Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year 2019

In the Gregorian calendar, New Year's Eve (also known as Old Year's Day or Saint Sylvester's Day in many countries), the last day of the year, is on 31 December which is the seventh day of Christmastide
In many countries, New Year's Eve is celebrated at evening social gatherings, where many people dance, eat, drink alcoholic beverages, and watch or light fireworks to mark the new year. Some Christians attend a watchnight service. The celebrations generally go on past midnight into New Year's Day, 1 January.
SamoaTonga and Kiritimati (Christmas Island), part of Kiribati, are the first places to welcome the New Year while American Samoa and Baker Island in the United States of America are among the last.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

2nd Annual Smashwords End of Year Sale - December 25, 2018 through January 1, 2019

Author Mary Ann Bernal is participating in the 2nd Annual Smashwords End of Year Sale (December 25, 2018 - January 1, 2019). All her novels and short story collections are available at either a reduced price or are free. Why not stop by her profile page and have a look? Click here to find all of Mary Ann Bernal's works.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas celebrations: the old versus the new

History Extra

Professor Arthur Purdue takes a look at our fascination with 'Christmas past' and how the celebration has evolved since Victorian times.

Christmas is, notoriously, a time for nostalgia, and for many ‘Christmas present’ is considered never to be quite the same as ‘Christmas past’. This is partly due to our getting older, but is also because there are layers of tradition in our celebrations, some of them pre-Christian, which draw us inevitably to the ‘Old Christmas’. As Charles Dickens wrote: “How many old recollections and sympathies does Christmas time awaken?”
Christmas is still essentially that which was remodelled in the 19th century to suit the tastes and ideals of the time. Victorian festivities were centred on the home, the family and the indulgence of children and if, in many homes, the hearth or fireside has disappeared and computer games have replaced the railway set as presents, this is still the Christmas we attempt to recapture and regard as traditional.
The trappings of this festival reflect Victorian innovations: the cards, the tree, the crackers, the family meal with a turkey and, of course, Father Christmas or Santa Claus. Yet an older Christmas hovers behind it and its image is fixed on numerous cards and illustrations depicting a world of stagecoaches, ruddy-faced landlords, thatched cottages, manor houses and hospitable squires. The Victorians built into their new Christmas nostalgia for an ideal Christmas located forever in the 18th-century countryside.
Those very architects of the Victorian Christmas, Charles Dickens and Washington Irving looked back to an idealised Christmas of their recent past. To Dickens, Christmas epitomised not only conviviality and humanity, but an affection for the past. In Pickwick Papers he describes a merry old Christmas, a “good humoured Christmas” in which, after blind-man’s buff, “there was a great game at snap-dragon, and when fingers enough were burned with that, and all the raisons were gone, they sat down by the huge fire of blazing logs to substantial supper, and a mighty bowl of wassail”.
Dickens may well have helped create a new Christmas but at the heart of his vision was an idealised old Christmas; one he hoped to revive. This Christmas was a merry, lengthy and mainly adult affair with some relaxation of the normal rules of propriety.
Whether the occasion was generally observed has been doubted by some, as there is evidence that Christmas was in decline during the late 18th century. The puritans of the Commonwealth, who considered it a Popish survival, attempted to abolish the festival, but the Restoration saw it reinstated amidst popular acclaim. However, forms of celebration based on the open-handed hospitality of the aristocrat or squire in the big house and the often drunken and bawdy customs of the country people, were coming to seem quaint and old-fashioned to many.
Such celebrations had little appeal for the well-to-do in towns and, in the countryside, the gentry no longer automatically kept open house for their dependents, while up-and-coming farmers, distanced themselves from their workers and the mumming and licence of the ‘world-turned-upside-down’ that was the ‘Old Christmas’. Only in more backward areas was Christmas celebrated in the old style and The Times reflected in 1790 on the time of festivity having “lost much of its original mirth and hospitality”.
It was the very decay of Christmas traditions and a consciousness of their passing that appealed to romantics and antiquarians. The American writer, Washington Irving, visiting England in the early 19th century, saw the ‘Old Christmas’ as resembling “those picturesque morsels of Gothic architecture which we see crumbling in various parts of the country, partly dilapidated by the waste of ages, and partly lost in the additions and alterations of later days”. His account of the ‘Old Christmas’ presided over by the antiquarian Squire Bracebridge at Bracebridge Hall was an imaginative reconstruction of old customs and traditions, rather than a description of a contemporary Christmas.
It wasn’t, however, solely the antique and antic customs of the decaying ‘Old Christmas’ that appealed to Dickens and Irving, but the underlying social harmony that they perceived in it. The ‘New Christmas’ that Dickens helped to create was essentially a private and family affair, even if Victorian families were large, and one that centred on children. The ‘Old Christmas’, whose passing he regretted, had been more of a community festival; an expression in the idle period of the agricultural year of charity in its older sense of fellowship.
Much has been made of the contrast between Christmas at Dingley Dell in Pickwick Papers, a gregarious and merry festival lasting twelve days, and A Christmas Carol where the emphasis is upon Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as the notion of the family, represented by the Cratchits. This difference can be exaggerated for, if Dickens was Victorian enough to put home and hearth at the centre of things, his main aim was to stress fellowship, empathy between different sections of society, the responsibility of employers and good cheer. Mr Fessiwig’s Ball, held by the employer for all who worked for him, looks back to the festivities in the manor or farm house in which villagers or retainers, as well as family, participated and forward to the office party. Social harmony was the vision he saw Christmas representing and, if the half-imaginary 18th-century Christmas he drew on was a rosy image of pre-industrial society, it was ever-present in his works.
The third ghost to visit Scrooge is the Ghost of Christmas Present who in fact bears a strong resemblance to some of the more jovial depictions of the spirit of the ‘Old Christmas’ – “a jolly Giant, glorious to see” who, “in a green robe, or mantle bordered with white fur”, is surrounded by a display of plenty in the shape of turkeys, geese and ‘seething bowls of punch’. This spirit, a prototype Father Christmas and a kindly if rather pagan figure, continued to hover over the Christmas that Dickens helped refashion.
The Dickensian Christmas is, therefore, a bridge between the old and the new Christmas, the Anglo-American Christmas, which we inherit. The latter is, no doubt, better suited to an urban and mobile society; it is centred upon the family and children and is essentially private and home-based amidst eerily empty streets. It is also rather tamed for, if we eat and drink enough, it lacks the boisterousness and wider conviviality of the older, more adult, Christmas.
Yet, that ‘Old Christmas’ is annually invoked today, as it was in the 19th century, by Christmas cards and festive illustrations in which jovial squires forever entertain friends by roaring fires while stout coachmen swathed in greatcoats, urge horses down snow covered lanes as they bring anticipatory guests and homesick relations to their welcoming destinations in a dream of merry England.
Professor Arthur Purdue is visiting senior lecturer in history at the Open University and co-author with JM Golby of The Making of the Modern Christmas, Batsford (1986).

