Christmas in July, Halloween in June

Christmas in July, Halloween in June
-By Angelique Duncan

Most folks have heard the expression “Christmas in July”. It usually is used to express a great and unexpected surprise. There seems to be differing opinions and documentation of when the slogan was actually was first actually used. Some historians trace the term back to the 1930’s and 1940’s to different Christian church entities and clubs in regards to annual events involving decorated trees, gift giving and all the trappings of the winter holiday in the hot summer month of July. First official use of the term “Christmas In July” was from an American movie of that title that was released in 1940. However the concept has much deeper and practical origins.

The notion finds its roots in the Victorian era of the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The Victorians, despite being quite extravagant in their winter celebrations with in decorations and gifts were also frugal and inventive people. The practice of purchased gifts at the Christmas holiday did not surface until much later in modern history. The Victorians would primarily give hand made gifts. The common practice was for each family member to make a gift for each other member of the family. For this to be pulled off in time for winter, a lot of planning and preparation was required.

Most gifts were made from what one could find in nature or in ones home. The making of gifts and holiday decorations for the home became part of the summer ritual. During the summer months, materials from nature were readily available. Starting the craft projects early in July gave a window of roughly 6 months to complete the projects of sewing, collecting and drying flowers, canning and preserving special foods from the garden, using oils to sent sachets and pomanders and to build collages or paint objects.

The Victorian practice of hand crafting ones Christmas gifts carried over into the 1930’s during the Great Depression when resources were scarce. In lieu of purchasing items, holiday gifts were from what one could make from what they had on hand. Later in 1944 during World War II, the United States Postal Service and greeting card industry promoted a postal campaign to collect letters and cards in early July for soldiers overseas to help ensure that they would be received for the holidays.

In the 1950’s with rise in incomes and commercialism advertisers for department stores caught on to the phrase to help boost retail sales during the leaner profit months of summer. The idea gained momentum for bargain hunters, who would begin their holiday shopping early in the year. This also allowed for retailers to push out old inventory to make room for the next year’s products.

In the years of the 1950’s through the 1970’s retail marketing of the Christmas holiday season began the day after Thanksgiving, on what is now known as Black Friday. Stores would set Christmas displays and begin their holiday sales for what is considered season of the greatest profits for retailers though out the months of November and December.

In an effort to extend the shopping season and sell more Christmas merchandise retailers began to push the start of the holiday season earlier and earlier each year. The market for winter décor exploded. By the late 1980’s retailers would begin to play holiday music and stock Christmas items the day after Halloween. By the 1990’s and into the new millennium retailers began putting out their holiday merchandise as early as June and July and have capitalized on the “Christmas In July” slogan in hopes to capture revenue from folks doing their holiday gift and decorating shopping early.

The phenomenon of capitalizing and commercializing holidays carried over to Halloween. With the rise in popularity of Halloween in past decades, retailers have taken notice. Sales of Halloween themed items for home decorating, parties, yard decorations and costumes now follows a close second to Christmas related sales and is gaining.

During the early 1990s and 2000’s Halloween entered a surge in popularity in American culture. However availability of quality unique Halloween decorations was limited in the big retail market. Most decorations and costumes prior to the late 1980- 90’s were home made. As the desire for Halloween décor that was on par with Christmas decorating grew, so did the market for Halloween art. Small independent artist and individuals who built yard – haunting décor had found their niche. With the advent of the Internet and the growth of an online upstart auction site known as eBay, demand for handmade Halloween soared. An entire market of Halloween collectors was born. One of a kind direct from the artist creations was highly sought after.

As this national love of all things Halloween grew, national retailers took notice and followed suit. The large retail chains began to offer Halloween collectibles, home decor and elaborate yard art that hit their shelves by late August and September. Big retailers honed in on what was offered by the independent online sellers and created an entire industry of Halloween retail revenue.

Sales of Halloween themed collectibles for home decorating, parties, yard decorations and costumes now follows a close second to Christmas related sales and is gaining. With this popularity of Halloween, retailers now set out mass-produced Halloween items as early as July, often along side the Christmas wares. This has drastically hurt the profits of small independent Halloween artist and yard haunters who once enjoyed a reliable fall retail season for Halloween sales.

