up thing didn’t disappear, as you may have guessed. It was believed that All Souls’ Day was the spirits’ last time to get revenge on their enemies, so the Christians did what anyone smart would do: they made masks and costumes to disguise themselves. (Pretty sneaky, guys.)
Trick-or-treating also has roots in these Catholic holidays. For All Saints’ Day, people would make special breads called soul cakes that the poor would go door to door collecting in return for prayers. Thus, trick-or-treating was created. But this act of collecting didn’t gain popularity in North America until fairly recently.
We love our grandparents. They introduce us to new ideas, offer perspectives that differ from our parents, and spoil us. And not just with unconditional love and letting us get away with things. Generally, grandparents should spend between $50 and $100 on birthday presents, depending on a variety of factors like how old the child is, finances, and how many grandkids there are in the family. Grandchildren certainly don’t come cheap. But you can make the money go further by spending it more wisely than on useless toys.
So say you’re spending $100 on a grandkid’s birthday buying – let’s face it – stupid toys that are prized for a few weeks and are then forgotten. How about putting that money to better use? Still give them a gift – something small – and spend the remainder at the bank, by putting it into an account for them. If you put $75 into a bank account twice a year, your grandchild will have close to $3000 by the time they’re 18 and if you put $25 into it once a month, that’s $5400 by the time they graduate high school. When they’re checking out student loans, having their first semester of state college taken care of will be a lot more useful than video games and meaningless plastic they haven’t touched in a decade.
I’d be a liar if I said that my childhood dream was to be a writer. While, some kids have a strong sense of direction, my career paths were always fleeting, varying month to month, with the exception of a year-long period when I wanted to be the Little Mermaid.
As I got older, I realized that it wasn’t the things I wanted to be when I was younger that had stuck with me. Instead, it was the things I was exposed to through my childhood education that I found the most compelling. At home, my parents had constantly read to me, forcing me to fall in love with worlds and people outside the comfort of my suburban life. In elementary school, we had a special talk about art once a week, exposing me to new ideas and outlets for creative expression. And as the looming date of entering college drew near, I realized that I had a choice: be a writer or an artist?
Initially, I made the wrong decision, suffered through three painful years of art college, and eventually understood that I was not cut out for visual arts. Since I was still writing diligently in a journal, decided to execute Plan B and pursue a literary degree.
Confession: I cannot hold chopsticks properly. Somehow, I weave my middle finger between the two sticks, bestowing little control, and allowing me to navigate my food anywhere but into my mouth. Due to this deficiency, I no longer allow myself to go out to sushi bars, Chinese restaurants, hibachi places, or any such establishment where my ineptitude is displayed.
But this is a conundrum, as I dearly love sushi. So, on a quest to remedy my problem, I began to wonder who in the world created these sticks, and where the rest of flatware came from. Initially, I thought that chopsticks were probably the oldest utensils since they seem the most simplistic, but I was way off…by thousands of years.
Hands down, spoons take the cake as the oldest eating utensil, next to fingers, of course. Spoons can be dated back to the Paleolithic period, before the woolly rhinoceroses went extinct. In other words, they’ve been around for a while. It’s thought that the spoon most likely originated in southern Europe. The Greek and Latin words for “spoon” come from the word cochlea, meaning a spiral shaped snail shell, so you can then guess what the first spoons were made of. In ancient Egypt, spoons were made mainly of ivory, flint, slate, and different woods, while Greeks and Romans fashioned theirs out of bronze and silver. In Medieval times, spoons were made of cow horns, wood, brass and pewter. Of course, there were fancy ones too, made of silver and gold, but they were reserved for nobles and royalty.