On Thursday, April 8, Vivian Lawry will be leading a discussion of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows). Time: 7:30 p.m. Place:Tuckahoe Branch of the Henrico Public Library. The event is free and open to the public.
As the Winter Solstice approaches, many people are feeling a little low—or a lot. Fortunately, there are several holidays and celebrations around this time of year to add a little light to your schedule. Here are just a few:
Diwali or Deepawali is a festival of lights celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains. It is celebrated in mid-October to late November, according to a lunar calendar.
Hanukkah is a Jewish festival of lights celebrated in November or December, according to the Gregorian calendar.
Kwanzaa is a celebration of culture and community celebrated in late December. An important part of the celebration involves lighting the kinara.
Lussevaka or Santa Lucia Day is a celebration of light, community, and the triumph of good over evil. It is primarily celebrated in Sweden, but St Lucia festivals are also held in Croatia, Italy, France, Germany, and Norway on December 13.
Yule is celebrated in many different ways by Pagans and Wiccans. It is the celebration of the Winter Solstice, the return of the sun. This is often symbolically represented by burning a Yule log, signifying the rebirth of the Oak King and waning of the Holly King.
Don’t Be SAD
There is a term for those who suffer most when the days grow short: SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). SAD increases in higher latitudes where the winter days are short. Light therapy, where you arrange a special wide-spectrum light therapy box device at an angle to your face. Using such a device for several hours at the same time every day can be used to treat SAD. It can also help treat those who have depression all year round, improving their overall well-being.
Scientists have also discovered that light therapy can lower nighttime agitation in Alzheimer’s patients and reduce symptoms in Parkinson’s patients, including sleeping problems and tremors.
Whether sick or healthy, light definitely affects your mood. According to research, one in four people in Alaska suffers from depression – and it’s mainly caused by a lack of sunlight.
Sunshine Cures Everything
Sunshine can also help with pain control. Research shows that patients whose beds are on a sunny side of a hospital experience less pain than those whose rooms are in the shade. As well as reduced pain, patients in sunny rooms tend to recover sooner, use fewer painkillers, and feel less stressed. One theory is that exposure to sunlight releases serotonin: a feel-good chemical in the brain.
High solar activity has been found to increase fertility rates. Furthermore, light can also give men a boost in the bedroom. Research has shown that higher testosterone is boosted by Vitamin D. The biggest source? The sun. A light box would have the same affect, but is possibly less romantic than a sunny picnic or stroll along the beach.
As far as I can tell, the health benefits of sunlight are all attributed to Vitamin D effects on/in the body.
Aside from the health benefits of light, many practical applications have lead to the creation of light when there is no sun—primarily the benefits of being able to see in the dark!
Over the centuries, we’ve seen many advances in created light.
Until the 20th century, candles were most common in Northern Europe. In Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, oil lamps predominated.
Besides providing light, candles were used for the purpose of measuring time, usually in hours. The Song Dynasty in China (960-1279) used candle clocks.
A version of a candle clock is often used to mark the countdown of the days leading to Christmas. This is called an Advent candle.
Note: This term is also used for candles that decorate an Advent wreath.
Among the earliest forms of created light, candles have had the greatest staying power into modern times for numerous uses. An estimated 1 billion pounds of wax are used in the candles sold each year in the United States.
FYI: No candle wax has ever been shown to be toxic or harmful to humans.
Shaped candles for specific holidays
Candles for tree decorations
Menorah candles for Hannukah
Kinara candles for Kwanzaa
Nine candles in a lingonberry wreath for Santa Lucia Day
Advent wreath candles (marking the four Sundays leading up to Christmas)
Candles for windowsills (to guide the Holy Family in their flight to Egypt)
Lighting paper lanterns
Lighting and lifting sky lanterns
To produce a romantic mood
To make a dinner table more formal
As backup for a power failure
To dispel unpleasant household odors
To test for drafts
Scented candles for pleasure and/or aroma therapy
As the days grow shorter and night falls like a rock earlier and earlier, many people light candles around the house, even when they have electric lights, simply because the warm glow is cheerful. Which brings us back to human craving for light!
Gas lights were developed in the 1790s and were in common use in large cities by the middle of the nineteenth century. Streetlamps made the night safer (in wealthy areas) and gas piped into houses allowed (wealthy) homeowners to ignore the setting sun.
The invention of the electric-powered incandescent light bulb was even more effective in making the sun obsolete. Since electric lights have become nearly universal, ideas like a 24 hour workday and cutting sleep to work more have become nearly as universal.
Newborn incubators, refrigeration, pacemakers, surgical lighting, heated houses, underground ventilation, and electric harp string tuning meters are undoubtedly beneficial to human society. However, humans in general have become increasingly sleep-deprived and overworked since the spread of electricity. Heated and lighted houses have also made humans more likely to stay indoors all winter, avoiding direct sunlight. This leads right back to the beginning of this blog – Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Bottom line: Humans need light for a multitude of reasons, and in a multitude of forms.
By definition, superstitions are irrational beliefs that objects, actions, or circumstances not logically related to an outcome nevertheless influence those outcomes. Every Friday the 13th, I think of superstitions. In the past I’ve blogged about superstitions related to Fridays and to 13s. The superstitions below have nothing to do with the date directly, but there is a belief that negative things happening on Friday the 13th are worse than they would be on other dates.
There are myriad ways to slice and dice the universe of superstitions, including by country or by topic (e.g., love and marriage or hearth and home). Indeed, there are whole books of superstitions out there, and who knows what’s on the internet. But anyone wishing to pursue the topic can do so easily.
Clearly, this blog can give you only a tiny taste of the superstitions out there. So here you go, alphabetically:
April 1, April Fool’s Day
To be fooled by a pretty maiden means the man will marry or befriend her.
To lose one’s temper over a practical joke will bring bad luck.
A wedding on this day means the woman will be the family boss.
Being born on this day means lucky in business and unlucky in speculation.
A girl might meet her fiancé.
It may signify having two husbands.
It might mean illness or early death.
It might mean many children or no children.
It may mean spinsterhood.
Perhaps it portends desertion by a husband.
Bats are very good omens, denoting happiness, peace, long life, wealth, and virtue.
Birds are associated with both good and bad spirits, and are portents of things to come.
A bird in the house or tapping on a window is an omen of death.
Injuring a robin or disturbing its nest brings bad luck.
A friendly robin is a portent of a long, hard winter.
The first robin seen in spring portends good luck if it flies up, bad luck if it flies down.
A robin’s nest near the house brings good luck.
Seeing a robin in the morning portends a visitor the same day.
A swallow nesting in the eaves of a house brings good luck.
A swallow abandoning its nest is a sign the house will burn down.
A swallow skimming near the ground is a prediction of rain.
If a sparrow builds a nest under your window, you will take a trip.
Turtle doves near the house prevent rheumatism.
Eagles are said to carry off lambs and small children.
The cry of a peacock under a window predicts a death in the house.
Seeing a hawk is an omen of victory or success.
Seeing a crow in flight is time to make a wish; if the crow doesn’t flap its wings, the wish will come true.
Magpies (or jackdaws or crows, depending on where you live) mean different things depending on how many you see:
One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret never to be told.
To break the curse of seeing a lone magpie, salute the magpie.
If bread falls butter side down, hungry company will come seeking food.
Eating bread crusts will make your cheeks rosy.
Two people saying “bread and butter” after someone or something comes between them will break the spell of bad luck.
Waving bread and sugar around a wound will make it heal faster.
A black ace falling on the floor during a bridge game is a sign to stop playing.
Singing during a card game is bad luck.
It’s unlucky to play cards on a bare table.
A cat washing its face is a sign of a visitor coming.
A black cat crossing one’s path is an omen of very good or very bad luck, depending on the culture.
