Thank you to all who's service keeps the rest of us safe. And my heartfelt thanks to the families of all the brave, who have served in the past, who serve now and who will serve in the future, because "they also serve who stand and wait." ~~John MIlton
The final post about Halloween, for now anyway. This I must admit is entirely new and very interesting to me.
November 11: St. Martin’s Day–Halloween, German-style
to profit-minded businesses, American Halloween customs are
increasingly infringing on German culture, but Halloween is not a
traditional holiday celebrated in Germany. However, the customs
associated with Halloween are not unfamiliar in Europe. A similar
holiday has been celebrated in many European countries for centuries on
November 11: St. Martin’s Day. In the traditional Catholic
calendar, November 11, the birthday of Saint Martin of Tours, signifies
the beginning of the forty-day fast before Christmas, and therefore is
often accompanied by a special, last-hurrah feast of roast goose, the
“Martinigans”. In some Potestant areas, however, the date was changed to
November 10 to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther instead. It was
also the day of the year on which temporary farmhands or workers were
dismissed for the winter, which for them and their families signaled the
beginning of lean times. So originally, the children went around at
night with lanterns carved from turnips or sugar beets, singing songs
and collecting food to be stored for the winter. Later, the survival
aspect became less prominent and the sweet tooth took over. Today, the
children, just as for Halloween, collect mostly sweets and candy. In
some areas, the traditional carved and candle-lit lanterns are still
displayed in parades, but in other areas paper lanterns with artificial
lights are more popular, partly for safety reasons. Some of the St.
Martin’s Day parades get pretty elaborate with a horseman leading the
parade to a public area where a big bonfire caps the festivities.
Various regions also have their own songs for the “Martinisingen”, but
the most commonly used song is “Ich geh mit meiner Laterne”.
Ich geh mit meiner Laterne und meine Laterne mit mir. Da oben leuchten die Sterne und unten da leuchten wir. rabimmel, rabammel, rabumm.
In addition to the traditional St. Martin’s Day goose with red cabbage and dumplings, some areas celebrate the holiday with “Stutenkerlen” oder “Weckmännern,” little bread men made from a sweet bread dough (recipe). In other areas, these bread creations are associated more with St. Nicholas Day. Today,
the holiday has lost most of its original religious and historical
significance. But just as the carving of pumpkins for Halloween is a
hallowed part of an American childhood, the carving of turnips or the
fashioning of a paper lantern for St. Martin’s Day is a magical part of
German childhood and even many years later is remembered more fondly
than the number of candy bars collected.
Halloween, might be over. There is still leftover candy and a few forlorn costumes and remnants of décor in the stores. some people have taken down their decorations, some not, some over eager souls have even put up their Christmas decorations.
So why and I posting about Halloween?
Halloween and Samhain are usually celebrated on the same day, but is that truly right? Well no.
Halloween is a cross-quarter day
By Bruce McClure in Astronomy Essentials | Human World|October 31, 2017
The 4 cross-quarter days
fall between equinoxes and solstices. Halloween is the spookiest one –
derived from a sacred festival of ancient Celts and Druids – coming as
days grow short and nights long in the Northern Hemisphere.
Halloween – short for All Hallows’ Eve – is an astronomical holiday. Sure, it’s the modern-day descendant from Samhain, a sacred festival of the ancient Celts and Druids in the British Isles. But it’s also a cross-quarter day,
which is probably why Samhain occurred when it did. Early people were
keen observers of the sky. A cross-quarter day is a day more or less
midway between an equinox (when the sun sets due west) and a solstice
(when the sun sets at its most northern or southern point on the
horizon). Halloween – October 31 – is approximately midway point
between the autumn equinox and winter solstice, for us in the Northern
In other words, in traditional astronomy,
there are eight major seasonal subdivisions of every year. They include
the March and September equinoxes, the June and December solstices, and
the intervening four cross-quarter days.
In modern times, the four cross-quarter
days are often called Groundhog Day (February 2), May Day (May 1),
Lammas (August 1) and Halloween (October 31).
solstices and cross-quarter days are all hallmarks of Earth’s orbit
around the sun. Halloween is the 4th cross-quarter day of the year.
Illustration via NASA
For us in the Northern Hemisphere,
Halloween is the darkest of the cross-quarter days, coming at a time of
year when the days are growing shorter. Early people once said that the
spirits of the dead wander from sunset until midnight around this
cross-quarter day. After midnight – on November 1, which we now call All
Saints’ Day – the ghosts are said to go back to rest.
The October 31 date for Halloween has been
fixed by tradition. The true cross-quarter day falls on November 7,
representing a discrepancy of about a week. According to the ancient
Celts, a cross-quarter day marks the beginning – not the middle – of a
Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters. This tiny,
misty dipper is easy to pick out in the night sky. Photo via Dave Dehetre/Flickr.
The Pleiades connection. It’s thought that the early forbearer of Halloween – Samhain – happened on the night that the Pleiades star cluster culminated at midnight.
In other words, the Pleiades climbed to its
highest point in the sky at midnight on or near the same date as this
cross-quarter day. In our day, Halloween is fixed on October 31, though
the midnight culmination of the Pleiades cluster now occurs on November
Presuming the supposed connection between
Samhain and the midnight culmination of the Pleiades, the two events
took place on or near the same date in the 11th century (1001-1100) and
12th century (1101-1200). This was several centuries before the
introduction of the Gregorian calendar.
At that time, when the Julian calendar was
in use, the cross-quarter day and the midnight culmination of the
Pleiades fell – amazingly enough – on or near October 31. But, then, the
Julian calendar was about one week out of step with the seasons. Had
the Gregorian calendar been in use back then, the date of the
cross-quarter day celebration would have been November 7.
But Halloween is now fixed on October 31.
Meanwhile, the true cross-quarter day now falls on or near November 7
and the midnight culmination of the Pleiades cluster on or near November
Bottom line: The present date for
Halloween – October 31 – marks the approximate midway point between the
autumn equinox and the winter solstice. Halloween is one of the year’s
four cross-quarter days.
Bruce McClure has served as lead writer for
EarthSky's popular Tonight pages since 2004. He's a sundial aficionado,
whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and
sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation
certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also
writes and hosts public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in
and around his home in upstate New York.