Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Modern-day witches, also known as Wiccans, have a website, and it's full of info today! They call this day Samhain, after the ancient Celtic holy day. Here in Massachusetts, thinking of Halloween automatically makes you think of Salem, site of the infamous witch trials. Click on the Salem link to visit the website of the Salem Witch Museum. In Salem, Halloween is a BIG celebration! Of course, it's a favorite holiday now, all over!

At my alma mater, Transylvania University, in Lexington, Kentucky, you can imagine what a big event Halloween has become. When I was a student, we had a tradition that the school was cursed by a former professor, Constantine Samuel Rafinsque. He allegedly had an affair with the wife of the then university president. When the affair became common knowledge, Rafinesque was fired. He left, cursing the university. Supposedly, each decade, one person has to die on the campus because of the curse. Here is what Wikipedia reports:

In 1819 he became professor of botany at Transylvania University, Lexington (Kentucky), giving private lessons in French and Italian as well. He started at once describing all the new species of plants and animals he encountered in travels throughout the state. In 1817 his book Florula Ludoviciana, had drawn much criticism from fellow botanists, causing his writings to be ignored. He was considered as the most erratic student of higher plants. In the spring of 1826 he left the university, after quarreling with its president. A legend later developed that Rafinesque placed a curse on the university when departing. Shortly afterwards, the university's president, Horace Holley, died from yellow fever and the original main building of the university (in present-day Gratz Park) was destroyed by fire.
Besides being a famous curser, Rafinesque was quite a good scientist and his name is attached to many plants and a few animals of North America.

Lastly, I would like to share the trick or treating tradition in St. Louis, Missouri. When I moved there, people took care to clue me in. On Halloween there, children are expected to perform a trick to get the treat. You mostly get jokes (lots of repeats, too!), but a few kids come up with a song or a gymnastic move or even a dance. It's pretty darn cool, and the kids really work at it. The littlest ones, just coming up the steps to a porch is a big enough trick. But I remember helping my children pick out and practice their jokes for trick or treat. My son used the same joke each year for nearly 10 years:

Q: How do you keep your dog out of the street?

A: Put him in a barking lot.

It's cute, and at least it's not about skeletons, ghosts or pumpkins!

Well, Happy Halloween!

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