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Coffee Pot Book Club: #BookReview — The Briton and the Dane: Timeline by Mary Ann Bernal

The Coffee Pot Book Club: #BookReview — The Briton and the Dane: Timeline, b...:

The Briton and the Dane: Timeline
(The Briton and the Dane Book #5)
By Mary Ann Bernal

Dr. Gwyneth Franger, a renowned expert in early medieval England, is set upon learning the truth about the death of Lord Erik, the last descendant of the powerful House of Wareham. Her quest becomes an obsession, a condition that began with the discovery of a portrait of the tall and valiant warrior. Digesting troves of mildewed scrolls and source documentation only enhances her belief that Lord Erik was brutally assassinated by a cabal of traitors in the pay of William the Bastard, shortly before the onslaught of the Norman Invasion.

On an archeological dig in Southern England, Dr. Franger finds herself transported back to the Dark Ages and at the side of the noble Lord Erik who commands an army of elite Saxon warriors. Witnessing the unrest firsthand, Gwyneth senses that her instincts had been right all along, and she is determined to learn the identities of the treacherous blackguards hiding in the shadows, villains who may well be posing as Lord Erik’s friends and counselors.

Gwyneth knows it is wrong to stop the assassins, but isn’t sure she can find the strength to walk away and watch her beloved Erik die. Will she intervene, change the course of history and wipe out an entire timeline to save the man she loves?

A love story across the centuries…

Unrequited love takes on a whole new meaning for medieval historian, Dr Gwyneth Franger. But her love is no ordinary love, for it is a longing from deep within her soul. Gwyneth is drawn inexplicably towards Lord Erik, an 11th Century Anglo-Saxon noble. Infuriatingly for Gwyneth, the sources of this time are few and far between. However, Gwyneth has discovered that Erik was brutally murdered just before Edward the Confessor’s death. Like a detective, Gwyneth is determined to discover who ordered Erik’s assassination and more importantly, who carried it out.

