History and lore of Beltane, the ancient Celtic festival of May Day

Traditionally, Beltane honours life, and represents the peak of Spring and the beginning of Summer. This spring celebration is all about new life, fire, passion, and rebirth, in a time when the earth is lush and green, as new grass and trees return to life after a winter of dormancy, and flowers are abundant everywhere. The Beltane holiday is the time when, in some traditions, the male energy of the god is at its most potent. He is often portrayed with a large and erect phallus, and other symbols of…

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Imbolc: the ancient Celtic festival of February

Imbolc is a holiday with a variety of names, depending on which culture and location you’re looking at. For istance, in the Irish Gaelic, it’s called Oimelc, which translates literally to “ewe’s milk”. Not by chance, the earliest mentions of Imbolc in Irish literature date back to the 10th century, with poetry from that time who related the holiday to ewe’s milk, as implication of purification. It’s been speculated that this stems from the breeding cycle of sheep and the beginning of lactation, and the holiday was traditionally aligned with…

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How to play a hot victorian Christmas game without get burned

In the 19th century, a regular Christmas was a little different. For holiday fun, revelers in the United States, Canada and England scared their friends with ghost stories, fortune-telling, and played boisterous party games. One of these, the so-called snapdragon, was a parlour game popular from about the 16th century and is rarely part of anyone’s Christmas these days. After all, it involves pulling sweets from a puddle of flames! The game itself is simple: take a wide, flat plate, and cover it with raisins. Carry the plate into a…

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Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Day: what is the story behind this British observance?

Guy Fawkes Day, also called Bonfire Night, is a British observance, celebrated on this day, November 5, commemorating the failure of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. But what is its real origin? Seething after years of persecution over their religion, a group of 13 English Catholics decided to take action. Yes. But with an extreme action. Under the leadership of an outspoken critic of the Crown, Robert Catesby, they planned to set off a massive explosion during the Opening of Parliament ceremony, killing King James I and as many members…

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St. Dunstan-in-the-East: one of the few remaining casualties of the London Blitz, this destroyed church has become an enchanting public garden.

We are on St Dunstan’s Hill, halfway between London Bridge and the Tower of London in the City of London.The church of St.Dunstan-in-the-East built here has survived a lot during its 900-year history, including the Great Fire of London in 1666.It was originally built during Saxon times, in about 1100. Although the Great Fire caused terrible damage to the church it was faithfully rebuilt, and topped with a steeple designed by Sir Christopher Wren, one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history. However in 1941 the church was…

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When London burned: 1666’s Great Fire

Thomas Farriner was a baker who served King Charles II, supplied bread to the Royal Navy, and lived in Pudding Lane, London. All regular, until he went to bed on the night of September 1, 1666 leaving the fire that heated his oven still burning. As a result, in the early hours of the following morning, sparks from the fire caused flames that soon engulfed the entire house. Farriner, sometimes spelt Faryner or Farynor, escaped with his family by climbing through an upstairs window, but his maidservant, Rose, died in…

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World’s hottest Gummy Bear: 900 times hotter than a Jalapeno pepper!

After the world’s hottest lollipop, know as “the toe of Satan”, and world’s hottest candy, the devious minds at Flamethrower Candy Company, based in St. Louis, Missouri, have created the world’s hottest gummy bear. Don’t be deceived by its cute and appealing appearance, because this little bear is holding a dynamite stick! It’s made with a special chili pepper extract that’s 900 times hotter than a Jalapeno pepper, and several times hotter than the Carolina Reaper, Dragon’s Breath and Pepper X, which are generally regarded as the world hottest peppers!…

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#May 25, 1904: The revenge of the witch of Yazoo

Urban legends are fascinating bits of history that often contain at least some kernel of truth. In Yazoo, located north of Jackson, in the western part of Mississippi, there’s a strange legend which may have more truth to it than skeptics would like to believe. According to legend, an old witch lived on the banks of the Yazoo River where she lured fishermen into her hut, tortured and killed them. When word finally got around to law enforcement, the local sheriff came looking for the missing men and he found…

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La Giubiana: a curious tradition linked to the last Thursday of January in Northern Italy

A great fire that will illuminate the darkness, with the hope that it will burn well and quickly so as to drive away the winter and propitiate the year that has just begun. The traditional ceremony, which this year falls just today, on January 30th, includes a large bonfire where a straw puppet dressed in rags (the Giubiana) is burned, which represents the malaise of winter and the troubles of the past year. The Giübiana, or feast of Giobia is a traditional recurrence very popular in northern Italy, especially in…

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