A strange cat following you or making a home with you brings good luck.
If you wake up to a cat on your chest, it means the cat was under the influence of evil spirits and was trying to steal your breath as your slept.
If a knife falls on the floor you will have a gentleman visitor.
If a fork falls, it will be a lady visitor.
Crossing knife and fork is a bad omen.
Days of the Week
Good or bad luck depends on the day of the week.
Monday for health Tuesday for wealth Wednesday the best day of all Thursday for crosses Friday for losses Saturday no luck at all
A child’s entire life is influenced by the day of the week on which they were born.
Monday’s child is fair of face Tuesday’s child is full of grace Wednesday’s child is full of woe Thursday’s child has far to go, Friday’s child is loving and giving, Saturday’s child works hard for a living, And the child that is born on the Sabbath day Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.
A yellow dog happening to follow your tracks is a sign of good luck.
A dog howling in the night, especially at the moon, is a harbinger of death.
A dog predicts rain by lying on its back or eating grass.
Sailors held the belief that a pierced ear with a ring in it improved eyesight.
More generally, piercing a child’s ears will improve eyesight.
Small = stingy
Large = generous
Long = long life
An itching left ear portends sadness or bad luck; itching right ear means someone is speaking well of you.
Two yolks in one egg means great financial prosperity is on the way.
Refusing an Easter egg is an invitation to lose the friendship of the person offering it.
Rabbits lay eggs at Easter time.
Eggs blessed at Easter are supposed to ward off illness.
When cracking Easter Eggs with a friend, the one whose egg cracks first will have good fortune.
If your right eye twitches, you are going to hear good news.
A twitching eyelid means someone is thinking fondly of you.
A person with brown/ blue/ hazel/ green/ grey eyes brings bad luck.
A person with heterochromia (eyes different colors) is a witch or a demon.
Grey or blue eyes can see the future.
Friends crossing index fingers over one another and making a wish will have their wish granted.
Crossing your middle finger over your index finger either brings good luck or is a sign of lying.
A person with a ring finger longer than the index finger is sure to be wealthy.
If a person points a finger in the direction of a graveyard, they must bite their finger to avoid inviting death.
Broad nails show that a person is generous.
Long fingernails reveal a lack of thrift.
Short fingernails mark a liar.
Specks on fingernails correspond with the number of lies told.
Cutting a baby’s nails before the first birthday means the child will become a thief. (Bite them off instead.)
Cutting nails on Friday is bad luck.
Cutting the nails of a sick person means that person will never get well.
Handkerchiefs used to wipe tears at a funeral must be buried with the coffin or thrown away.
Singing, laughing, or talking too loudly at a funeral will wake the dead.
Not crying and singing funeral hymns loudly enough will anger the recently departed and wake the dead.
A man not wearing a belt to a funeral will bring death home with him.
Gloves are not good!
Picking up a glove is to risk bad luck.
Dropping a glove brings bad luck.
Giving someone gloves invites the breakup of the friendship.
Hitting someone with a glove, even accidentally, means wishing for their death.
Dig graves facing east toward Gabriel when he blows his horn.
Tools used to dig a grave should be left nearby for several days.
If someone shivers for no apparent reason, someone is walking over his/her grave.
Open graves are ill omens.
Leaving the site of a grave before the gravediggers lower the coffin means another death will follow.
Some cultures require a corpse to be buried in a standing position, holding weapons at the ready.
Sharp objects given as gifts will turn on their new owner.
Giving certain numbers of objects (such as flowers or cookies) is unlucky, varying widely around the world.
In some areas, giving any unreciprocated gifts is unlucky.
Most of these gift taboos can be avoided by repaying the giver with a symbolic trifle, such as a penny or a piece of bread.
An itchy right hand means money is coming.
An itchy left hand means money is slipping away.
Rubbing an itchy left hand on wood and wishing for money will break the spell of losing.
An itchy right hand means that a friend is coming.
Hand itching means you will shake hands with a stranger.
Itchy hands also means that you will be entertaining company.
Itchy palms means the receipt of unexpected money.
Every town and village in the world seems to have a different variation of hand signs to ward off evil.
Thumb holding middle and ring finger against the palm with other fingers extended.
Holding the hand with the palm flat and all fingers pointed forward, folding each finger against the palm separately and sequentially.
Tucking the thumb between the index and middle finger with all fingers pulled into the palm.
Binding anyone’s hands together will condemn them to a life of misfortune.
Folding or crossing one’s hands causes infertility.
Setting a hen on the first Monday of the month brings good luck.
Setting hens on Sunday night brings successful hatching.
If 13 eggs are set, 12 will be pullets and 1 will be a rooster.
Long eggs hatch roosters; round eggs hatch pullets.
Having the hiccups means someone is remembering you fondly.
Each hiccup is an attempt by a demon to draw your soul from your body.
If the tail of a man’s shirt is ironed (or starched) will make the man harsh.
An ironing board falling across a door is an omen of death.
Ironing the backs of clothes is bad luck.
Injury or Illness
Stepping on a crack will break your spine.
Sleeping with wet hair will make you sick.
Women sitting on bare cement will become infertile.
If your shadow falls on a graveyard or a funeral procession, you will become gravely ill.
Blowing in a baby’s mouth will cure colic.
The presence of a net beneath a trapeze or high-wire act will cause the performers to injure themselves or fall.
Jar of water with a knife in it behind the door will protect a building against the devil.
July 25, wet or dry, is the day to plant turnips.
Jumping over a baby means they won’t grow very tall.
Couples jumping over bonfires together will have peace and good fortune for a year.
Jumping exactly as the clock strikes midnight for New Year’s will bring good luck in the coming year.
If someone gives you a knife it will cut the friendship unless you “buy” it by giving a penny, pin, etc.
Leaving a penknife open brings bad luck.
Handing an open knife to someone will lead to a quarrel.
Knocking on Wood
Knocking on wood before starting a project is inviting good luck.
Knock on wood after bragging/boasting to prevent future failure.
Ladybug / Ladybird
It’s bad luck to kill a ladybug.
A ladybug landing on you will bring good luck.
A ladybug flying off you will take away all your troubles with her.
More than 7 spots on a ladybug’s wing means famine.
Fewer than 7 means a good harvest.
Make a wish with a ladybug in your hand and the direction she flies shows the direction your luck will come from.
Itchy lips means someone is speaking ill of you.
Itchy upper lip, someone tall will kiss you
Itchy lower lip, a short person will kiss you.
If you bite your lip while eating alone, you have a great kiss ahead.
Unmarried people who sit at the corner of a table will never get married.
Girls who want to get married should write the names of three prospective spouses on slips of paper and slide them under their pillow. She then discards one at night, one in the morning, and the remaining paper will have the name of her future spouse.
Married women are very lucky wedding guests. The longer she has been married, the more luck she brings to the new couple.
A man who walks between two women will have an unhappy marriage.
Moles or Warts
On the forehead near the hairline is a sign of bad fortune.
On the chin or ear is a sign of wealth.
On the breast is a sign of poverty.
On the throat is a sign of good luck.
A mole on your arm, live on a farm.
Having lots of moles indicates future wealth.
Breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck.
Looking at your reflection in a broken mirror brings permanent bad luck.
Standing between two mirrors allows spirits to steal your soul.
Count nine stars for nine nights and on the last night one’s lover will be revealed.
Find nine peas in one pod, hang it above the door, and the next person through the door will be one’s spouse.
A nail dropped on the floor can only build crooked houses.
Carrying an iron nail will ward off evil influences and demons.
Looking at a coffin nail while carrying a body to a graveyard invites death.
A rusty nail stuck through a lemon will keep away the evil eye.
Omens of Misfortune
Spilling salt on the table.
A rooster crowing at night.
Killing a spider.