Gwyneth’s research takes an interesting twist when she finds herself transported to 11thCentury England where, much to her delight, she finds Erik waiting for her. Now that she is here, maybe she can solve the riddle and save the love of her life from a gruesome death.

The Briton and the Dane: Timeline (The Briton and the Dane, Book #5) by Mary Ann Bernal is a passionate, yet sweet romantic story about a true love that transcends time.

The premise of the story was fabulous. Two souls seeking each other out through the centuries is enough to get any romantic heart fluttering. When Gwyneth falls through time and finds herself in the very era that she has spent years researching I had high hopes that her dream would come true and she would finally meet the man who she is so hopelessly in love with. 

Gwyneth is a fabulous protagonist. She is a single-minded and strong woman, who I could not help but admire. Bernal has obviously spent a lot of time imagining how a very modern woman would react to a medieval way of life. Gwyneth reacts, as one would expect. I thought Gwyneth was wonderfully portrayed and I enjoyed reading about her.

This story is set firmly in historical fantasy, but Bernal has decided to follow the timeline of this era to give her readers a magnificent backdrop in which to place her characters. This worked incredibly well, especially when tied in with the time-travel theme. Gwyneth was not hampered by a lack of understanding with the Anglo-Saxon tongue, and the narrative was perfect for a modern reader who may find many of the historical details and customs of this era somewhat foreign.

Bernal is very good at crafting tension, and this book is full of it. Like Gwyneth, I wanted to know who was behind the plot to murder Lord Erik. The enemy always seemed to be one step ahead of them, which I think made this story compelling and it certainly kept me turning those pages. Running alongside this is the beautiful romance between Gwyneth and Erik.

This is book five in the series. I have not read the other four books, but this did not hinder my enjoyment one bit. The Briton and the Dane: Timeline stands firmly on its own feet.

The ending was fabulous and as wildly romantic as the rest of the story.

If you are looking for a romantic historical fantasy, where anything is possible, then this is the book for you.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Affordable gifts for book lovers on your Holiday shopping list!

Scratching your head, wondering what to get your favorite bookworm this holiday season? Well, a book, of course. Not sure of the genre? No problem. From historical fiction to contemporary short stories and science fiction, author Mary Ann Bernal’s books fit the bill. Whether holding a print edition or digital reader or wearing headphones, there is a story that’s perfect for your device. Something for everyone with a click of the mouse. Affordable gifts for people who love to read.

Purchase Links
          Amazon US   Amazon UK   Smashwords   Barnes and Noble   iTunes   Audible
Science Fiction/Fantasy

Planetary Wars: Rise of an Empire 
An innocent romance tainted by deception. A universe enslaved by a tyrant. A crisis of conscience to admit the truth. A choice to be made, but which path to follow?

Historical Fiction

The Briton and the Dane
Alfred the Great has successfully defeated the Danish King Guthrum, but warriors from the Viking homeland threaten to undermine the fragile peace. Wounded in a skirmish, a feared Northman is given succor by a young Saxon woman as King Alfred’s soldiers prepare to defend the kingdom from a new Viking threat. Yet deception and treachery festers in the soul of men who would swear their fealty while plotting to usurp the rightful ruler of the kingdom. One woman would be the catalyst for discovering the truth, but who would prevent the ultimate betrayal?

The Briton and the Dane: Birthright
It has been two years since King Guthrum was defeated by King Alfred of Wessex, but there is one man who would wear the Danish King’s crown. Two former adversaries would unite to quench the latest threat, as the Viking King’s illegitimate son raises an army to usurp his father’s throne. Would the son defeat the father in the battle for sovereignty or would the unlawful son suffer the ultimate betrayal when loyalties are proven in the heat of battle?

The Briton and the Dane: Legacy
Four years have passed since King Alfred thwarted the Viking conquest of Wessex, but the feared Northman continues to batter Britannia’s shores. During this time of unrest, a visionary King institutes a cultural renaissance not seen since the days of Charlemagne. But hatred festers, and the need for vengeance overshadows allegiance as a plot to depose of the rightful ruler is discovered. Would this latest threat be repelled or would the truth destroy the dynastic heritage?

The Briton and the Dane: The Complete Trilogy
Three novels in one collection .  
Intrigue, treachery, betrayal in ninth-century Britain.