From this history a campaign of Halloween in June was born. Independent artist Julia Chibatar proprietor of Ghostgap had the idea in 2013 to create a month dedicated to Halloween outside of it’s traditional month of October as an answer to the commercial concept of Christmas in July. Halloween in June is a month long celebration of all things Halloween with particular emphasis on independent Halloween Artist and their handmade wares. The celebration is a combined effort of Halloween groups comprised of independent artist to raise awareness of the small retail businesses and artist who gave origin to the Halloween retail phenomenon. It is an opportunity to showcase one of a kind handcrafted works available for purchase direct from the artist before the onslaught of big retail Halloween hits the shelves.

Halloween in June is presented by Spooky Cute Etsy Team
Halloween Artist Bazaar Artist Group
And Halloween 24/7 Etsy Team.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

Walpurgisnacht. It’s coming. The doors are opening. Are you ready?

Walpurgisnacht. It’s coming. The doors are opening. Are you ready?
-By Debbi Decker

Directly opposite Halloween on the calendar, the night April 30 is the other day of the year when the barriers are down between our world and the other side. Things slip through, ghosts are walking, and those who are in the know are casting spells and divining the future. And much like Halloween, there are bonfires to drive away the evil, and in some countries, pranks are played on the unwary.

“Walpurgis” is the name of an 8th century German nun who preached against witchcraft and was later canonized as a saint in 779 AD. Because her saint day was near the time of an ancient Viking festival of spring, the two celebrations were combined into the Catholic calendar to create Walpurgisnacht (nacht is the German word for night).

Walpurgisnacht is celebrated in many European countries as the last night the witches could gather before spring/summer took hold on the land and the sun was at its most powerful. Masking, the wearing of talismans, and the use of Holy Water were some of the ways people used to ward off the evil that could cross over from the other side. Scarecrows (straw men) were also made, spells were cast upon them to draw in all the bad luck and evil from the previous year and then thrown in the bonfires to burn and hopefully bless the New Year going forward.

Because the doors to the other side are open, this is also a night to communicate with the spirits and seek guidance for the coming year. Sit outside under a tree during this night and you may hear the bells of the Faerie Queen as she rides by looking for mortals to take to her realm. Burn a special incense that has a floral scent and pass tokens of special meaning to you to cleanse them and make them powerful for the coming year. If Walpurgisnacht coincides with a full moon, take a bowl of water that has been blessed with the smoke of fire, and carry it outside to gather the moon’s rays. This powerful water can be bottled and used in rituals throughout the remainder of the year.

And, since the next morning is Beltane (May 1), once you have completed your Walpurgisnacht rituals, go out at dawn to gather the morning dew to wash your face. Your complexion will be magical and flawless for the remainder of the year!

Debbi Decker is proprietor of twistedpixelstudio Art & Assemblage Emporium. Check out her artist page to find links to her shop and blog to read more of her writings. Visit again next month for the telling of hauntings and ghostly tales by Debbi Decker.

The Appearance of Leprechauns

The Appearance of Leprechauns
-By Angelique Duncan

In March the Leprechauns begin to appear. They are often the ambassadors of Irish mythology and a modern symbol of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. In early history they are described as short statured around three feet tall with red hair and often bearded, wearing red topcoats and always in a hat. Their coats were said to have rows of seven brass buttons. Their appearance was generally tidy and dapper with a stoic demeanor.

It is believed that the Leprechauns were the cobblers and bankers for the faeries and mystical folk. Legend has it that they would hold coins and shiny objects of value for the fairy clans in crocks that they would store in burrows and under mounds. To keep the wealth safe from humans, the Leprechauns were the only ones who knew where it was buried. They carry two pouches, one with silver coins that will magically reappear in the pouch once paid. In the other pouch they carry magical gold coins that they reserve for when they are in a tight spot and need to bribe or distract to get out of a situation. The gold coins are said to turn to ash once handed out and the Leprechaun has escaped out of sight.

In many legends the Leprechauns are deemed generally cranky, serious, hard working creatures, with strong ethics and are mostly solitary. Other than their shoemaking and bank dealings with the various faerie races, they prefer the company of other Leprechauns. They have earned the reputation of being miserly and tricksters. The reputation as mischievous tricksters is garnished by the great lengths and persistent measures they will go to evade humans.

Their aversion to humans stems from ancient history of Ireland, as it is believed that they were descended from the Tuatha de Danann. After being defeated in a series of power struggles, the Leprechauns, along with the other mystical tribes where driven under ground to live in caves and mounds. It is said that the Leprechauns were charged with the duty of protecting the riches of the ancients when they went into hiding.

