Halloween In June 2017

Christmas in July, Halloween in June (Repost from 2014)
-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 .

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.

Jack o’ Lantern

Jack o’ Lantern
-By Angelique Duncan

The Jack o’ Lantern, not much is recorded in written history about these magnificent icons of Hallow’s eve. Most of what we know of the Jack o’ Lantern comes from oral tradition that has been passed down from the generations. However one could hardly imagine Halloween with out them. Plump, orange and glowing. Sometimes flickering a menacing grin, others with frightful faces and some more welcoming and sincere. For most folks the start of the Halloween season begins with a trip to the market to find that perfect gourd upon which to carve out the face that will be lit and stand guard on their porch or on their window sill for Halloween night.

It is understood that our modern Jacks find their origins from ancient Ireland. It was common practice to light kindling in a carved thick flesh of a beet or turnip as a lantern that could be carried or hung from a stick with twine. The use of the pumpkin for carving Jack o” Lanterns did not arise until the discovery of their native home, the Americas.

The lore associated with Jack o’ Lanterns is akin to The Will of The Wisps and in some traditions are interchangeable in their name. Legends of glowing mystical or spirit lights hovering in bogs and marshes that attract travelers from their intended paths have been attached to the Jack o Lantern.

There are common legends of the Jack o’ Lantern that are similar in their telling’s with slight variances in the story, but with the same outcome. The story goes that a man named Jack, who had spent a sinister existence, was approached by the devil and informed that it was the end of his life and time for the devil to collect his soul to take back to Hell. In these stories Jack is cunning and finds a way to trick the devil so that he cannot take his soul. Some stories tell that Jack tricks the devil with crosses or by manipulating or bartering with the devil into promising that he won’t take him to Hell. In keeping the devils word, he does not collect Jacks soul, however when Jack eventually dies, he cannot enter Heaven either. Jack’s spirit is doomed to wander the earth with only a lump of coal set in a turnip to light his way and keep him warm.

It is said that when one sees a Will o Wisp, it is Jack’s soul wandering. However, legends pertaining to Will of The Wisp predate the stories of wandering or stingy Jack. In some cultures and regions the wisps were thought to be wandering spirits trapped on earth. Others believe they are nymphs or faeries. Some traditions tell that the candles lit in Jack o” Lanterns are the souls of deceased children brought to life on Halloween night.

Although the stories of Jack trapped in the turnip is a popular and accepted tale and where the namesake of the carved pumpkin may come from, the use of carved faces in vegetables on Halloween goes much further back in antiquity to the pre Christianity and Gaelic practices of Samhain. Some historians site that the story of Stingy Jack and other Jack legends may have been modified when Christianity took hold in Ireland to suit a more Christian theme on explaining carved gourds at Halloween.

It was believed that on the night of Samhain, a veil was lifted that allowed the spirits of the dead to re-enter the mortal realm. Beets and turnips were carved with scary faces to ward off evil spirits and unwanted ghost. The lit vegetables would be set around the exterior of ones house and lit with candles or kindling. In some European regions the predecessor to Trick or Treating was guising, in which people would carry carved lit turnips while wearing sheets to scare folks into believing they were ghost so that they would give them food.

When European immigrants came to North America pumpkins were used in place of beets and turnips. The larger fruit with its fleshy shell made for a better carving surface and hollowed easily to hold a light source. The Samhain practice of setting out carved pumpkins on October 31st became hugely popular in the United States, and has been a mainstay of Halloween ever since.

As October descends and Halloween approaches pumpkins will be carved in all manner of faces and set out on porches as effigy to a fella named Jack, ward off evil spirits, respect for children past and serve as a beacon to welcome Trick or Treaters. When you set out your Jack o’ Lantern on this Halloween night with it’s crooked grin and flickering eyes know that you are carrying on a ancient custom that has survived many a century and that yours will be among thousands of Jack o’ Lanterns lit adding to the magic of Halloween.

Happy Halloween! Keep your Jack o’ Lantern lit in solidarity!

Images “The Great Pumpkin of Sincerity” and “Great Pumpkin & His Cult” Copyright Michelle 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.

Trick or Treat!

