Friday, December 07, 2018

Supernatural Friday: The Myths and Story Behind Candy Canes

Image result for candy cane images

I am reposting this as I saw a post about a principal in Nebraska (the state I was born in) who banned candy canes from his school as claiming they represent Jesus Christ. I posted the blog in 2014, so people (and maybe that principal) can see where t=candy canes might have come from and why. 

It is said that the candy cane came by a candy maker in Indiana who wanted to make a candy that would be a witness, so he made the Christmas candy cane. He took several symbols from the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ. He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy, which symbolized the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus, It had to be hard to symbolize the Solid Rock, the foundation of the Church, and firmness of the promises of God. He formed the candy in the form of a “J” to represent the precious name of Jesus. It could also represent the staff of the “Good Shepherd.” 


Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain, the candy maker stained it with red stripes, using three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross.
  

These Jesus celebrating candies were then, the story goes, handed out to good children in the church or used as a form of identification among Christians when they were persecuted. But none of this is true! Candy canes were not invented in Indiana since the first reports of hard candy sticks (the precursor to candy canes) come from the 17th century.
 
Actually, white candy sticks were actually quite common at Christmas. One story says that they turned into J’s because one choirmaster bent them to look like a shepherd’s staff for children during the nativity scene. But there is no evidence that that’s true either. 
 
In America’s introduction to Christmas candy canes can be traced to August Imgard, a German immigrant who’s credited with introducing the Christmas tree to Ohio in 1847. The National Confectioners Association makes a claim that Imgard “decorated a small blue spruce with paper ornaments and candy canes.” But an article from 1938 points out a ceremony that a different kind of sweet was used.
 
Ornaments were made of paper, festooned in long chains by the younger members of the pioneer community. Kuchen baked according to a recipe sent from Bavaria by Imgard’s mother, hung upon the tree and served both as ornaments and tidbits. The cookies were colored with brown sugar and the family spent weeks baking them in quantities for the guests. Gilded nuts were other ornaments and inside the gilded shells were warm messages of greeting.

Red-and-white striped candy didn’t show up until around the turn of the century in America. 
 
Other myths concerning the candy cane:
A sweet treat made for children who behaved in church.
A way for Christians to identify each other during a time of persecution.


Whether how the candy cane came to be, now they are as much a part of the holidays as Santa Claus. 

So, please, quit stressing where they or songs came from or why, and just enjoy the holidays, whether you believe in Christmas, Hannakuh, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Los Posadas, Diwali, etc....  The only thing you might worry about candy canes are cavities and if you're diabetic.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Book Cover Reveal of 13 Backyard Monsters

Here is the cover for 13 Backyard Monster anthology my story, "The Orange Bati," is included in. Also the back cover with the book blurb. It will be available as an eBook, print, and audiobook.


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Story Accepted for Anthology and NaNoWriMo Winner 2018

My horror short story, "The Orang Bati," was accepted for the anthology, 13 Backyard Monsters, to be released around Christmas 2018. And I am a NaNoWriMo winner for 2018! 



Friday, November 23, 2018

Supernatural Friday: The Ghosts of Christmas Terror

Long, long ago, people didn’t stay indoors due to the “frightful” weather, but because it might have been dangerous from dark forces that lurked amidst the shadows of the snow drifts. Winter Solstice (December 21) was a time when the fabric between the mortal world and the world of malicious spirits became thin enough for things to snatch unwary victims. Though the fiends are out all year, especially at Halloween (Samhain-(pronounced /ˈsɑːwɪn/ SAH-win or /ˈsaʊ.ɪn/ SOW-in, Irish pronunciation: [sˠaunʲ])a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the "darker half" of the year.), still, this time prove to be the scariest.


Many gathered together to celebrate, and they hoped that the dark spirits would realize that with all the din that there might be too many bodies inside or caroling outside to grab one person. Another custom practiced were doors flung open at midnight to let out trapped evil spirits caught inside the building. A candle left burning in the window all night insured good luck for the family inside. Any candle that burned out before dawn was considered a bad sign.

 

It was also said that those born on Christmas are apt more to see a spirit than those not. Though they had nothing to fear from any ghost if they chance to encounter one. These same people were also protected against deaths by drowning or hanging.


This time of year, ghost stories had been told. Those Victorian people did more than go Christmas caroling or drank mulled wine by the roaring fires. Just as much as Halloween. This might be a good reason Charles Dickens wrote his novel, A Christmas Carol. There’s even that line in the song,  ‘It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ that goes "There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmas long, long ago," that point to this.

 

Novels and anthologies come out this time of the year, ghostly fiction or horror stories, many are set around the holidays. Like the graphic anthology,  Krampus: Shadow of Saint Nicholas by Michael Dougherty. It is connected to the new Christmas movie, Krampus, and tells of people in a small town that encountered Krampus (a Christmas devil from pagan times who is also considered Santa’s dark shadow who takes bad children to Hell) who came one night. Other books with ghosts and Christmas connected are Christmas Ghosts, an anthology edited by Kathryn Cramer and David G. Hartwell.  Haunted Christmas: Yuletide Ghosts and Other Spooky Holiday Happenings by Mary Beth Crain, The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories edited by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The 12 Terrors of Christmas  anthology, Bah! Humbug!, a Christmas Anthology of Christmas Horror Stories, plus many, many more books like these, just search Amazon or check out your local brick and mortar independent bookstore, Barnes and Noble, or Books A Million. Or go to your library and ask your librarian.

