Friday, October 31, 2008

A double whammy and some trivia for October 31st

Rather than linking you to Wikipedia (at least until the last paragraph), my post today uses information from The Writer’s Almanac entry for Friday, October 31, 2008:

“Today is Halloween. Halloween’s origins date back about 2,000 years, to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celts lived in the cold parts of Northern Europe -- in Britain, Ireland, and the north of France -- and so for them, the new year began on November 1st, the end of the fall harvest and the beginning of winter. The night before the new year, on October 31st, the division between the world of the living and the world of the dead dissolved, and the dead could come to earth again. This was partly bad and partly good -- these spirits would damage crops and cause sickness, but they also helped the Celtic priests, the druids, to tell the future, to make predictions about the coming year. The druids built huge bonfires, and regular people put out their own fires in their homes and crowded together around these fires, where they burned sacrifices for the gods, told each other’s fortunes, and dressed in costumes -- usually animal skins and heads. At the end of the celebration, they took a piece of the sacred bonfire and relit their own fires at home with this new flame, which was meant to help them stay warm through the long winter ahead.

“First the Romans co-opted Samhain and combined it with their festivals, and then the Christians co-opted both the Celtic and Roman celebrations. In the ninth century, the pope decided that these pagan festivals needed to be replaced with a Christian holiday, so he just moved the holiday called All Saints’ Day from May 13 to November 1. All Saints’ Day was a time for Christians to honor all the saints and martyrs of their religion. The term for All Saints’ Day in Middle English was Alholowmesse, or All-hallowmass. This became All-hallows, and so the night before was referred to as All-hallows Eve, and finally, Halloween [or, more accurately, Hallowe’en --RWP].

“It was on this day in 1517 that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Martin Luther was a monk who disagreed with the Catholic Church’s practice of selling indulgences, which forgave the punishment for sins. Luther thought that God offered forgiveness freely without having to pay for it, and he wanted to reform the Catholic Church. He posted the theses as points to be argued in a public debate. He had no intention of creating a new branch of the Church, but that is what he did, more or less. He set in motion a huge rift within the Church, which eventually led to the Reformation.”

Now for the trivia (and the Wikipedia links). October 31st also happens to be the birthday of Chiang Kai-shek (1887), Dale Evans (1912), Barbara Bel Geddes (1922), Dan Rather (1931), Michael Landon (1936), and Vanilla Ice (1967).

If that isn’t enough trivia for you, here’s a little more. Dale Evans’s real name was Frances Octavia Smith, and her fourth husband, Roy Rogers, was really Leonard Sly from Ohio. Michael Landon’s real name was Eugene Maurice Orowitz. Vanilla Ice’s real name is Robert Van Winkle.

Just how many lists have you ever read that began with Chiang Kai-shek, included Dale Evans, and ended with Vanilla Ice?


  1. Good trivia. I find the evolution of holy days interesting.

    Here's another bit of trivia for you. You know how the spelling of Peking has been changed to Beijing because of a more modern system of transliteration (Pinyin rather than Wade-Giles)? Well, under the new system, Chiang Kai-shek is Jiang Jieshi. But no one knows who that is, so most sources still retain the Wade-Giles spelling of the name rather than the Pinyin one.

  2. Good info, Ruth! So that's how Mao Tse-tung became Mao Zedong. It was one man's o-Pinyin....

  3. trivia...did you know that david was kidnapped one day on halloween when he was running away from home on his waylade by a peanut butter sandwich and lulled into a home while they called his parents on his way to grantsville

  4. Things I would never know if I didn't read your blog.
    Not the stuff about Halloween I knew all that but the stuff about Dale Evans and Roy Rogers. Now that's good stuff.

  5. Putz, that could have been one scary day, but all turned out all right thanks to that peanut butter sandwich!

    dr.john, and Tony Curtis is Bernard Schwartz, and Jack Benny was Benny Lubelski, and Cary Grant was Archibald Leach, and Marilyn Monroe, of course, was Norma Jean Baker, and....

  6. So this is very interesting. The quirky thing about this is that my husbands birthday is today, his name is Dave Evans but we get tons of mail addressed to Dale Evans and he still runs away from home on a trike eating his peanut butter sandwich. Ha ha! Not really on the peanut butter sandwich and trike.

  7. Vonda (egghead,

    !!!!! :)

    Tell Dave he should change his name to Francis Octavia Smith. And I'm so relieved to hear he is not still running away from home on his trike.

  8. Trivia is good! It occupies the brain cells that otherwise would be taken up in contemplating current events! Thanks!

    :::Groan::: on the o-pinyin!!