The Briton and the Dane: Concordia
In Anglo-Saxon Britain, amidst the Viking threat, a woman comes of age. Captured by Saracen pirates and taken to Muslim Hispania, enslavement or death is her fate. Fearing for her life,
she plans her escape, but will she succeed?

The Briton and the Dane: Timeline
Obsessed with a haunting portrait of a Saxon nobleman, an archeologist searches for the truth. Alone in the castle ruins during a fierce storm, Gwyneth is swept into eleventh century England. Amidst the political unrest, she is enmeshed in the intrigue as foreign contenders vie for the throne. Will she be caught up in a conspiracy for which there is no escape?

Contemporary Short Stories
Crime, Fantasy,  Historical, Horror, Mystery, Occult,  
Romance, Spies & Espionage, Thriller & Suspense

Scribbler Tales Presents: Escape from Berlin
Featuring Betrayal, Deadly Secrets, Murder in the First, The Ritual

Escape from Berlin 
Mark Dresdner’s cover is blown.  Fleeing East Germany, he finds the border crossing closed.  With the enemy closing in, his fate is sealed, or is it?

Aelia shares a confidence with her husband, putting her life at risk.  Her trust is misplaced, and she faces execution in the arena. Will Gallus have a change of heart before it’s too late?

Deadly Secrets
Lysandra finds a new life in America by marrying an unsuspecting college professor, unless her past catches up with her at the altar.

Murder in the First
Bethel takes matters into her own hands, seeking vengeance on the man who ruined her life.  But something goes seriously wrong and the predator becomes the prey.

The Ritual
Pagan worshippers embrace All Hallows’ Eve, initiating new members with a blood covenant.  Fearing for her soul, Devona runs away, but will she survive the raging tempest?

Scribbler Tales
Volumes One - Five

Scribbler Tales Volume One

Desperate Measures: What happens when Audrey learns of Paul’s duplicity? Cloning experiments have gone awry.

 Forbidden Lore: Arianna and Ethan are locked inside a haunted cemetery. Will they survive the night?

Forever Lost: Rina and Adrian are star-crossed lovers. Will love prevail?

Sail with Me:  Aaron reflects upon his childhood. Confessions of a military brat.

The Hourglass:  A covenant with the Devil. How far will Flair go to keep Brice alive?

 Scribbler Tales Volume Two

Broken Promises: Madeline’s love for Nathan clouds her judgment as the Wall Street titan denies any wrongdoing.

Deception: Vigilante vengeance. The criminal justice system fails when the guilty walk free.
Endgame: It was a dream government job until Sandy learns the truth. Covert operations shrouded in secrecy.

 Malice: Proving innocence. Andrew’s life falls apart when he is falsely accused of rape.
The Portrait: Demonic possession. All Geoffrey wants is a family, but Holliday and Olivia have other plans.
Scribbler Tales Volume Three

Hidden Lies: When classified schematics are stolen, evidence points to an inside job. Industrial secrets compromised.

Nightmare:  Phantom Legacy. Melanie wants to sell her ancestral home, but the specter of her dreams has other plans

Payback: A psychopathic killer is on the loose. Detective Newport must stop an assassin
targeting prosecuting attorneys.

The Night Stalker:  Deadly Obsession. Pamela must prove her suspicions before the police can protect her

Turning Point: Personal vendetta. Is a decorated firefighter an arsonist? A Fire Marshall wrestles with the truth.

Scribbler Tales Volume Four

Abducted:  Threatened with death. When Katrina Cooper is kidnapped, can the money be raised in time?

Cunning: Lethal folklore. Charlotte stumbles upon the truth behind Transylvanian vampires.

Enamored: Pursuing love. Aging Lady Margaret is besotted with a much younger man.

Reckless: Eluding capture. Peter’s latest victim survives, informing the authorities.

Safeguard: Self-defense or Murder? Sarah awakens covered in blood.

Scribbler Tales Volume Five

Bloodlust: Lilly considers a Satanic covenant on All Hallows’ Eve as she seeks immortality.

Illusion:  Felicity stumbles upon tomb robbers in the Valley of the Queens. Dream vacation has gone awry.

Manhunt: Perilous flight. Tami and Mick plan one final heist, but will it lead to their downfall?

Pandemic: Facing extinction. Dr. Lancaster must find a cure for a mutated virus strain.