Stepping over a snake.
Dropping a comb.
Stepping on sidewalk or road cracks.
Laughing before breakfast.
The number 13.
Hearing a screeching owl is an omen of bad luck.
An owl perched on a house predicts death to someone within.
In Wales, the hoot of an owl signaled that an unmarried girl had surrendered her chastity.
Owls are sacred in some parts of India because their eyesight is phenomenal.
Owls signal approaching death.
A ring set with a pearl is unlucky.
Pearls signify tears.
A gift of pearls will bring tears and sadness to the recipient.
Finding a pearl in an oyster is a sign of good luck.
A high forehead is a sign of a reflective mind.
A high forehead is a sign of leadership.
Large eyes signify benevolence and wonders
A wide skull indicates pugnaciousness.
Large heads contain large brains, signifying high intelligence.
Saying the word “quiet” will cause all hell to break loose.
Seeing a quail is a sign that a goal can be attained only if the seer acts immediately.
Seeing a quail in flight is an omen of danger or death.
Dreaming of a quail is a sign that love, good fortune, and victory are coming.
Putting a quarter into a pot of black-eyed peas will bring good luck and money.
Adding a quarter to a tip jar will make it fill faster.
Tucking a quarter into a purse or wallet given as a gift means it will always have money in it.
Redheads are emotionally unstable and of terrible temper.
A redhead who tends a cheese vat will produce curd not fit to eat.
The appearance of a white horse heralds the appearance of a red haired girl, and vice versa.
Seeing a redhead first thing in the morning is a sign of bad luck.
Rats leaving a house signifies bad luck.
Rats entering a house bring good luck.
Rats won’t go through a soaped hole.
Catch a rat, paint it garish colors, and release. It will drive other rats away.
Hanging a snakeskin from the rafters will protect a house from fire.
Killing the first snake you see every year will guarantee victory over any foe.
Seeing a snake cross one’s path or dreaming of a snake are bad luck.
Pregnant women who are frightened by a snake will give birth to a child with a constricted neck.
A snake will never bite a pregnant woman.
Tying a snakeskin around the waist of a woman in labor will ease childbirth.
Feeding women in labor a drink containing the powdered rattle of a rattlesnake will ease childbirth.
Carrying a snakeskin is generally beneficial to health, effective against headaches and extracting thorns from the skin.
Carrying a snake tooth will ward off fever.
Carrying a snake tooth is lucky when gambling.
To avoid getting bitten by a snake, wear an emerald.
When a snake’s head is severed, it will not die till sunset.
If you sing before breakfast, you will cry before the day is done.
If you sing before you dress, you’ll have trouble before you undress.
If you sing before seven, you’ll cry before eleven.
If you sing before you eat, you’ll cry before you sleep.
It is unlucky to have an umbrella bought aboard.
It is unlucky to drive nails on Sunday.
Whistling aboard ship brings bad luck.
If a bee or small bird lands on the ship, it means good luck.
If a hawk, owl, or crow lands in the rigging, it means bad luck.
A horseshoe nailed to the mast protects against witches.
It is unlucky to set sail on Friday, lucky to set sail on Sunday.
A baby who sucks its thumb will grow up to be hideous.
A thumb turned backward indicates an inability to save money.
Thumb pricking means something bad is coming along.
Thumb itching indicates visitors are coming.
Closely associated with the Holy Trinity in several world religions: Christianity, Hinduism, Islam.
Some pagan traditions celebrate the trinity of land, sea, and air to make up earth.
Third time lucky/third time’s the charm.
A person will resurface three times before drowning.
If three people make up a bed, one of them will fall ill.
Good things and bad things come in threes.
Shakespeare’s Macbeth is so unlucky that people avoid saying the name in a theater, referring to “the Scottish play” instead.
Whistling onstage or backstage is bad luck.
Wishing a performer good luck will bring the opposite, hence the common “Break a leg!” wish before going onstage.
A terribly dress rehearsal means the performance will be excellent, and vice versa.
Failing to salute the resident ghost (every theater has at least one) will cause it to be angry and take revenge.
Carrying an umbrella will ward off rain.
Opening an umbrella in the house is bad luck.
Holding an open umbrella over your head in the house will lead to your death within a year.
Turning a picture upside down brings bad luck to the person or place in the picture.
An upside down photograph or picture turned to the wall invites lurking evil spirits to attack the subject of the picture.
Turning a photo of a person to face the wall or the floor will protect you from evil influences caused by that person.
Slippers or shoes left upside down on the floor will cause trouble on the next journey.
Wearing new underwear on a first date will doom the relationship.
Wearing underwear inside out will improve test or exam scores.
Visit on Monday and you’ll be visiting out every day of the week.
Guests, like fish, should be thrown out after three days.
Violets grow where tears have fallen.
Drinking tea made from violet petals cures heartbreak.
Dreaming of violets means you’ll come into money or marry someone younger.
When violets bloom in the autumn, an epidemic is coming.
Wash and wipe together, live and fight together.
If a woman gets wet while washing clothes, she will marry a drunkard.
A woman who wants beautiful hair should wash it in water from March snow.
Washing laundry on Saturday or Tuesday is bad luck.
A whistling girl and a crowing hen always come to no good end.
If little girls whistle they will grow beards.
Whistling in the house invites bad luck.
If someone whistles inside a house, they will become financially irresponsible and lose money.
A bride jumping out of bed and landing on both feet on her wedding day bodes well for her married life.
The bride and groom seeing each other before they meet at the altar will doom the marriage.
An iron horseshoe carried by the bride will bring good fortune to her extended family.
A thunderstorm during a wedding is an omen of bad luck.
A snowstorm during a wedding is a lucky omen.
A Sunday wedding is a good omen.
A Friday wedding is a bad omen.
Marrying on the last day of the year is especially auspicious.
Wearing pearls on your wedding day tempts sorrow, tears, and an unhappy future.
Yawning during prayers is a bad omen.
Yawning without covering one’s mouth allows the devil entrance.
Giving yellow clothing as a gift will bring bad luck.
Wearing yellow clothing to any kind of test will cause a poor performance.
When speeding through a yellow traffic light, a driver throwing a kiss to the roof of the car will avoid accidents and police.
Zero is a whole number as well as an even one, and thus a lucky digit.
Seeing a wild zebra means you are spiritually safe from harm.
A zebra licking your hand can mean danger is coming or someone is holding onto bad memories.
The black and white of a zebra indicates good and bad.
Dreaming of a zebra means one is facing situations that are difficult to control.
Follow a zebra to find water.
More stripes on the front legs of a zebra than on the back is an omen of a baby, possibly twin boys
One zebra is a sign of good luck and blessings. Seeing two zebras in the morning is an omen of illness and maybe two bad harvest seasons.
A running zebras is an omen of an ample harvest.
Bottom line: The superstitions listed here are shared by many people, but every culture and person has different beliefs. Anything can become a personal superstition if something unrelated is associated in time or place with a dramatic event or outcome (such as lucky socks or particular foods). Consider how someone might come to feel anxious and fear bad things will happen if s/he loses a carved wooden heart. If you are writing about an entirely fictitious culture, you can invent whatever superstitions you like!
What would (or wouldn’t) your character(s) do? And just as important, why? This particular election has been unusual in several dimensions. When considering your character(s)’ behavior, also consider whether it might reflects a general or stable level of political activism/ involvement or is it specific to this election (or fictional elections with similar circumstances). If the latter, is that because of the pandemic, the candidates/issues of this particular election, or both.
Social Media Activity
Following candidates, pundits, campaigns
Replying or reposting to boost signal
Researching candidates’ policies or campaign news
Sharing information with others within a social group
Contacting candidates or campaigns through social media
How carefully would a character ensure that information is factual and unbiased before believing it or sharing it?