A common theory is that later in history when Christianity took hold across Europe the followers of the ancient religions were eradicated and the remnants of the magical faeries and Leprechauns were driven further into hiding. Legends of the hidden treasures surfaced among humans and it was believed that if one could capture a Leprechaun, they could be forced to lead humans to the pots of hidden gold. It was thought that if one could follow a Leprechaun to the “end of a rainbow” the treasure would be found. It was once held that rainbows were markers to the buried ancient wealth and acted as portal openings to the enchanted underworld. To cross paths with a Leprechaun is said to be a rare occurrence and usually ends in frustration for the human who tries to capture and extract the location of the treasure from the Leprechaun.

The modern incarnation of Leprechauns are depicted as wearing all green, presumably to emphasize the wearing of the green and Irish pride for St Patrick’s Day. They are often described as unruly, prone to drunkenness, random mischief and vandalism. One explanation for the personality change in Leprechauns from their past reserved countenance is that what is being described in modern times is not actually Leprechauns, but Cluricans who are part of a different race that is related to Leprechauns. Although similar in physical appearance and possibly related to the Leprecaun, Cluricans are a separate race in the order of magical folk. Cluricans are noted for a love of harsh drink, rabble rousing and terrorizing livestock and crops to spite humans. They are said to be short in stature and untidy in appearance.

The practical explanation of the Leprechauns modern appearance and demeanor is that over time the folklore associated with the magical folk is mostly moot and forgotten. The modern Leprechaun that is associated with St. Patrick’s Day is an amalgamation of descriptions from fictional literature, film and early American stereotypes of the Irish.

St Patrick’s Day originated as a Christian holiday celebrating the victory of St. Patrick driving the “snakes” out of Ireland. The “snakes” are metaphorical for St. Patrick eradicating the non-Christians from Ireland. It was a celebration that the Pagan gods and myth had been muffled. Although regionally some do still celebrate March seventeenth as a holy religious day, in the modern United States it is marked as a day of Irish Pride for the obstacles overcome by immigrants in the new world. It is celebrated with merriment, wearing of green, exaggerated claims to Irish heritage, much drinking and the appearance of Leprechauns.

If there are still Leprechauns left in the world, they must get quite a chuckle at the irony that a holiday that once was created to celebrate their extinction, now celebrates their image as the quintessential Irish icon. Should you have the good fortune to glimpse a Leprechaun crossing your path raise a glass to honor him and his kind, he’s had a rough history and has managed to endure the test of time. Word of advice, don’t bother to try and follow him. He won’t tell you where the crock of gold is buried.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

Krampus, The Valentine Devil

Krampus, The Valentine Devil -By Angelique Duncan

Krampus originated in early history as a winter holiday icon as the antithesis to St Nicholas or Santa Clause. He was a reminder to children to be good. He is the horned devil like creature with one human foot and one hove and a long tongue who would carry away naughty children in his basket to his liar in the Black Forest. In his early incarnations he was depicted as menacing and gruesome, a sight to be feared.

Greeting cards in the early nineteenth century with the frightening image of Krampus became popular as a way of giving warning to children that Krampus was watching. As the greeting card industry grew in popularity, images of Krmapus became more tongue in cheek and humorous in nature and were targeted to adults. Krampus remained sinister in his appearance despite his more comical and sometimes romantic escapades.

Krampus began to emerge in modern history on greeting cards in a more adult context depicted seducing and voyeuristically interacting with attractive and often scantly dressed women. This more romantic and erotic version of Krampus began to appear not only at Yule and Christmas time but found their way to the lowbrow Valentines Day greeting card market. Krampus evolved into a less gruesome monster to a more sophisticated and human like devil form. He began to be featured wearing suits and sports jackets and sometimes wore a cape. With his new smoother appearance Krampus sometimes took on an almost cupid like role matchmaking couples or “pulling the strings” of romance. The card sentiments were subversively erotic in nature and Krampus had become synonymous with deviant sexuality. In a role reversal Krampus cards sometimes displayed a woman in a “Krampus” suit seducing or chasing a man. Some cards even put Krampus in the submissive role, shown as the captive of a pretty woman.