Trick or Treat!
-By Angelique Duncan

Trick or Treat! The practice of dressing in costumes and going door to door for treats is as old as the holiday of Halloween it’s self. It survives as a traditional custom in modern times from its origins in ancient Gaelic history and the holiday Samhain.

There are varied yet similar thoughts on why trick or treating has been practiced, however despite region and era, there has always been a common thread; costumed people asking for some sort of treat on October 31st.

The ancient Celts believed that on October 31st a veil was lifted at twilight allowing magical forms of beings to re-enter the mortal world for one night. Some believed that this opening was also extended to the spirit world of the dead as well. In the Middle ages it was thought that ghost were allowed to pass from the “otherworld” through openings in sacred grounds that acted as gateways.

Common practice in the 1400’s was to leave plates of sweets and food for faeries and elemental creatures in ones garden or porch. This was done in hopes that passing faerie troupes would take the offerings in exchange for not making mischief or tear up ones crops. This may be the first inclination of sweets used as a bartering tool to avoid tricks.

Spirits who had returned on Halloween night were also left offerings of food. Some documentation from the 15-1600’s suggest that folks would leave food for weary souls as they traveled looking for their loved ones. Samhain was considered New Years and it was customary during this era to hold huge elaborate feast. At these feast plates would be set out and a chair at the table reserved for those who had passed away.

Just as departed loved ones could pass through gateways on Halloween night, it was believed that the wretched could return as well. To pacify these ill intended spirits folks would leave sweets on their porches to appease bad ghost to not haunt them and move on from ones home to the next.

The earliest documentation of Halloween costumes comes from the 1600’s. Men would dress in scary spirit costumes to scare away evil ghost and enchanted creatures. In return for the service of shooing away the bad spirits to make way for the visiting family ghost, people would offer ale and breads to these men. As the practice grew in popularity some would sing or perform for beer and treats. This became known as “guising”. Folks would become opportunistic in the practice and dress as monsters and scary ghost, threatening people’s homes with mischief if treats were not given.

In some regions it was customary for men to go “guising” door to door to farms to gather food donations for Samhain feasts. If the farmer obliged then his home would be bestowed with good fortune through the coming year. If He did not, then he would be met with a curse of misfortune.

With the rise of Christianity the churches advocated the celebration of All Souls Day in lieu of Samhain. All Souls Day falls on November 1, or 2nd depending on region. All Souls Day began as a day set-aside for monks to pray for the souls that were trapped in purgatory. The holiday expanded as a day to pray for all souls of the dead. Folks would go to cemeteries and decorate the graves of their loved ones. Not completely willing to let go of superstitions, the practice of leaving “soul cakes” out for the dead became a common practice. Children would go “Souling” through out village’s carrying candles or lanterns singing and offering prayers for the dead in exchange for soul cakes. It was believed that when a soul cake was eaten after a prayer a damned soul was released from hell.

As immigrants from Scotland and Ireland migrated across Europe and to North America during the 1700-1800’s, the Gaelic Samhain traditions followed. In some regions boys would dress as ghost and demons going house-to-house demanding food and drink otherwise they would wreak destructive havoc and mischievous mayhem. Livestock would be let free from their stockades, crops destroyed and broken windows were common on Halloween night. Although it would be much later in history before the term “Trick or Treat” would be used, the practice of giving treats to ward of “tricksters” was in full swing and in true form of its more modern practice.

The practice of knocking on doors on Halloween night carried on into the 1900’s. Halloween was very popular in the 1920’s as it lent itself for fancy dress up parties and lavish festive feast that were popular during the era. In England and North America the poor would dress in costumes and go into wealthier neighborhoods begging for money and food. Halloween became known as “Beggars’ Night. Soon it became commonplace and children of all ranks would go door to door festively in costumes to receive treats in exchange for not playing pranks. During the mid 1930’s the Term “Trick or Treat” was born and Halloween had become a children’s holiday.

However during the 1940’s with sugar rationing and a generally somber mood created by World War II the festive revelry of costuming and asking for candy became frowned upon and Halloween made a return to Beggars Night. During this conservative era it was believed that Trick or Treating was the practice of poor immigrants and not behavior for dignified, proud American and British children.

