The War on Halloween

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It has long been the position of this blog that Halloween gets a bad rap, especially from the Christian Right. The holiday’s association with deviltry, witchcraft, and the occult is, of course, difficult to deny, but the holiday’s name is an abbreviation of “All Hallow’s Eve”; that is, the evening before All Saints’ Day on 1 November.

Granted, the Internet atheists will claim the roots of Halloween in Samhain, the Gaelic festival of the harvest. They are not wrong, per se—the influx of Irish immigrants into the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries brought a peculiarly Celtic flavor to the holiday. But the holiday is a Christian, specifically a Catholic, one—the Irishmen bringing tales of Jack O’Lantern and his carved turnip (it would only later become a pumpkin) were not ancient pagans, but among the most devout believers in Europe.

Certainly the medieval Catholic Church had a habit of taking pagan holidays and replacing them with Christian observances. For some reason, Internet atheists always use these replacements as examples of Christianity’s secretly pagan roots. The argument is ludicrous.

When Hernan Cortez destroyed the Aztec temple at Tenochtitlan and built a cathedral in its place, was he honoring the bloodthirsty Aztec gods? Or was he symbolically noting that The Holy Trinity had displaced the false gods and idols of the Aztecs? It is almost certainly the latter. Similarly, when Christians took existing pagan observances and replaced them with Christian ones, they were symbolically and practically demonstrating the victory of Christ and His Church over pagan gods.

Indeed, much of the American Protestant objection to Halloween must have been due to its associations with the Papists, rather than the Devil. The mischievousness of the holiday in the twentieth century, especially the concept of trick-or-treating, probably has more to do with its more sinister modern associations.

But the latest assault on Halloween is coming from a different quarter.  No longer are conservative Christians alone in hedging their bets on the holiday.

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Driving the Georgia Backroads

Murphy and I spent this Labor Day Weekend visiting my girlfriend and her German Shepherd in Athens, Georgia, which is about three-and-a-half hours from Lamar.  As such, I spent a solid seven or so hours on the road this weekend, not counting time we spent tooling around Athens.

For a three-day weekend, that’s not much driving, and I’ve driven longer distances.  Way back in the mists of graduate school, circa 2006 or 2007, I drove from Knoxville, Tennessee to Rock Hill, South Carolina (not far), then from Rock Hill to Richmond, Virginia and back just to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra with a friend.  She took the wheel only for the last hour of the drive back, and apparently as soon as I got into the passenger seat, I was out cold.

Granted, I was twenty-one or twenty-two at the time.  In the intervening fifteen years, my zest for driving all night to hear live symphonic holiday power metal has waned considerably.  Now I’m lucky if I can make it to 10:30 PM without falling asleep on the couch, my multiple after-school drives to Universal Studios notwithstanding.

But I digress.  While I may lack the stamina of my reckless youth, I do alternatively loathe and appreciate a long drive.

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Memorable Monday: Happy Labor Day [2021]!

Well, it’s another Labor Day here in the States, and I couldn’t be happier.  Last week was a slog, but a productive one—I managed to get caught up on all grading and even get a good bit of writing done, even though I was suffering from a gnarly head cold.  Hopefully by the time you read this I am on the mend.  I’ll have spent the weekend enjoying some rest and relaxation in Athens, Georgia, with my girlfriend and our dogs.

It being Labor Day, I’m going to observe the holiday in the spirit intended, and keep enjoying the rest.  That means some glorious reblogging today, looking back past Labor Day posts.

Labor Day has always been a pleasant holiday early in the academic year—the symbolic end of summer, and a chance to catch one’s breath before the mad dash to Thanksgiving.  It also seems to usher in the “spooky” season building up to Halloween.

As a child, we used to attend a massive Labor Day picnic my childhood church hosted every year at a campground in a rural portion of Aiken County.  I loved that picnic, especially the opportunity to explore the woods with a fried chicken leg in my hand.  It was a chance to play at being an adventurer, while still indulging in my beloved childhood obesity.

I’m not sure if there will be any picnicking today, but I can assure you I’ll be eating something decadent and unhealthy.  With that, here is “Memorable Monday IV: Happy Labor Day [2020]!“:

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Happy Memorial Day 2021!

In lieu of the usual Monday Morning Movie Review, I thought I’d take it easy today.  Memorial Day typically marks the beginning of summer.  Given that it’s a day to remember those who have died for our liberties, some might see it as somewhat ironic, or even disrespectful, that we spend the day at the beach eating hot dogs.

I prefer to think of it another way:  it’s a celebration of everything for which those men died.  Hot dogs, pool parties, family, good music, good times; in essence, freedom, the kind of freedom that Americans savor.

That freedom was bought with a heavy price—and it’s been bought over and over again.  Indeed, the fight continues here at home.

Don’t take these freedoms for granted.  Take a moment—between bites of hot dog—and give thanks to those men for our liberty, and to God that we live in the United States of America.

SubscribeStar Saturday: Easter Weekend 2021

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It’s Easter Weekend 2021!  Unlike last Easter, which was “decidedly un-Eastery” in The Age of The Virus, this Easter is starting to go back to normal.  By the time you read this post, I will have had my second shot of the Pfizer vaccine, so I’m either fully medically acceptable to our cosmopolitan elites—or dead.  Gulp!  I’m not sure which is worse.

Regardless, more and more folks are vaccinated, and churches have been reopened for many months now here in the South (they never should have been shuttered in the first place).  I fully expect that tomorrow will see a return, albeit a perhaps socially-distanced, diminished return, to the jam-packed Easter services of The Before Times, in the Long, Long Ago.