 Image result for spooky christmas images



Of course, there is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Perfect read for this time of the year. Nineteen years after A Christmas Carol was published, Dickens published another ghost story (no elements of Christmas in it, but still what Victorians like to tell around Christmas time) in the Christmas edition of the publication All Year Round. 




So, besides a season of “good tidings,” it is also a time of terrible fear. Make sure your children are in at night and make sure they stay good. And the same for yourself. For you never know if that shadow moving along the street past your front yard is just someone looking at your Christmas lights, or something else waiting to get you.




Have a Scary Little Christmas!


Image result for spooky christmas images

Friday, November 16, 2018

Supernatural Friday: Witching Hour



The witching hour. The hour when witches, demons, and ghosts are supposed to appear, usually midnight. So, says one dictionary.

In folklore, the witching hour or devil's hour is a time of night associated with supernatural events. Creatures such as witches, demons, ghosts, and gremlins are thought to appear and to be at their most powerful. Black magic is thought to be most effective at this time. The hour between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. in European tradition was considered a period of peak supernatural activity, due to the absence of prayers in the canonical hours during this period. Women caught outside without any sufficient reason during this time were sometimes executed on suspicion of witchcraft.

The Witching Hour can vary slightly,  but it should always be in the middle of the night, sometime between 12-3am.
One of the biggest reasons the Witching Hour is so vitally in the middle of the night (even though it is technically the beginning of the day) is because the liminality the time offers. Another reason, why many people focus on midnight as much as 3am because midnight is the time between two days, and many believe the veil between the worlds is at its weakest point then, allowing for a heightened level of communication between our world and another.

This makes it the perfect time to swap ghost stories, communicate with spirits, or why people take out an Ouija board or perform spells in the old days (think Victorian and before).

Additionally, even back in the centuries before, the hours between 12-3am are usually when most people are dead asleep. The cover of darkness and the sleeping world allows witches and other creatures to convene publicly, but without being seen or otherwise persecuted for the meeting. For demons to possess easier? Or when succubuses and incubuses invaded dreams to seduce mortals. For 12-3 are three hours and when someone has three scratches in a haunting, they say that means a demonic entity.

Another thing about this time is a lot of people wake up at around 3 am. Although this is said to be in relation to something wicked, experts argue that you’re in your REM sleep cycle during the time bracket. Your heart rate, cardiac pressure, breathing rate, and arterial pressure becomes irregular at this time, which is why you may feel anxious when you suddenly wake up at those odd hours. It is interesting that we are irregular and on alert at those
hours naturally. Is it a coincidence, or is it an evolutionary tactic developed to better protect ourselves?






Friday, November 02, 2018

Supernatural Friday: Dia De Los Muertos

 
 Image result for day of the dead images
Many of us think about spirits 365 days a year, but there are those who began to think of them as soon as pumpkins start to appear in grocery stores and the cooler autumn breeze whips leaves changing color off the trees. Those same people want to hear scary ghost stories, and if those tales have a basis in fact, well, that’s all the better.

Humankind has been fascinated with the dead since the time of the cavemen, their shaman telling them tales around a blazing campfire built to keep the dark and worse away. Some cultures honor their dead and welcome their ancestors to come to visit them, bringing them foods and gifts. Just like Mexico does with their Day of the Dead (Día De Los Muertos). More than 500 years ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico, they encountered natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mock deathIt was a ritual that the indigenous people had been practicing for at least 3,000 years. A ritual the Spaniards tried with no success to eradicate. 
 
 
The Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations kept skulls as trophies and displayed them during the ritual. The skulls were used to symbolize death and rebirth. The skulls were used to honor the dead, whom the Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations believed came back to visit during the month-long ritual. The Spaniards thought death as the end, while the natives embraced it, as to them it was only the beginning. Not separating death from pain and wealth from poverty, unlike in Western cultures.
 
Not able to kill this barbaric ritual, the Spanish merged it with “All Saint’s Day” and “All Soul’s Day,” the first two days of November. When the natives celebrated it for a month, always falling on the ninth month of the Aztec Solar Calendar, approximately the beginning of August. Festivities were presided over by the goddess Mictecacihuatl, known as "Lady of the Dead.” 

 
 
Nowadays, people don wooden skull masks called calacas and dance in honor of their deceased relatives. They placed wooden skulls on altars dedicated to the dead. Sugar skulls, made with the names of the dead person on the forehead, are eaten by a relative or friend. Families would also visit the cemetery where their loved ones are buried. They decorate gravesites with marigold flowers and candles. They bring toys for dead children and bottles of tequila to adults. They sit on picnic blankets next to gravesites and eat the favorite food of their loved ones. Strangely enough, in Richmond, Virginia, families would come to town and visit their buried dead at Hollywood Cemetery, picnicking by the graves. Today, in the contract, it is stated that when you purchased a gravesite there, no picnics are allowed there!
 
Honestly, the dead may haunt the graveyards, but they don’t stop there, for paranormal activity has been cited in homes, schools, hospitals, prisons, amusement parks, so many places. And they don’t wait for Halloween or Day of the Dead or All Soul’s Day, but any day of the year works for those who passed away.
 
After all, the dead don’t stay dead anywhere you look!