In last 50 years Krampus began to appear outside of his activities with seduction and would commonly appear in traditional Valentine settings with his switch broom, hearts and symbols of romance as a Valentines Day Devil. During the 1960’s as sugary kitschiness gained in popularity in the greeting card industry, Krampus became sweeter and gentler in his appearance and youthful. His basket and chains were replaced with a pitchfork. He often was illustrated as red or wearing a red suit and more traditional devil-like with smaller horns and more human. The Krampus card sentiments became cheeky with puns and plays on words. Krampus had become the pre-curser to the Valentines Day devil we often see today.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

Crossing Over

Crossing Over -By Debbi Decker

Usually when you hear that term, it is in connection with death, ghosts, and other paranormal events. But I can’t help using that term for my recent vintage discoveries.

I collect images and post cards from the Victorian era to around the early 1960s to incorporate into my art. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I was interested in finding some old Valentine images to add to what I already have. It’s not a favorite holiday of mine, and I rarely do create anything in that genre, but I enjoy looking at the old Valentines, and sometimes find quite interesting and unusual images to add to my collection.

It is not unusual to find spooky images in connection with Christmas. After all, there is Krampus and so many creepy Santa Claus images. But, imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon Valentine images chock full of Halloween and spooky images and references! And a Valentine that references fairies and elves too. Wow, talk about crossing over!

The images included in this post are from the late 1950s and possibly as late as the 1960s. Now that I have found these, who knows, maybe I can rouse myself to create a spooky hauntingly beautiful Valentine item for next year! I know that I will now be searching for more!

Debbi Decker is proprietor of twistedpixelstudio Art & Assemblage Emporium. Check out her artist page to find links to her shop and blog to read more of her writings. Visit again next month for the telling of hauntings and ghostly tales by Debbi Decker.

The Giving of Thanks

The Giving of Thanks-By Angelique Duncan

Most of us have been told since elementary school the Thanksgiving story. That in November 1631 the early migrants from Europe to North America celebrated the “first” Thanksgiving feast after surviving the perils of arriving to their new home on the Mayflower. The story is told that the pilgrims were grateful for their first successful corn crop and for the help of the Wampanoag Indians for their generosity. William Bradford called for a grand feast of celebration and thanks. This story stuck and was passed on for generations and is the commonly held legend today.

However this story although some what based in factual events is highly disputed by historians for it’s complete accuracy of how we have arrived at the annual November holiday feast. A commonly accepted theory among historians is that the story of Thanksgiving is an amalgamation of many first feast that celebrated migrations to North America combined with varied religious and cultural influences.

Fasting followed by feast days had long been a practice of Puritans in Europe as part of Reformation that eliminated many more elaborate festive church holidays that had Pagan roots. The legend of the Thanksgiving feasts celebrated in North America of the 1600’s combined elements of the religious observances of the church to give gratitude to God for deliverance while incorporating the elements of ancient harvest festivals celebrating bountiful crops. Through out the colonies there had been many First feasts or Thanksgiving celebrations in honor of a multitude of hardships over come. giving debate to the accuracy that Mayflower pilgrims were indeed the first to hold a Thanksgiving feast in North America. Given the similarities of Thanksgiving feast and that of Harvest festivals many historians believe that these feasts were most likely held in the months of August and September. Thus, coinciding traditional celebration dates of Lammas and the Autumn Equinox, a more likely time to finish reaping crops for the season in New England.

George Washington declaring November 26, 1789 as a public day of gratitude issued the first official proclamation of a unified national holiday for Thanksgiving. However for decades after each state celebrated Thanksgivings on different dates with out unified celebration. Later President Lincoln issued a proclamation that a national day of Thanksgiving would be recognized on the last Thursday of November in an effort to foster the union of North and South during the civil war. It would not be until 1941 that Franklin D Roosevelt would declare the fourth Thursday in November to be the official national holiday of Thanksgiving that we celebrate today. The measure was an effort to bolster the economy and give an earlier start to what we now recognize as the winter holiday season proceeding the Christmas Holiday.

