Tag: History

5 Quick Facts About John F. Kennedy

Some things you probably didn’t know about the 35th president,
who was assassinated 50 years ago this month.

Facts about John F. Kennedy• It’s political lore that John F. Kennedy won the 1960 election on the strength of the first-ever televised presidential debates: Kennedy appeared calm and collected, and wore makeup to look good on TV, while his opponent, Richard Nixon, seemed nervous and sweaty. Kennedy may have won the image game, but the debates didn’t hand him the keys to the White House. Gallup polls throughout 1960 show a very close race…and so did the outcome. Kennedy beat Nixon handily in the Electoral College (303 to 219), but got just 112,000 more votes, out of 68 million total.

The Curious History of “666”

Even if you aren’t into heavy metal, you probably know that “666” is a number associated with evil. How come? The devil is in the details. Here is a history of 666.

history of 666The Book of Revelation was written in Greek sometime between 70 and 95 A.D., by an author known only as John. While its most commonly associated with scary, cryptic, or apocolyptic imagery, it’s really only the 13th chapter of Revelation where that’s present. It begins with a letter to the reader, then describes cataclysmic events of the end times John says he saw in a series of visions.

It’s in Revelation (13:8) where “666” is mentioned—the only time in the Bible: “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.” Doing a bit of quick math, in which a score is 20, the number adds up to 666. Whoever is represented by this number then, the text indicates, is pure evil.

Weird Holiday: St. Martin’s Day

The holiday may not be familiar to you, but the customs certainly are.

Basic CMYKMartin of Tours seemed like a decent guy. Legend has it that in the 4th century, he gave up his job as an elite soldier in the Roman army to become a priest after helping out a beggar one night. He ultimately became a bishop, and a pacifist devoted to spreading peace, love, (and Christianity) across western Europe.

He was sainted shortly after his death, and his feast day is November 11, marking the day he was buried in 397. Though obscure in the U.S., St. Martin’s Day is widely celebrated in Europe, making it one of the oldest continuously observed holidays in the world.

The customs vary by location, and many are reminiscent of American customs for other holidays:

• In Belgium and the Netherlands, St. Martin’s Day is celebrated much more like Halloween. Children make paper lanterns and, once its dark, go door-to-door in search of candy. Instead of saying “trick or treat,” they sing songs or recite poems about St. Martin. In some communities, the search for candy begins at a local church and the kids are marched through the streets with a horseback actor dressed as Saint Martin leading the way. Afterward, there’s often a bonfire in a large public square and everybody eats pretzels.

It’s Devil’s Night!

Today is Halloween, but the tricks started yesterday with Devil’s Night.

Falling on October 30th, Devil’s Night is also known as “Mischief Night,” “Cabbage Night,” or “Hell Night.” No matter what it’s called, it’s probably the nastiest holiday in Europe and North America.

Serving as a mean-spirited counterpart to the more innocent traditions of Halloween, Devil’s Night is celebrated by pulling pranks instead of “tricks.” It’s also a lot newer than the medieval festivals that gave way to Halloween. Devil’s Night began in 1790 as Mischief Night. A headmaster of St. John’s College at Oxford put on a play, followed by an “Ode to Fun,” which encouraged students to play pranks (like throwing cabbages at houses). Students obliged and it became an annual tradition…in early May. In the 19th century, the night switched to the evening prior to Guy Fawkes Day, and finally settled on October 30th around the turn of the 20th century, which is also when the holiday spread to the U.S., particularly Detroit.

devil's nightTypically, the pranks are as harmless as covering a neighbor’s tree in toilet paper or smashing a few pumpkins. Things started getting out of hand in the ‘70s. In Detroit, Devil’s Night is marked by acts of major vandalism, property damage, and even arson. In 1984, for example, more than 800 fires were reported.

History of Halloween

Halloween is Uncle John’s favorite holiday. Why? It’s the one day of the year he looks “normal!” Here’s a quick history of Halloween.

History of Halloween

ANCIENT ORIGIN

The ancient Celts in the British Isles celebrated their new year on November 1. Their New Year’s festival was called Samhain (pronounced sow-wen), which means “summer’s end.” Early Christians adopted the festival in the seventh century A.D., making November 1 a celebration of saints and martyrs—hence the name All Saints’ Day or All Hallows’ Day. (Hallow comes from an Old English word meaning “holy.”) The night before All Saints’ Day was known as All Hallows’ Even (evening)— which was shortened to “Hallowe’en.”

ANCIENT MYSTERY

What’s Halloween’s connection to ghosts and costumes? No one’s sure, but historians offer these three possibilites.

Theory #1: The Ghosts Are Hungry!

On All Hallows’ Eve, evil spirits roamed the Earth in wild celebration, ready to greet the arrival of “their season”— the cold dark winter. And just for fun, they liked to frighten mortals. One way for scared humans to escape the demons was to offer them food and sweets. Another way was to dress up like spirits and roam around with them…hopefully going unnoticed. “That is what the ancient Celts did,” explains Francis X. Weiser in The Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, “and it is in this very form that the custom has come to us.”