Easter is the most important holiday in the Christian calendar, probably in a dead-heat with Christmas.  Just as Christmas celebrates Christ’s Birth, Easter commemorates His Resurrection—the ultimate testament to Christ’s Victory over Death, the Devil, and the Grave.

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TBT^2: April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective

The Kindle version of The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard: The Ultimate Flatfoot goes live today!  If you pre-ordered the book, it should pop up in your Kindle app today.  At $5, it’s a very easy lift, as is the paperback at $15.

It’s April Fool’s Day, a holiday for mirth and merriment, but one I dedicate to remembering the day twelve years ago when I faced unemployment during the worst job market since the Great Depression.

In rereading last year’s TBT and the original “April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective,” I’m reminded how good God has been to me.  Last year I’d lost most of my private lesson students due to The Virus; now, I’m back up to seven students (six weekly, one twice a month), and I’ve just released a book (the Kindle version goes live today!).  Gigging still hasn’t really picked back up, but Bandcamp sales have been decent (and another Bandcamp Friday is tomorrow!), and my front porch Spooktacular was a blast.

I’m still hustlin’, but I’m also taking more time to appreciate life.  Perhaps the hard slog of my twenties has finally paid off here in my mid-thirties.

With that, here are “April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective” and “TBT: April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective“:

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Saint Patrick’s Day

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day throughout the Western world, a day to venerate and celebrate the life, death, and Christian service of Saint Patrick (the day coincides with the supposed date of St. Patrick’s death).  Of course, now the holiday has devolved into a drunken festivity in which everyone pretends to be Irish for a day, downing pints of green beer and wearing green.

The real story of Saint Patrick is far more interesting than the debauched modern celebration.  Patrick was the son of a wealthy family in what is now Britain in the declining years of the Roman Empire.  Irish raiders captured Patrick and sold him into slavery in the Emerald Isle.  Working alone as a shepherd, isolated and afraid, Patrick turned to Christ for solace and strength.

After escaping captivity, God called him back to Ireland, not as a slave, but to deliver Ireland from its spiritual bondage.  After his ordination, Patrick returned and preached the Gospel to the pagan Irish, sparking a major religious revival among the people there.  Ultimately, Ireland became second perhaps only to France in its dedication to the Catholic Church, and unlike its Gallic co-religionists, maintained that devotion well into the twentieth century.

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Groundhog Day

Today is Groundhog Day in the United States, one of those throwaway observations that gets some cute stories in the news about a rodent spotting its shadow and a handful of opportunistic sales events sandwiched in between MLK Day and Presidents’ Day.  It’s ubiquitous enough to make it into the papers and the home page of your preferred search engine, but not significant enough to get a day off work.

I primarily remember Groundhog Day as a career-shadowing day for high school students.  When I was in high school, I spent one “Groundhog Shadowing Day,” as the administration called it, shadowing a college history professor at the University of South Carolina-Aiken.  I remember being overawed by the specificity of the historical research papers his college students were writing (in the way a first grader marvels at a fifth grader who writes an entire paragraph, not just one sentence), and chuckling to myself at his pro-gun control op-eds.  Even back then I knew college professors were loopy.

The following year I had the opportunity to shadow my State representative, who I remember as having a rather red-cheeked appearance and jovial manner.  I was still under the impression that politicians were somehow elevated beings, people possessed of occasional foibles and shortcomings, but ultimately intent on serving the public interest.  Ah, yes—the naïveté of youth.  I’ll never forget an energy lobbyist slapping him on the back and telling me, “I know Skipper will look out for us.”  Indeed.

Otherwise, Groundhog Day doesn’t loom large in my mind other than as a fun Bill Murray movie in which he woos a beautiful South Carolinian, Andie MacDowell.  Indeed, that film seems to have brought the holiday into the larger consciousness of Americans, as it had largely been a Mid-Atlantic—Pennsylvanian, really—observance up to that point.

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TBT: Dawn of a Decade

It’s the first Thursday of 2021, so here we are with the first TBT of the year!  Fittingly, I’m looking back to the first post of 2020, “Dawn of Decade.”  As I noted at the time, the decade really began on 1 January 2021, so I suppose this throwback post works even better now.

In looking back at this post, it’s sobering to consider how much difference a year can make.  At the end of this post, I wrote, “Predictions being what they are—extremely unreliable—I’ll make a bold one:  2020 is going to be a great year.”

Yikes!  Talk about missing the mark big time.  Of course, on 1 January 2020, everything was going pretty well, at least for yours portly.  Sure, Trump was facing a sham impeachment, but the economy was swingin’.  I’d just come off my best year financially in terms of musical proceeds—enough to pay cash for my plucky 2017 Nissan Versa Note (a fitting model for a music teacher), and was booking some gigs at fun new venues.

Then, of course, The Virus changed everything, possibly forever.  Despite that, I still had a great year—reconnecting with friends and family; traveling far more extensively than normal; and diving more into my love of music.  It was just a very different year than I anticipated.

At the end of least year’s post, I included a word total for the year 2019 (which now WordPress tells me is slightly higher than I reported originally:  232,348 words total for 2019), so I’ll do the same for 2020.  In 2020, I wrote 253,377 words.  Assuming a page of double-text, size-12, Times New Roman font typing is roughly 300 words per page, that comes out to a whopping 844.59 pages of writing.

Granted, some of that is from TBT posts like this one, but the takeaway for me is that it’s time to compile some essays into ebooks.  Cha-ching!

With that, here is 1 January 2020’s “Dawn of a Decade“:

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