After the war ended and the American economy became strong along with upward mobility of immigrants socially, the practice of Halloween parties and Trick or Treating returned in full force. The tradition of knocking on doors in costumes and yelling “TRICK OR TREAT” for candy was the norm. The tricks were not violent and usually took the form of knocking over trash bins, applying dark polish to windows, throwing bath tissue in trees, throwing eggs or other devious deeds of vandalism like smashing pumpkins.

In the late 1980’s efforts were made to take the “trick” out of Trick or Treats. Children older than 12 years of age were discouraged from dressing up and going out on Halloween. Adult chaperons were encouraged and churches and retail establishments would host organized Trick or Treat events. Group Halloween parties for children held indoors in lieu of taking to the streets were commonplace. By the mid 1990’s virtually all the trick was removed from Trick or Treating and Halloween night had become all about the treats. Trick or treating through out neighborhoods made a come back in the early 2,000’s and is holding strong as an annual children’s holiday and night of nostalgia for adults and is widely celebrated in the United States and gaining popularity through out the world.

The acts of wearing costumes demanding treats under threat of tricks still exist as an integral tradition to Halloween. As October 31st approaches remember to leave your porch light on and to have plenty of sweets at the ready. For that knock at the door may be a whimsical child out for Tricks or Treats or it may be a wandering ghost or faerie spirit set free to roam on Halloween night.

Images “Set free on Halloween” and “Trick or Treat” Copyright Michelle 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.

May this Halloween bring you all good fortunes.

May this Halloween bring you all good fortunes.-By Debbi Decker

Ever had your fortune told? No? Why not? Depending on who does it or how it is done, it can be illuminating and fun at the same time. Tarot and other types of card readings, tea leaves, crystals, and runes are some of the most popular ways of telling fortunes. Fortunetelling is related to divination, which has its roots in ancient civilizations. As an example, the ancient Greeks used oracles to “divine” the future and to predict for its followers. Divination is more aligned to ritualistic and religious practices, while fortunetelling has, over time, become more aligned to social and non-religious settings. Most of what we know today as fortunetelling has its roots in the European Renaissance era. It can be argued that present-day fortunetelling owes its arrival to the witchcraft persecutions. Those who practiced any form of fortunetelling or divination risked their life and the lives of their family and friends during this dark period of time. So, much like the early Christians appropriating pagan celebrations and cloaking them with Christian beliefs, the practice of fortunetelling and divination was given a “cover” of superstition, party games, and other social connotations. While still frowned upon by many during the burning times, it was still considered a pastime and not so much a religious practice.

The Victorians, with all their love of past pagan practices, brought another revival of the fortunetelling genre to family gatherings. Halloween parties and Yule gatherings saw a surge of such practices and the popularity is partly evidenced with all the different post cards created during this era that either reference a fortunetelling game or actually offer the reader a fortune right on the card.

One of my favorite fortunetelling games was taught to me by my Grandmother. She would give me an apple and a paring knife. The idea was to peel around the apple in a long strip, keeping as much of the strip as intact as possible. Once done or when the peel broke off, the peel was held gently in my cupped hand and thrown over my left shoulder, while wishing to know who my husband or next beau was to be. If I saw an initial in the way the peel lay on the floor, it was surely the initial of my next love! I must have done this every Halloween for years hoping to see the initial of the “one”!

Nuts were given the names of the persons of the opposite sex. Some would carve the initials onto the nuts, while others would choose a different type of nut for each person. The nuts would be then be thrown into the fire in a fireplace or bonfire, and the name of the first nut to pop would be the name of the nut owner’s bride or groom.

Victorian girls who were anxious to be married would walk down a flight of stairs at midnight, holding a candle in one hand and a mirror in the other, hoping to see the face of the man they would marry in the mirror!

A burning candle’s melted wax would be dripped into a basin of water and scrutinized for shapes of familiar objects and letters with the hope that a future would be revealed for the person looking.

These are only a sampling of the many games that were played throughout the Victorian age at Halloween. Why not try a few at your next Halloween gathering? And don’t forget to bob for apples. The first person who snags an apple from the tub will be the first person to marry. Already married? Well, I cannot help you there. Perhaps you will need to seek the services of a fortuneteller to get the answer to that one!

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.