If a character has verifiably true information, how much effort would they put into combating falsehoods?
Would a character knowingly spread disinformation?
Before Election Day
Provide forms to register to vote at the DMV or other locations
Help voters obtain documents needed to register to vote
Check registration status for voters
Campaign to expand voting access or challenge flawed registrations
Manage a candidate’s campaign
Absentee drop off
In person early
Campaign for a local, state, or national candidate
Donating money to a campaign or political party
Sign petitions and share on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Attend a rally
Advertise his/her support
Clothing (hat, T-shirt, etc.)
Try to convince friends/family to vote
Encourage voting in general
Persuading to vote for particular candidates
Only if the weather is good
If the lines aren’t very long
Work for the elections board
As a poll worker directly interacting with the public
As a ballot counter for early or mail voters
Helping voters contact election clerks to resolve problems
Volunteer as an election monitor
Officially representing a campaign, being a silent presence in the background while ballots are counted
Challenging potential voter fraud outside of a polling place (unofficial)
Carry signs or flags supporting one candidate or party
Distribute campaign literature or sample ballots to those far enough away from the polling place
Provide assistance to those waiting in long lines
Drinks and snacks
Umbrellas or parasols
Playing music, dancing, entertaining
Hand sanitizer and masks
Driving voters to the polls
Providing childcare so parents can go vote
Planning vote time around work requirements
Taking time off during the workday
Getting to the polling site at 4am to vote before work
Going after work and potentially staying in line until late at night
Follow the media
Early evening only
Late into the wee hours
Not at all
Post Election Day
Electoral college tally
State or local races only
Every few minutes
Only on the 6:00 news
When results are in
Protest the outcome
If unhappy with outcome
Protest with violence against property/people
Have a quiet glass of champagne
Party with family/friends
Dance in the streets
Binge on chocolate cake
Remove all visible signs of political support
Only if his/her candidate lost
Yard signs but not bumper stickers
Not at all
Try to pretend it never happened
How the Character(s) Felt—Check All That Apply
Determined to run for office in the next election
To continue momentum from the current campaign
To correct future errors of the recently elected
Consider whether your character’s behavior would be consistent with his/her feelings. Why or why not?
Bottom line for writers: Though your plot may never involve an election at all, this exercise should shine light on your characters’ level of civic involvement and activism.
And it hit me: I hadn’t written a blog! Where did the days go since Friday Tuesday?
I had a chance to enjoy the acrobatics of Stanley and Ollie at the bird feeder. They’re better than a professional circus troupe, but without the spandex and sequins! (For more about their antics, check out an earlier blog I wrote about the behaviors and habits of squirrels in my yard and elsewhere.)
Visiting yard plants is always interesting this time of year (sometimes a bit confusing). I found that a purple baptisia anemone planted by the front back door has migrated to a side garden near the back—clearly the work of fairies.
I have a single rose bud opening (although my neighbors’ roses are hanging heavy) Christmas rose hellebore loaded with buds and a few blooms .
I have a single rose bud opening (although my neighbors’ roses are hanging heavy) Christmas rose hellebore loaded with buds and a few blooms .
The rhododendron has its first bloom, and azaleas are going wild. I think this weather is confusing them. Irises Daffodils are so heavy-headed that they are resting on nearby azaleas. My peonies camellia sasanqua aren’t as far along as they were three years ago, but they’re showing lots of buds for the future.
The patio pots have flourishing mint, chives, oregano, thyme, sage, and—surprisingly—dill and parsley that wintered over.
My mums are going crazy! I love their colors, and I wish I could convince mine to be perennials.
Then, too, there were writing tasks. I wrote the first draft of “Pandemic.” I’m involved in an online writing class, and this week was my turn to present.
All of that doesn’t even touch on communications with family and friends. Like many in the US (and around the world), I’ve been a bit preoccupied with the election results this week.
Today’s blog entry was written by Kathleen Corcoran, a local harpist, teacher, writer, editor, favorite auntie, and lover of candy, costumes, horror films, and shenanigans.
Amid the daily terrors of 2020, it’s only natural to celebrate additional terror by adding candy and costumes. Halloween in 2020 will (hopefully) be different than other years, but I’m sure that won’t stop the rational, thoughtful, and calm citizens of the USA from marking the occasion in a restrained fashion.
There have always been rules about Halloween, enforced to a greater or lesser extent depending on time and place.
Puritans in early North American colony towns outlawed Halloween altogether, claiming it was witchcraft and Satanic.
The state of Alabama forbids anyone to dress up like a nun, rabbi, priest, monk, or any other religious figure, on threat of spending a year in jail.
The French town of Vendargues prohibits people over age 13 dressing like a clown on Halloween or at any time in November (a very sensible rule, in my opinion).
Silly string is outlawed in Hollywood on Halloween; mischief makers can be fined simply for carrying silly string.
Before 2020, many areas had laws governing masks on Halloween. Banks and retail clerks got tired of not knowing whether the masked person coming up to the counter was on the way to a party or in the middle of a robbery.
Things are a little different this year. Instead of forbidding masks, many places are requiring them! Fortunately, many Halloween costumes are perfect for masks.
The CDC does not recommend using regular Halloween masks in place of a medical face covering. Plastic Halloween masks are less likely to prevent the spread of infectious droplets. Masked superheroes, ninjas, fuzzy animals, nurses, doctors, and fire fighters will probably be very popular this year.
Trick or treating will be different as well. Gone are the hordes of tiny monsters dressed as children running from house to house as fast as possible to get the maximum sugar haul.
Social distanced trick or treating may require a bit of creativity.
The insanity of 2020 has certainly inspired some interestingly creative displays and work-arounds. Several costume companies have been called out for selling particularly tasteless get-ups. Customers are no longer able to purchase the means to disguise themselves as rolls of toilet paper, Corona-19 beer bottles, or the corpses of celebrities and politicians. If Halloween revelers are truly determined to be offensive, they’ll have to create those costumes themselves.
For more details about Halloween safety, look at the CDC holidays website, the WHO website about the pandemic, or your local community or news website. Curfews, gathering limitations, costume regulations, trick-or-treat restrictions, etc. vary from place to place.
According to the team of editors at nationaltoday.com, they “love celebrating 196 October holidays.” I’d guess that there are even more than that. For example, my calendar showed Monday, October 12 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but it didn’t show up on this website. But, basically, the point is that the things people want to celebrate—or at least observe—approaches the infinite. The purpose of this blog is to give my readers a two-day sample, for October 16-17, 2020.
Three durations: party down for a day, a week or all month. I’ve put some of my personal favorites in all CAPS. I recently posted a blog on the value of knowing your characters’ holiday behavior. Would any of your characters be celebrating these October holidays?
You can check out any of these holidays on-line to learn more about the rationale and goals for the observance, along with suggestions for activities and the means to get involved locally or nationally.
Week-Long Observances That Include October 16-17, 2020
Keep in mind that this is only one month, focusing on only two days. So, clearly, there are a ton of holidays and observances out there. But if your passion isn’t represented, what can you do about it?
Fortunately, the brownielocks.com holiday website can answer that question—and I quote:
INFORMATION ABOUT HOW HOLIDAYS & OBSERVANCES GET STARTED and HOW TO START ONE YOURSELF
Through the years, I’ve been asked how these holidays and observances all get started. And, I also get asked how someone can create one and also be listed on my site. Below is what I know about this topic and also what I require in order to be listed on my “Official” holidays and observances listing.
Holidays or Observances are started by the President of the United States as a proclamation.
Holidays or Observances are started by an act of the U.S. Congress as resolution # ___.
Holidays and Observances can be started by individual US State legislatures and/or Governors.
Holidays and Observances can be started as cultural traditions or due to some historical event.