Revenge:  Criminal behavior. Can Angela rid herself of her abusive husband? 

Thank you for visiting.
Happy Holidays

Monday, November 12, 2018

7 things you might not know about the history of Thanksgiving

History Extra

It is one of America’s most celebrated public holidays: a day of feasting, American Football and family. But how much do you know about the history of Thanksgiving? Here, we bring you some facts that might surprise you…

1) Tradition has it that the first Thanksgiving – a celebration of good harvest – took place in 1621, when English Pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts shared a meal with their Native American neighbours. However, historian Michael Gannon told Florida Today that the first Thanksgiving celebration in North America actually took place in Florida half a century earlier.
On 8 September 1565, he says, following a religious service, Spaniards shared a communal meal with the local native tribe.
2) According to the US National Archives, on 28 September 1789 the first Federal Congress passed a resolution asking that the president of the United States recommend to the nation a day of thanksgiving. A few days later, George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday 26 November 1789 as a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin” – the first time Thanksgiving was celebrated under the new Constitution.
The dates of Thanksgiving celebrations varied as subsequent presidents came and went, and it wasn’t until Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Proclamation – in the midst of the Civil War – that Thanksgiving was regularly commemorated each year on the last Thursday of November.
3) The US National Archives says that in 1939, with the last Thursday in November falling on the last day of the month, Franklin D Roosevelt became concerned that the shortened Christmas shopping season might dampen economic recovery. He therefore issued a Presidential Proclamation moving Thanksgiving to the second to last Thursday of November.
Some 32 states consequently issued similar proclamations, but 16 states refused to accept the change. As a result, for two years two days were celebrated as Thanksgiving.
To end the confusion, on 6 October 1941 Congress set a fixed date for the holiday: it passed a joint resolution declaring the last Thursday in November to be the legal Thanksgiving Day.
4) The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is televised nationally on NBC, has been marching since 1924. That year, the department store’s president, Herbert Strauss, organised a six-mile procession from Harlem to the Macy’s store in Herald Square. The parade featured animals – including elephants – from the Central Park Zoo, and was nearly three times as long as it is today: for the purposes of television filming, the route was later reduced to 2.5 miles.

25 November 1937: balloons float down Broadway in the 13th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Seven musical organisations, 21 floats and balloon units and 400 costumed marchers participated in this the event. (Photo by Walter Kelleher/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
5) While turkey is today the bird of choice for Thanksgiving dinners across the United States, this was not always the case: according to, for the first ever Thanksgiving in 1621 the Indians killed five deer as a gift for the colonists, meaning venison would most likely have been the dish of the day.
6) Each Thanksgiving, the president of the United States ‘pardons’ a hand-selected turkey, sending it to a farm where it lives out the rest of its days. But, contrary to popular belief, President George HW Bush was not in 1989 the first president to grant such a pardon.
According to the White House, the tradition dates to Lincoln’s days, when his son Tad begged him to write a presidential pardon for the bird meant for the family’s Christmas table, arguing it had as much a right to live as anyone. Lincoln complied, and the turkey lived.

November 1985: President Ronald Reagan with a Thanksgiving turkey and farmer John Holden and his wife, who raised the bird. (Photo by Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
7) Each Thanksgiving, millions of Americans tune in to watch the Detroit Lions play American Football. This tradition dates to 1934, when the team took on the undefeated, defending World Champion Chicago Bears of George Halas. Despite losing the inaugural game, since then the Lions have played football every Thanksgiving except between 1939 and 1944.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Kicker (The Forgotten Front) by R. Grey Hoover, sheds light on our forgotten veterans of the China-Burma-India theater.

 As a tribute to the veterans of the China-Burma-Inda theater, author R. Grey Hoover is offering his novel, Kicker (The Forgotten Front), for free on Amazon on November 9, 10 and 11, 2018.

