The Thing About Today – October 31

October 31, 2020
Day 305 of 366

October 31st is the 305th day of the year. It is the Día de la Canción Criolla, and a Peruvian celebration of the criollo culture.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Trick or Treat Day (for obvious reasons), National Doorbell Day, National Caramel Apple Day, National Knock-Knock Jokes Day, National Magic Day, and Girl Scout Founder’s Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.
  • In 1587, Leiden University Library opened its doors after its founding in 1575.
  • In 1614, the first performance of Ben Jonson’s comedy Bartholomew Fair by the Lady Elizabeth’s Men company occurred at the Hope Theatre in London.
  • In 1860, Juliette Gordon Low was born. She was the founded the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.
  • In 1913, the Lincoln Highway was dedicated. It was the first automobile highway across United States.
  • In 1923, the first of 160 consecutive days of 100° Fahrenheit began at Marble Bar, Western Australia.
  • In 1930, astronaut Michael Collins was born.
  • In 1931, journalist Dan Rather was born.
  • In 1939, actor Ron Rifkin was born.
  • In 1940, the Battle of Britain came to an end. The result was the United Kingdom preventing a possible German invasion during World War II.
  • In 1941, the destroyer USS Reuben James (DD-245) was torpedoed by a German U-boat near Iceland, killing more than 100 sailors. It was the first United States Navy vessel sunk by enemy action in World War II.
  • In 1942, actor David Ogden Stiers was born.
  • In 1950, Canadian actor, producer, and screenwriter John Candy was born.
  • In 1961, New Zealand actor, director, producer, and screenwriter Peter Jackson was born.
  • In 1976, actress and producer Piper Perabo was born.
  • In 1993, actress Letitia Wright was born.
  • In 1999, yachtsman Jesse Martin returned to Melbourne, Australia after 11 months of circumnavigating the world, solo, non-stop, and unassisted.
  • In 2000, Soyuz TM-31 launched, carrying the first resident crew to the International Space Station. The ISS has been crewed continuously since then.
  • In 2002, a federal grand jury in Houston, Texas indicted former Enron chief financial officer Andrew Fastow on 78 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice related to the collapse of his former employer.
  • In 2011, the global population of humans reached seven billion. This day is now recognized by the United Nations as the Day of Seven Billion.
  • In 2014, the VSS Enterprise, a Virgin Galactic experimental spaceflight test vehicle, suffered a catastrophic in-flight breakup during a test flight and crashed in the Mojave Desert, California.

October 31st is Halloween, including all of its related celebrations.

Halloween (or Hallowe’en, the contraction of Hallows’ Even or Hallows’ Evening), is also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve. It is a celebration on the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It begins the observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.

One theory suggests that many Halloween traditions originated from ancient Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain, which may have had pagan roots and that Samhain itself was Christianized as Halloween by the early Church.

Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (or the related guising and souling), attending costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, divination games, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories, and watching horror films.

The holiday also includes Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, although elsewhere it is a more commercial and secular celebration. Some Christians historically abstained from meat on All Hallows’ Eve, a tradition reflected in the eating of certain vegetarian foods on this vigil day, including apples, potato pancakes, and soul cakes.

In Cornwall, it coincides with Allantide, also known was Saint Allan’s Day, the Feast of Saint Allan, Kalan Gwav (first day of winter in Cornish), Nos Kalan Gwav (eve of the first day of winter), and Dy’ Halan Gwav (day of the first day of winter).

In the Isle of Man, it includes Hop-tu-Naa, the Celtic festival celebrating the traditional Celtic festival of Samhain, the start of winter (Oie Houney). It is thought to be the oldest unbroken tradition in the Isle of Man.

Samhain occurs at this point in the year in the Northern Hemisphere, while Beltane is the related celebration in the Southern Hemisphere. Both begin at sunset on October 31st.

Finally, it is the first day of the Day of the Dead in Mexico, a multi-day holiday associated to the Catholic celebrations of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day that involves family and friends gathering to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died.

The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

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