An example is St. Patrick’s Day (Irish culture) or Patriot’s Day (September 11).
They are also started based on a religious belief. Examples are Christmas, Ramadan and Hannukah.
Observances can also be started based on someone’s date of birth or date of death.
This can either be based on their life or something that they invented or accomplished. An example is Tolkien Day or Morse Code Day.
NOTE: Not every famous person’s birthday or death date is an observance!
Observances can also be started by organizations (profit or non-profit).
Observances are also started by commercial companies, and are usually publicized on their websites or on television.
An example was “Potty Dance Day” that we just had in 2011 by Huggies diapers.
Observances are also started by individuals! This is the one that most of you are interested in learning about.
Let me first of all explain the difference between, “create” and “think of.” Lots of us can think of lots of fun things to observe daily. But, that doesn’t make them “official” and valid to be listed on my website.
Any event lists in Chase’s Calendar of Events is considered validated.
If you do not want to submit to Chase’s Calendar of Events, then …. add it to the website you already have. This way, I know the origin. It’s the organization that the page is Linked with at their website. For example, many organizations have their own website. Then they also have a page on that site for the observance that they sponsor. They don’t get a new website domain for their observance when they already have one. So, if you are a dress boutique and you have a website. But, you want to start an observance such as “Wear A Mini Skirt Day.” Just add that page to your current website and send me the Link along with the date etc. and I’ll add it.
BOTTOM LINE: Having your character treasure one of the less popular observances, outside the top 10, can add richness, scenes, settings, and twists entertaining for the reader. And what if your character is motivated to create a special observance—why?
When it comes to holidays, some people go all out while others are minimalists—and some don’t participate at all. Even Christmas, the #1 holiday in the United States, isn’t celebrated by 4-8% of the population. For each of these most popular U.S. holidays, what would your character(s) do? And why?
December 25 (Fixed)
Christmas (from liturgical Christ’s Mass) is the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth. Religious celebrations are marked by church services (often at midnight on Christmas Eve), singing hymns, recreating the scene of Jesus’ birth either in art or by reenacting, and observing four weeks of prayer and fasting in leading up to the holiday. Many elements of Saturnalia or pagan winter solstice festivals have been incorporated into modern Christmas celebrations, including decorating an evergreen tree, burning a Yule Log, making and eating special foods, and an evolution of the Holly King – Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Tovlis Babua, etc. Secular Christmas celebrations in the United States generally revolve around exchanging gifts, decorating inside and outside, singing carols, visiting family, and sharing a holiday meal. In addition to having the highest percentage of the population celebrating it, Christmas is the top holiday in the United States based on retail sales and number of greeting cards mailed. Among religious celebrations, Christmas is known for having the second highest church attendance (behind Easter).
November 22–28 (Floating Thursday)
Originally a harvest festival, the first official Thanksgiving holiday in the United States was proclaimed by George Washington in 1789. Traditional dishes often claim to have some connection to foods eaten by early American colonists, such as turkey, cranberry sauce, corn, and pumpkin. Typically, Thanksgiving is a celebration of thanks for the previous year, with families and friends gathering for a large meal or dinner. Consequently, the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is one of the busiest travel periods of the year. One-sixth of the turkeys consumed annually in the U.S. are eaten around Thanksgiving.
May 8–14 (Floating Sunday)
Mother’s Day recognizes mothers, motherhood, and maternal bonds in general, as well as the positive contributions that they make to society. Florists and restaurants have their busiest sale days on Mother’s Day and the days before and after, even higher than Valentine’s Day. Many churches experience spikes in attendance, following only Easter and Christmas.
March 22 – April 25 (Floating Sunday)
Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The highest church attendance happens on Easter. Most Christian traditions observe 40 days of Lent, fasting and repenting before Easter, beginning on Ash Wednesday. Many traditions associated with Easter originated with pagan celebrations of Spring Equinox, including the name (Eastra was a Saxon goddess of spring). Like Christmas, it has become a widely celebrated secular holiday, and customs observed by both Christians and some non-Christians include egg hunting, the Easter Bunny, and Easter parades.
July 4 (Fixed)
Independence Day, also commonly known as the Fourth of July, marks the date that the Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776. The Continental Congress actually voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence on July 2nd. The holiday is best known today for fireworks and barbecues. In addition to watching civic displays of fireworks, 45% of American celebrate the 4th of July by setting off their own fireworks, accounting for about $675 million in fireworks sales.
June 15–21 (Floating Sunday)
Father’s Day is a celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society. The first official Father’s Day observation in the US was in 1910. Sonora Smart Dodd was raised by her single father and wanted to recognize him and others in his position for their contributions. Inspired by the official celebration of Mother’s Day the year before, Dodd petitioned the government to set aside a day celebrating fathers. It accounts for the highest sales of ties and neckwear annually, around $12.7 billion.
October 31 (Fixed)
Halloween (Hallow’s Eve) celebrations are marked today by costumed children knocking door to door asking for treats, and costumed adults attending parties (or costumed adults borrowing the neighbor’s children to have an excuse to beg for candy). Historically, Halloween was a Christian adoption of pagan Samhain traditions, burning lanterns (in turnips or pumpkins) and wearing frightening costumes to scare off restless spirits. It is the most popular holiday for candy sales, amounting to $2.6 billion in 2015. The same year, $6.9 billion was spent on candy, costumes, and pumpkins, all of which are directly attributed to this holiday.
St. Valentine’s Day
February 14 (Fixed)
St. Valentine’s Day is recognized as a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and romantic love. As I’ve discussed before, there are also many tragic events associated with the 14th of February. It accounts for 224 million roses grown annually; 24% of American adults purchased flowers for Valentine’s Day in 2015. The holiday comes in second in terms of annual restaurant sales, behind only Mother’s Day. In recent years, florists, chocolatiers, greeting card sellers, and other associated romance retailers have been encouraging non-romantic displays of affection to increase sales.
St. Patrick’s Day
March 17 (Fixed)
St. Patrick’s Day (Lá Fhéile Pádraig) commemorates life of Saint Patrick, a Welsh shepherd brought to Ireland as a slave, and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. It is also an opportunity to celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general. In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is generally a quiet affair; most people attend church services and perhaps wear a shamrock on their lapel. American traditions of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day stem from Tammany Hall efforts to recruit voters from among the newly arrived Irish immigrants in New York at the end of the 19th century. The political organization threw parades, hired bands to play Irish music, and distributed food and beer to hungry tenement dwellers. Modern celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals, parties, the wearing of green attire or shamrocks, and alcohol consumption.
New Year’s Eve / New Year’s Day
December 31 (Fixed)
New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are usually lumped together, particularly since the actual festivities center around midnight between the two. Observed on December 31st and January 1, the last day of the old year and the first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar as well as the Julian calendar. Many religious traditions require attendance at services on New Year’s Day. Parties celebrating the countdown to midnight are common. It is known for being the holiday with the highest alcohol consumption, evidenced by the spike in sales around between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Alcoholics’ support groups acknowledge this as one of the most dangerous holidays for people fighting alcoholism. Many parents set their household clocks ahead by several hours and allow their children to stay up until “midnight” and watch the televised countdown and fireworks in a country several time zones ahead; the kids are then sent to bed at 9pm, convinced it is midnight, and parents can go to bed early.
We have literally hundreds of national, state, and local holidays. A couple of examples of the less common ones are Patriot’s Day celebrated and observed in Massachusetts and Maine; and Yorktown Victory Day in Virginia.
Are some holidays—not among the most popular in the U.S.—nevertheless important to you character(s)? What are they? Better yet, make a list of holidays most important to your character(s) similar to the above. This is especially useful if you are writing a series character.
Bottom line for writers: how your character behaves around and on holidays can tell the reader a great deal about ethnicity, religion, family relationships, and spending habits, as well as revealing basic tendencies toward extravagance or minimalism, introversion /extroversion, degree of anxiety, etc.