World War II is raging. A young father must choose between his family and duty to his country- a decision that could cost him everything.
Based on actual experiences of United States veterans and official military aviation history records from World War II, this is the thrilling story of a family’s journey into war. While his loved ones struggle with shortages and rationing at home, Sam endures relentless Japanese attacks against his unarmed aircraft over the treacherous mountains and torrid jungles of Asia. His job is to drop supplies to Merrill’s Marauders and over 750,000 allied soldiers fighting in the perilous jungles of Burma. If the enemy is not stopped, the American way of life will end.
If you like non-stop action with a touch of humor and romance and the chance to learn about the “forgotten front” of WWII, then this is the book for you. 
 Sam and Bobby Joe were totally exhausted when they crawled into their charpoys. The harrowing events of the day had taken its toll on them physically and mentally. In spite of the heat and noise of the jungle, Sam felt the blessed relief of sleep approaching soon after his head hit the pillow. However, as he drifted off, a feeling of unease came over him. It was a feeling that something was wrong, not here in India, but at home. He didn’t know if he felt uneasy because he still hadn’t received mail from home or because of some unknown reason, but the feeling stayed with him until he finally succumbed to his exhaustion and slipped into a deep sleep. 
Thankfully, his slumber was not disturbed by his recurring nightmare, and he slept soundly until the wee hours of the morning when he suddenly awoke not knowing what had disturbed him. A light rain was falling outside, and except for an occasional flash of distant lightning, the basha was in total darkness. He lay very still, listening to the sounds around him. He strained his hearing, but no sound came except for the steady breathing of the sleeping men around him. After several minutes, he relaxed, thinking his imagination was playing tricks on him. He was almost asleep again when he thought he detected a faint unfamiliar sound coming from somewhere in the basha. Once again, he listened intently, not sure he had heard anything; but then he heard the sound again—only this time it seemed closer, and he was sure it came from within the basha. He couldn’t quite place the sound, but it seemed like something soft brushing against an object. He listened closely, but all was silent. None of the other men in the basha stirred, and after an extended period of silence, he relaxed once again in anticipation of sleep. 
He was in that dreamy state just before slumber when he felt the presence of something or someone nearby. Once again, his senses came to full alert, and he made a conscious effort not to move. He listened carefully, bringing all his senses to bear. He could see or hear nothing, and yet he was sure something was there. He was startled when someone at the other end of the room moved, but then all was silent once again. He was lying on his back, so he slowly moved his head to the right and scanned the darkness. 
At first, he saw nothing, but then attention was drawn to a slight movement at the foot of his bed. He couldn’t make out what it was. It appeared to be an undistinguishable shadow against the darker background of the room. As he watched, the shadow moved, and he held his breath as it silently glided along the side of his bed. There was no sound as it moved, and it slowly drew nearer and stopped near the head of his bed. He could tell that it was something large, but due to the extreme darkness, he was unable to see what it was. His instincts told him this was something dangerous and evil, and the hairs on the nape of his neck stood erect. At that moment, a distant flash of lightning faintly illuminated the scene, and in that instant of light, Sam could see the large form of a tiger standing beside him.
 The animal’s head was enormous. Its eyes, momentarily reflecting light from the faraway lightning, gave the beast an evil, devil-like appearance. This was death incarnate staring directly at him.
Sam was frozen with fear, and his heart seemed to stop. His .45-caliber pistol hung on the wall not three feet away, and he cursed himself for not keeping it inside the mosquito netting with him. He knew the tiger could see that he was awake, and he feared any movement would cause it to attack. The animal stepped closer, and Sam could see its dim outline and smell its damp fur and the fetid odor of its breath. The tiger appeared to know its victim was helpless. The great beast took its time as it sniffed the mosquito netting as if testing its strength. Slowly it raised a huge paw and placed it against the puny impediment. The tiger’s claws caught in the netting, and with a mighty swipe, it ripped the flimsy material away from the bed.

About the Author

R. Grey Hoover is an Air Force veteran with a family tradition of military service that dates back to the American revolution. He wrote his book “Kicker the Forgotten Front” to honor his father and the other veterans of World War II who fought in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theatre.  During the war, the European and Pacific theatres got most of the supplies and media attention leaving the CBI theatre with the leftovers. Even in today’s media coverage of World War II, the CBI theatre is never mentioned. The author’s book is an attempt to correct this gross oversight.