The traditional meal and foods associated with our modern celebration are closer to the Victorians Thanksgiving celebrations with interpretations of what the Pilgrims meal might have been. Our current Thanksgiving practice with emphasis on family, neighbors and unity surrounding a traditional family meal arose from a 30-year letter writing campaign by Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale. It is widely believed that her pleas for a national day observing family and unity is what encouraged Abraham Lincoln to proclaim the national holiday on a uniform day for the country. It is from the writings of Victorian women to periodicals and newspapers of the their time that the recipes we now know became a mainstay to the celebratory meal. As well, the traditional potted mums, brightly colored centerpieces and horn o plenty marking the Thanksgiving season were the creation of the Victorians rather than the décor of pilgrims. What had once been a day celebrating the harvest that transformed to a somber day of deliverance and prayer, had become a festive day to unify family and celebrate home.

The Thanksgiving holiday as a day to celebrate family was further reinforced in importance in American culture after World War Two ended and soldiers returned home from war. The holiday took greater importance to emphasize family and a unified feast after so many had been separated from family shipped over seas, and was welcomed after the rationing of goods encouraged by the war effort. The nation collectively celebrated the greatness of the nation in gratitude of winning the noble cause of a World War.

Whether you are celebrating the bountiful harvest, acknowledging hardships over come or celebrating the gathering of family and friends, be grateful. During the day-to-day monotony and frustrations of life it is easy to forget how much we have to be grateful for. Count your blessings and all that you have to be thankful for.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

Growing up with Halloween

Growing up with Halloween-By Angelique Duncan

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

First Harvest

First Harvest-By Angelique Duncan

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

The Rabbit and the Eggs

The Rabbit and the Eggs-By Angelique Duncan

Wonderful Enchanted Springtime! Finally the sun and warmth make their appearance after the long slumber of winter. Everything is born again as green and colors emerge from the earthen garden. Celebrations for spring and her Equinox commence as Easter and Oestara announce the arrival of the Easter Bunny, also known as the rabbit Oshter Haws, bringing the gift of colored eggs.

The modern practice and symbolism of “Easter” eggs has existed for many centuries in varying cultures as far back as the Egyptians and Mediterraneans. Throughout time the practice of painting and giving decorative eggs has, for the most part, remained intact in observance. However the interpretive meaning behind the symbolism of eggs has changed. The appearance of painted eggs, or pysanka as they have been named in the Ukraine, at or near the Vernal Equinox is a deep-rooted tradition in many cultures yet has for the most part held the same meaning. Eggs have been used as symbols of rebirth and renewal. In pre-Christian cultures this renewal and rebirth was in celebration of the coming of spring and the renewal of life that occurred in nature. For many Pagan cultures the process of decorating the egg was a ritual and rite of Spring celebration. It was believed that the eggs were endowed with talisman or magical power through prayer and meditation. It was believed the eggs could ward off evil spirits, guarantee a good harvest and bring a person good luck. These meditations passed into the eggs a wish that the recipient would receive protection from harm as well as good fortune and a message of well-being, happiness and joy. With the rise of Christianity the amulet properties of painted eggs was shed and the emphasis of rebirth of nature was shifted to the renewal and redemption of souls through Christ and the resurrection. However the springtime images have remained a prominent theme to most ornamented eggs.

The Easter Rabbit or once named in Germanic culture “Oschter Haws” meaning magical hare was brought to the United States by the Deutsch. The Easter Bunny has his origins as a symbol of renewal of life and fertility in nature. Many believed the rabbit would bring the decorated eggs to well deserving children as rewards in the form of tokens of good fortune for the upcoming year. The Easter rabbit was once revered as a powerful symbol to promote life and fertility for crops, families and livestock. It was believed the hare, being the most prolific in its reproduction during spring, was the most endowed of animals in the process of life renewal from winter to spring. As with the Egg, the Rabbits symbolism was transferred to a more Christian interpretation as Christianity spread and the practice of nature religions declined. The once important fertility symbol of the robust rabbit hare began to lean towards that of the sweet young bunny and became a symbol of the sacrifice Christ made for innocence and the emphasis was less on the rabbits breeding ability and shifted its representation to the “new life” given to the world by Christ. Many non-Christians “accepted” the Christian meaning given to their spring symbols in an effort to preserve pieces of their culture and continue some form of their spiritual practices.

The legend of the magical Oschter Haws or Easter Bunny who delivers enchanted painted eggs under the cover of darkness before sunrise still remains all these centuries later. When you wake up and find those colorful eggs that appeared in your yard early Easter morn and your enjoying those colorfully wrapped chocolates count yourself lucky, for Oschter Haws deemed you deserving of good fortune and delivered for you talismans of springtime protection.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.