When my three children were young, we always carved three Jack-O-Lanterns on Halloween. (FYI: The traditional pumpkin for American Jack-O-Lanterns is the Connecticut field variety.) If my family of origin had a crest, our motto would be “Waste Not, Want Not.” Of course, I couldn’t just throw away perfectly edible food! This combination of personality and plenty resulted in lots of pumpkin for our table.
The day after Halloween, we “dealt with” those pumpkins. At the time, this meant chunking them up, baking the pieces, pureeing, and freezing the pulp in two-cup freezer bags. (Full disclosure: Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins are far from the best eating ones. Sugar pie pumpkins or Long Island Cheese pumpkins are preferred by pumpkin connoisseurs.) The bounty led me to cut recipes from can labels, ask for favorite recipes from family members, and buy cookbooks like this.
Between then and now, I’ve learned just how narrow my culinary use of pumpkins had been.
In word associations tests, “pumpkin” is almost certain to be followed by “pie.” And sure enough, I have at least a dozen excellent pumpkin pie recipes. And then there is pumpkin bread, pumpkin stew, pumpkin curry, pumpkin lasagna, pumpkin beer, pumpkin butter, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes… Pumpkin smoothies are a current favorite.
FYI: Pumpkin can be substituted for other winter squash in virtually any recipe. In fact, the FDA does not distinguish between pumpkins and other varieties of squash. When you buy a can of “pumpkin” from the grocery store, it’s just as likely to be acorn or butternut squash inside.
Pumpkins grow worldwide. Antarctica is the only continent that can’t grow pumpkins. (Those poor penguins…)
Blossoms cooked with duck were and are a Chinese delicacy
Small, green pumpkins can be treated like summer squash
Leaves can be eaten by themselves or dressed in a salad
Whole pumpkins stuffed and baked (sweet or savory)
As a complement to meat in stews (especially in Native American, African, and South American recipes)
Slices fried with apples, sweet herbs and spices, and currants
With corn and beans as succotash (Native American)
Dried/dehydrated; sometimes pounded into powder for baking
Popular with pre-Columbian people of Mexico and Peru; now available in most grocery stores
Oil from seeds
Butter (like apple butter)
As a hard times substitute for other ingredients
E.g., pumpkin syrup for molasses, pumpkin sugar)
Pumpkin shells can even be used a type of slow-cooker. After the stringy guts have been scooped out, they can be filled and buried in ashes or baked in an oven. Armenian rice pudding baked in a pumpkin shell is a particular holiday delicacy.
Native Americans (Iroquois in particular) had Four Sisters of agriculture: pumpkins, corn, beans, and squash, interplanted so each vegetable provided sustainability and nutrients for the others to grow. The four sisters of agriculture allowed the survival the earliest colonists. The ubiquity—and importance of pumpkins is clear in this old New England doggerel:
From pottage, and puddings, and puddings, and pies, Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies. We have pumpkins at morning, and pumpkins at noon; If it were not for pumpkins, we should be undone.
As an offering to deities in China during the season of the Fifth Moon
As a dietary supplement for cats and dogs that have certain digestive ailments such as hairballs, constipation, and diarrhea
In Native American medicine to treat intestinal worms and ailments
In Germany and southeastern Europe to treat irritable bladder and benign prostatic hyperplasia
In China for the treatment of parasitic disease and the expulsion of tape worms
Hollowed out and lighted with candles, as lanterns to light the way after dark
And Then There is Halloween
The tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, an important day for Druids, when the veil between this world and the afterlife was particularly thin. People would light bonfires and wear frightening costumes to ward off ghosts. All Hallows Eve (the night before All Saints Day) transmuted to Halloween—holy or hallowed evening.
Historically, in Britain and Ireland lanterns were carved from turnips or other vegetables. In the New World, pumpkins were a substitute, and even better because they are bigger and easier to deal with. Although other vegetables are still popular in Scotland and Northern Ireland, Britain purchases millions of pumpkins for Halloween.
In 1837, the term Jack-O-Lantern appeared in several Irish newspapers as a term for a vegetable lantern. The association with Halloween was documented by 1866. Additionally, in popular culture there’s a connection between pumpkins and the supernatural. Jack-O-Lanterns derive from folklore about a lost soul wandering the earth, searching for his missing head.
Annually, Circleville, OH holds a Pumpkin Festival, complete with marching bands, a queen, all sorts of fair foods made with pumpkin, and a prize for the biggest pumpkin. FYI, the largest pumpkin in North American history was grown by a New Hampshire man and tipped the scale at 2,528 pounds. You can find other festivals and pumpkin contests online.
Then there are contests, often including baked goods. More actively, there are games like pumpkin throwing and pumpkin chunking. Chunking involves machines like catapults, trebuchets, ballistas, and air cannons. Some pumpkin chunkers breed and grow pumpkins specifically to improve the pumpkin’s chances of surviving a throw.
Folklore and Fiction
We all know a couple of examples
Peter, Peter pumpkin eater Had a wife and couldn’t keep her. Put her in a pumpkin shell And there he kept her very well.
Cinderella’s coach for the ball was carved from a pumpkin in many versions
In some versions of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman has a pumpkin in place of a head
Overall, in the U.S., pumpkin folklore tends to be light and humorous (though keeping a woman in a gourd root doesn’t sound very nice), often involving the biggest, the fastest, the most fantastic. Pumpkins can talk, or someone hit by a pumpkin thinks he’s dead. Southern American folklore often stems from tall tales told by the descendants of West African slaves in which pumpkins—and pigs—meet magical realism.
In other cultures, pumpkins are often elements of different genres of myths.
Laotians believed that all the people of Indo-China came from a pumpkin.
Turning into or giving birth to strange creatures, evil doers, beautiful princesses
Because it ripens later than most fruits and vegetables, between summer and winter, the pumpkin is often seen as a symbol of change.
In many West and Central African cultures, pumpkins stand for rebirth, when a pumpkin grows from a dead mother’s grave.
In Ukraine, a pumpkin was traditionally given to a suitor to symbolize that there was absolutely no chance of marriage.
Some sources, like Wikipedia, claim pumpkins are native to North America (northeastern Mexico and southern U.S). This assertion is based on evidence paleobotanists offer of cultivation as early as 7,500-5,000 BCE. Clearly, the use of pumpkins preceded the cultivation.
The Chinese grew pumpkins in the 6th and 7th centuries. Africa claims to have a pumpkin variety that preceded European or American contact. Pliny the Elder, in first century Rome, described something that seems to have been a pumpkin. Pre-Columbian Peruvians made pottery in the shape of pumpkins—suggesting that pumpkins were both prominent in their gardens and important in their culture. Conclusion: pumpkins were everywhere, very long ago!
Bottom line for writers: surely your plot and/or characters can use some tidbits about pumpkins!
Spinster? Life-long bachelor? Being dead is no excuse for not getting married. If you are dead and looking for love, there is a dating website for you! Check out: http://www.ghostsingles.com/(I am not affiliated in any way with this website; please do not perceive this as an endorsement for necrogamy.)
Ghost marriage (a.k.a. spirit marriage or necrogamy) has been practiced in some form in various cultures around the world for millennia. The first records appeared in Chinese legends more than 2000 years ago and has been part of the culture ever since. Although the practice was less common in China in the late 1960s, during the Cultural Revolution, it’s made a comeback.
Reasons for marrying the dead vary among cultures and in different time periods, but there are a few recurring themes. The examples listed in this blog are not comprehensive, but the motives could easily be applied in many fictional scenarios.