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

10 things you didn’t know about the history (and mystery) of Halloween

History Extra

With the ‘trick or treat’-ing season upon us, Dr David Clarke of Sheffield Hallam University, an expert on British folklore, investigates the origins of this eerie autumn festival…

1) Most people believe 31 October is an ancient pagan festival associated with the supernatural. In fact, it has religious connotations – although there is disagreement among historians about when it begun. Some say Hallowtide was introduced as All Saints’ Day in the 7th century AD by Pope Boniface IV, while others maintain it was created in the 9th century AD by Christians to commemorate their martyrs and saints.
In medieval Britain, ‘Halloween’ was the eve of the Catholic festival All Saints or All-Hallows (from Old English ‘Holy Man’) on 1 November, and was followed by the feast of All Souls on 2 November.
2) The tradition of carving a face on a turnip or swede (and more recently pumpkin), and using these as lanterns seems to be a relatively modern tradition. On the last Thursday in October, children in the Somerset village of Hinton St George carry lanterns made of mangel-wurzles (a type of root vegetable). The light shines through a design etched on the skin. They are carried around the streets as the children chant: “It’s Punky Night tonight, It’s Punky Night tonight, Give us a candle, give us a light, It’s Punky Night tonight.”

c1867: Magazine illustration of a group of children putting an illuminated Jack-o-Lantern on a farm fence post on Halloween night. Engraving titled ‘The Pumpkin Effigy’. (Photo by American Stock/Getty Images)
 3) Much of the modern supernatural lore surrounding Halloween was invented as recently as the 19th century. Scots and Irish settlers brought the custom of Mischief Night visiting to North America, where it became known as ‘Trick or Treat’.  Until the revival of interest in Halloween during the 1970s, this American tradition was largely unknown in England. The importation of ‘Trick or Treat’ into parts of England during the 1980s was helped by scenes in American TV programmes and the 1982 film E.T.
4) There is no evidence the pagan Anglo-Saxons celebrated a festival on 1 November, but the Venerable Bede says the month was known as ‘Blod-monath’ (blood month), when surplus livestock were slaughtered and offered as sacrifices. The truth is there is no written evidence that 31 October was linked to the supernatural in England before the 19th century.
5) In pre-Christian Ireland, 1 November was known as ‘Samhain’ (summer’s end). This date marked the onset of winter in Gaelic-speaking areas of Britain. It was also the end of the pastoral farming year, when cattle were slaughtered and tribal gatherings such as the Irish Feis of Tara were held. In the 19th century the anthropologist Sir James Frazer popularised the idea of Samhain as an ancient Celtic festival of the dead, when pagan religious ceremonies were held.
6) The Catholic tradition of offering prayers to the dead, the ringing of church bells and lighting of candles and torches on 1 November provides the link with the spirit world. In medieval times, prayers were said for souls trapped in purgatory on 1 November. This was believed to be a sort of ‘halfway house’ on the road to Heaven, and it was thought their ghosts could return to earth to ask relatives for assistance in the journey.

This lithographic Halloween postcard was published c1910 in New York City. (Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)
 7) Popular Halloween customs in England included ‘souling’, where groups of adults – and later children wearing costumes – visited big houses to sing and collect money and food. Souling was common in parts of Cheshire, Shropshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire on 1 and 2 November. In parts of northern England, special cakes were baked and left in churchyards as offerings to the dead. 
8) Until the 19th century, bonfires were lit on Halloween in parts of northern England and Derbyshire. Some folklorists believe the enduring popularity of Guy Fawkes bonfires on 5 November may be a memory of an older fire festival, but there is a lack of written evidence for these in England before the late 17th century.
9) Love divinations on Halloween spread to England from Scotland as a result of the popularity of Robert Burn’s poem Halloween in Victorian times. One love divination mentioned by Burns includes placing hazelnuts in the fire, naming one for yourself and the other for your partner. If they burned gently and then went out, this indicated a long and harmonious life together; if they coughed and spluttered or exploded, this was a sign of problems ahead. 

Apples were also used for divination purposes: the skin was thrown over the shoulder, or the fruit floated in water or hung upon strings, to be seized by the teeth of the players.
31 October 1886: Irish Halloween celebrations, including the party game ‘bobbing for apples’. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
 10) The idea of Halloween as a festival of supernatural evil forces is an entirely modern invention. Urban legends about razor blades in apples and cyanide in sweets, hauntings by restless spirits and the use of 31 October as the date of evil or inauspicious events in horror films, reflect modern fears and terrors. 
Every year Halloween provokes controversy and divides opinions: most people see it as just as a bit of harmless fun, but modern witches say it marks an ancient pagan festival, while some evangelical Christians claim it is a celebration of dangerous occult forces. This explains why folklorist Steve Roud calls it “the most widely misunderstood and misrepresented day in the festival year”.
Dr David Clarke is a senior lecturer in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University. He holds a PhD in English cultural tradition and folklore, and a degree in archaeology, prehistory and medieval history.