Appeasing the spirits of those already dead
Fulfilling an agreement made before one or both parties died
Maintaining social decorum
Ensuring the legitimacy of children and inheritance rights
Ghost weddings are most common in China. Minghun is, essentially ghost marriage in which the bride and/or groom is dead and has not left behind a widow(er). A Chinese ghost marriage is usually set up by family members. The preferred ghost spouse is recently deceased.
Writers note: Because, in China, men outnumber women in death as in life, ghost brides can be big business. At least two cases have been reported (2007 and 2013) in which men killed more than a dozen prostitutes, housekeepers, and mentally ill women and sold the bodies to undertakers for about $2000. The undertakers then sold them to prospective “in-laws” for $5000.
But why would dead people marry? In China, and among the Chinese in Taiwan and Singapore, ghost marriage ceremonies are performed primarily to appease unhappy ghosts and to maintain social order or stability. The importance of marriage in Chinese society means that the ghosts of those who die unmarried are assumed to be unhappy and can wreck havoc on the birth family, the family of its betrothed (if engaged), and the married sisters of the ghost. This can take the form of any misfortune—financial setback, illness, etc.
Benefits for Women
Spinsters can gain social acceptance and cease being an “embarrassment” to their families (by being old spinsters at age 20!)
An unmarried daughter must gain a patrilineage so she can have a spirit tablet. With a tablet, the husband’s family will honor and care for her spirit after death.
Living unmarried women are not allowed to remain in the family home, nor are they allowed to die there.
A living woman marrying a ghost husband lives with his family, participates in the funeral ritual, abides by the mourning customs regarding dress and behavior, and takes a vow of celibacy. She also cares for her husband’s aging relatives.
For some women, particularly during the nineteenth century, marrying a ghost was their ideal social arrangements. A rising class of silk merchants, primarily comprised of women, were not eager to give up their independence and relative freedom by being tied to a husband. Being married to a respectable ghost would provide such a woman with the social protection of marriage without the hassle of raising a family. For more details, check out Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert, a fascinating look at the history of marriage.
Benefits for Men
Dead sons were honored by giving them living brides.
The practice ensured the family line and name would continue. The groom’s family could adopt a grandson, usually a son of a male relative, who behaved as a son and inherited his deceased “father’s” share of the family wealth.
The groom’s mother would have a daughter-in-law to wait on her and care for the house.
It was considered unlucky and sometimes shameful for a younger brother to be married before an older one (even if the older brother was dead.)
Finding a suitable spouse is a varied business. Sometimes it involves a marriage broker who finds a family with a recently dead member who has a favorable horoscope. Some families use a priest as a matchmaker. Some families approach an undertaker/funeral director.
Sometimes the family assumes that the ghost will identify his or her preferred spouse. The potential bride or groom will reveal him or herself. A restless ghost may also express a desire to be married by appearing in a family member’s dream or while being channeled through a spirit medium during a séance.
Financial arrangements also vary. Often there is an exchange of bride wealth and/or dowries between the two families, but more often paper representations of wealth are exchanged. Houses, cars, servants, food, and furniture are all burned in offering to the deceased. (Often, money made to be burned will have “Bank of Heaven” printed on one side and “Bank of Hell” printed on the other. Wherever the happy couple wind up, they’ll have plenty of spending power!)
A ghost marriage ceremony is as similar as possible to a regular marriage ceremony, but with the dead person(s) represented by manikins made of cloth, bamboo, wood, and/or paper. The bride and groom wear real clothes but costume jewelry. A living groom would wear black gloves instead of white. The effigies are typically treated as though alive—being ‘fed,” talked to, and moved from place to place—until after all the festivities, when they are burned, and the bride’s ancestral tablet is added to the groom’s family’s tablets. If the bride and groom were engaged before he died, the groom is often represented on the wedding day by a white rooster.
Some regions of Japan, particularly the northern islands and Okinawa Prefecture, have a very long tradition of posthumous marriage, probably because of centuries of Chinese influence. Here, again, the reason relates to the placing of spirit tablets and continued honoring of ancestors.
The main factor distinguishing Japanese ghost marriage from its Chinese counterpart is the type of spouses married to ghosts. A deceased person is not married to another dead person, nor to a living one, but to a doll. The most common ghost marriage is between a ghost man and a bride doll, but posthumous weddings can go the other way, with a ghost bride marrying a groom doll. During a Japanese doll wedding ceremony, a photo of the dead man or woman is placed in a glass case alongside the doll to represent their union. The tableau stays in place for up to 30 years, at which point the deceased’s spirit is considered to have passed into the next realm. The symbolic companionship is designed to keep the ghost husband or wife calm and prevent supernatural harm from coming to the living family.
Persons who die early harbor resentment toward the living. Denied the sexual and emotional fulfillment of marriage and procreation, they often seek to torment their more fortunate living relatives through illness, financial misfortune, or spirit possession. Spirit marriage, allowing a ritual completion of the life cycle, placates the dead spirit and turns its malevolent attention away from the living.
Throughout the Korean Peninsula, it used to be customary for a person to marry the soul of a betrothed who died before the wedding. The living spouse would then remain celibate for the rest of his/her life. Currently that tradition is not binding.
Modern law in South Korea allows posthumous marriage in cases where one member of an engaged couple dies because, according Unification Church beliefs, only married couple can enter the highest levels of heaven. Another reason for postmortem marriages is—again—if the prospective bride is pregnant.
In Kasargod, India, children are often engaged to be married at a very young age. If the children pass away before they are old enough to marry, their families may hold in a Pretha Kalyanam. After consulting an astrologer, the two families will hold a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony with dolls in place of the bride and groom. The dolls are dressed in traditional wedding clothes, horoscopes are matched, and a wedding feast is served to guests.
After the ceremony, the dolls are buried under a sacred tree, submerged in a lake or river, or burned in a ceremonial pyre.
Posthumous or Postmortem Marriage is a legal form of marriage which originated in the 1950s. The story behind the addition begins with a disaster: on December 2, 1959, the Malpasset Dam just north of the French Riviera collapsed, unleashing a furious wall of water that killed 423 people. When then president Charles de Gaulle visited the devastated site, a bereaved woman, Irène Jodard, pleaded to be allowed to marry her dead fiancé. On December 31, French parliament passed the law permitting posthumous marriage.
The President of the Republic may, for grave reasons, authorize the celebration of the marriage where one of the future spouses died after completion of official formalities indicating unequivocally his or her consent. In this case, the effect of marriage dated back to the day preceding the death of the husband. However, this marriage does not entail any right of intestate succession for the benefit of the surviving spouse and no matrimonial property is deemed to have existed between spouses.
Article 117 of the French Civil Code
Ways to legally show intent include having posted an official wedding announcement at the local courthouse and written permission from a soldier’s commanding officer. Grave reasons include the birth of a child, and to legitimize children is a primary reason for such marriages. If the couple had planned to marry and the family of the deceased approves, the local official sends the application back to the President.
Writers note: One quarter of the applications for posthumous marriage are rejected.
During the ceremony, the living spouse stands next to a picture of the deceased fiancé. Instead of the deceased’s marriage vows, the mayor conducting the ceremony reads the presidential decree.
Money: The law does not allow the living spouse to claim any of the deceased spouse’s property or money. No matrimonial property is considered to have existed. However, the living spouse is considered a widow for purpose of receiving pension and insurance benefits.
Pro or con: A posthumous marriage bring the surviving spouse into the family of the deceased spouse, which can create an alliance and/or emotional satisfaction—or the opposite! The surviving spouse is also subject to the impediments of marriage that result.
The German government did not allow Jews and non-Jews to marry under the 1935 Nazi Nuremberg Laws. Charlotte Kaletta and Fritz Pfeffer lived together without marriage. In 1950, Charlotte married Fritz posthumously, with a retrospective wedding date of May 31, 1937.
Within the Nuer ethnic group of southern Sudan, ghost marriage happens in a very particular way. “If a man dies without male heirs, a kinsman frequently marries a wife to the dead man’s name,” writes Alice Singer in Marriage Payments and the Exchange of People. “The genitor [biological father] then behaves socially like the husband, but the ghost is considered the pater [legal father].”
This arrangement, Levirate marriage, is conducted in order to secure both the property and ongoing lineage of the dead man. The woman receives a payment at the time of the ghost marriage—a fee known as the brideprice—which may include “bloodwealth” money from those responsible for the death of the man as well as payment in the form of cattle that once belonged to the deceased man. The Dinka (Jieng) and Nuer tribes of Southern Sudan most commonly practice this form of ghost marriage. Women will also marry a deceased man so they can retain their wealth and property instead of losing it to a living husband.
The term Levirate is a derivative of the Latin word levir meaning “husband’s brother.” Instances of Levirate marriage have also been documented in Judaism, Islam, Scythia, Central Asia and Xiongnu, Kirghiz, Indonesia, Somalia, Cameroon, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, South Sudan, Zimbabwe and England.
THE UNITED STATES does not legally recognize ghost marriages.
Bottom line for writers: Marrying dead people is rife with possibilities for tension, romance, murder, and conflict. Real-life examples are often tragic. Wikipedia has a list of posthumous marriage in fiction—TV, film, and novels. Feel free to go for it, even if you will not be the first!
Coverage of the pandemic is all over the media. Every day we get the latest tallies. Local and national news feature the tragedies that are all too common. A family of 6 all of whom have tested positive, and only two survive. Sometimes someone being discharged from the hospital after weeks on a ventilator. So why this blog? Because people suffer the virus in ways that never catch the attention of the media. Writers need to be aware of these variations.
Many of you are familiar with the name of Kathleen Corcoran, my friend and colleague and occasional guest blogger. She has graciously agreed to share her experience with us all.
It started with a headache, a pretty bad one, like something was sitting on my head. Or maybe it was the insomnia first. Or maybe the headache was caused by the insomnia. Or maybe I couldn’t sleep because my head was hurting. Or maybe I was just doomed to be caught in this chicken and egg loop of which came first for all eternity or at least until the sun came up.
But I didn’t think anything was wrong. I’ve had trouble sleeping since I was a kid. My posture is terrible, which causes headaches sometimes. I took a couple of painkillers and eventually was lulled to sleep by the dulcet tones of Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter.*
(Neither Vivian Lawry nor I are affiliated with or Stephen Fry or with J. K. Rowling. But if anyone knows how to get in touch with Stephen Fry, let me know, and I’ll do my darndest to become affiliated!)
In the morning, my husband went off to work, I drank about ten cups of tea, and everything was normal. Perfectly normal.
I was pretty tired, but that was to be expected after being up all night.
Joints aching? Must be a storm coming. Stupid arthritis.
Skin hurts like I’m wrapped in sandpaper? Probably just didn’t rinse all the soap out of my clothes last time I washed them.
Too hot and too cold and too hot and too cold again? Eh, it’s July. The air conditioner is weird.
Can’t stop coughing? Gee, I must need to sweep under the bed. It’s obviously really dusty down there.
Sore throat? Well, duh. That’s what happens when you cough a lot.
Eventually, the combined efforts of my husband, my sister, and my mother convinced me that I was probably sick, it might be the COVID-19, and I definitely needed to do something about it. The first thing I did about it was to consult Our Lord and Master, The Great Google. My husband left work early, and we tried to find a testing site.
And that’s when things got really… boring. Following the instructions laid out by The Great Google, I didn’t bother going to a doctor. I answered a bunch of questions online to determine if I was worthy of receiving testing and then to determine if I was worthy of receiving fast testing. The pharmacy told me I could stop by the drive-thru the following afternoon to poke a stick up my nose, and that was it.
Labs are really backed up, so I could expect my test results in about two weeks. Maybe longer. Probably longer. In the meantime, I should assume I had The ‘Rona (as my brother insists on calling it) and behave accordingly. Oh, and don’t bother going to a doctor or a hospital unless I turn blue or have a seizure. And it better be a pretty big seizure.
Contact tracing was easy. Two phone calls. I warned my parents that I was (allegedly) highly contagious with (allegedly) an infection of (allegedly) COVID-19 and thus I may have (allegedly) contaminated my mother and she may have (allegedly) passed on the deadly (allegedly) infection to my father. Allegedly.
Thus, I am now in quarantine. I can’t leave the bedroom except for bathroom breaks. My husband can’t leave the house, just in case I’ve contaminated him. He has to sleep on the sofa, keeping an eye on the turtle. We both have to wear masks anytime I open the bedroom door, but my husband covers his face just about any time time he’s not sleeping. Pippin the Wonder Dog has gone to stay with my parents until we’re all allowed out of the house again. Fourteen days of staring at the bedroom walls, unless I’m still sick or my test results come back negative.
My husband put food and tea next to the bed for the first few days, carefully not touching anything and showering immediately after leaving the room. When I could get out of bed, he left the food and tea on the floor outside the door and picked up empty dishes with gloves. For about a week, I couldn’t keep anything down except tea. It’s a good thing I like tea.
But then I started feeling better. I could sit up, the cough subsided, and I managed to stay awake for more than two hours at a time. My fever hung around for a bit, but it eventually went down. At one point, the thermometer informed me that I had a temperature of 107.3F. As I was staring at the read-out, wondering why all my internal organs hadn’t shut down yet, my husband reminded me to wait until after I drank the hot tea before sticking the thermometer in my mouth. Smart man.
Now, I wait. There’s not a whole lot to do in here. I can video chat with the guy on the other side of the door. My goddaughter sometimes reads me stories or demonstrates her spectacular spinning skills over the phone. I spend way more time than I will ever admit on sites like BoredPanda and BuzzFeed. Occasionally, I try to get up and walk around, but it’s only a step and a half from the bed to the door and only half a step from the bed to the wall. Not very conducive to calisthenics.
The neighbors lead fascinating lives, as I have discovered by not being creepy at all. I spend a lot of time staring out the window, and I’ve gotten to know everyone’s habits. If the dog next door isn’t out for his morning yard time by 7:30, I worry. Where’s Roscoe? Is he stuck inside? Is he still asleep? When the kids down the street start their evening basketball skirmishes, I keep score. Darren cheats, but Michael is taller and older… I haven’t decided if that evens things out, but Keisha always wins anyway. Yesterday, the recycling truck came by. It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen. It’s like Rear Window, but without the murder!
In the meantime, my husband has missed two weeks of work and pay. His boss isn’t sure about letting him back in the shop until all his colleagues are comfortable that he isn’t poisonous. My parents have had to isolate in their house, missing my father’s birthday dinner. All the careful planning my sister did to set up a safe birthday celebration for my father is down the drain (along with all the ingredients I’d just bought to make Beef Wellington for them). My other sister has been stuck watching five kids by herself because I can’t help out. And I had to reschedule an appointment with the DMV. Their next opening isn’t until September.
Don’t get me wrong: I am thrilled beyond belief not to be in the ICU, hooked to a ventilator in a medically-induced coma. But I don’t even know if I have COVID-19. Barring some catastrophic development, I will be free to leave quarantine and resume my normal activities tomorrow. If I did have it, I’m no longer carrying anything that could infect people. If I didn’t, I just put a bunch of people through a bunch of disruption and financial hassle for a sniffle.
Oh hey! An email just popped up with my test results….
Finding the right message…
If I tested positive, does that mean I passed or failed? Also, is this going to be on the final exam?
Thanks to Kathleen for sharing her experience. Writers take note: She is living, breathing (thank goodness) proof that the worst case scenario isn’t necessary for one’s life to be turned upside-down.