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Updated: Oct 10, 2021

October 5, 2021

In honor of my religious upbringing and the upcoming Halloween season, I thought I'd give you a little insight into how it all began.

October 31st marks the beginning of a three-day observance known as ALLHALLOWTIDE. Allhallowtide is the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed. The word "Allhallowtide" was first used in 1471, and is derived from two words: the Old English word halig, meaning holy, and the word tide, meaning time or season.

The first day of the Allhallowtide (most commonly known as Halloween, but also known as All Hallows' Eve, meaning "holy evening," or All Saints' Eve), is celebrated annually on October 31st, and is one of the world’s oldest holidays. Although it's derived from ancient festivals and religious rituals, Halloween is still widely celebrated today in a number of countries around the globe, including Ireland, Canada and the United States. The custom of "trick-or-treating" could be derived from an old English ritual of knocking on doors and asking for a "soul cake." In exchange, the recipients would offer prayers for the dead of the household.

Similar versions of the holiday are celebrated elsewhere, too. In Mexico and other Latin American countries, Día de los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead, honors deceased loved ones and ancestors.

The second day of ALLHALLOWTIDE (November 1st) is known as All Saints' Day, All Hallows, or Hallowmas. All Saints' Day is a holy day celebrated by Catholics and Anglican Christians to honor all the saints and martyrs, both known and unknown who were not necessarily canonized formally by the Church. It is a holy day of obligation which means believers should attend church services on that day.

November 2nd, the third and final day of Allhallowtide, is known as All Souls' Day (also referred to as the "Commemoration of All Faithful Departed"). All Souls' Day focuses on honoring all faithful Christians, including praying for the souls of the people who are in purgatory (a place or state in which the souls of believers who have died atone for their sins before being allowed to enter heaven). Unlike All Saints' Day, All Souls' Day is not a day of religious obligation, but some Christians still attend services. Many others celebrate by visiting family grave sites.


It is widely believed that many Halloween traditions originated from ancient Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival, SAMHAIN (pronounced sow-win), which celebrated the end of summer. The Celts, who lived as early as 2,000 years ago in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and northern France, honored the Sun God and the Lord of Death.

They referred to Samhain as the "season of death" because it marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the "darker half" of the year (approximately halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice). Traditionally, the Celtic festival began on October 31st and ended at sunset November 1st. Samhain, for whom the feast was named, was the Celtic lord of death, and his name literally meant "summer's end."

Since winter is the season of cold, darkness and death, the Celts soon made the connection to human death. The eve of Samhain was a time of Celtic pagan sacrifices, where Samhain allowed the souls of the dead to return to their earthly homes that evening. It was seen as a transitory time when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld could more easily be crossed. This meant the Aos Si (spirits or fairies) could more easily come into our world. The tradition of dressing up is believed to have been a way of imitating, and disguising oneself from the Aos Si, who some believed could take you back with them to their world. This would trick them into thinking you were a spirit or deceased being, so they would ignore you.

During the Middle Ages, the influence of Christianity changed the pagan ritual of Samhain. In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV added All Saints' Day to the calendar as a festival to honor all known and unknown saints who had not previously received recognition. In 835, Pope Gregory moved the holiday from its original placement on May 13 to November 1, essentially replacing the Samhain festival with a Christian celebration.


After moving to the U.S., my family and I settled in the Detroit area. October 31st came as a complete bewilderment to us when the evening produced clusters of children dressed in costume, ringing our doorbell and yelling "trick-or-treat." The following year (after learning what this strange custom was all about), my mother accompanied my brother and I while we went door-to-door on Halloween night in an attempt to solicit candy from our neighbors. We didn't get very far because it was extremely cold and the sidewalks were slushy from a mixture of rain and snow earlier that day. (Michigan weather is very unpredictable!) We didn’t receive very much candy either, as we lived in a poor neighborhood and there weren’t many people passing out treats. Luckily, we moved out of Detroit before Devil's Night turned Halloween into a full-blown nightmare.


The exact origin of "Mischief Night" is unknown, but the phrase dates back to at least the early 20th century when pranksters rang doorbells, soaped windows, and stole buggies. In Vermont and New Hampshire, October 30th was known as "Cabbage Night," thanks to an old Scottish fortune-telling tradition. On that night, young girls would pull cabbages to examine them and try to divine who their husband would be. Of course, once the cabbages had told these young ladies all they could, the only thing left to do was to throw the cabbages against someone’s door and run away.

"Devil’s Night" is believed to have started in Detroit and then quickly spread to other cities along the Rust Belt of the US. With rising unemployment rates, foreclosures, and economic downturns, many buildings in the metro areas were abandoned and left unattended. These former homes became targets for vandals. The arson rates in Detroit numbered between 500 and 800 fires in a typical year.

In the 1970's-1980's arson cases in the three days and nights surrounding Halloween rose exponentially. In 1994, then-Mayor, Dennis Archer, created “Angels’ Night” with thousands of volunteers to patrol the streets, strict curfews, and bans on portable gas containers. In 1995, the number of fires declined to 158. These numbers began to decrease in the 1990s due to these government initiatives and an overall increase in community and police action.

Partly due to fewer houses and buildings to burn, a strong presence of police, volunteers, arson investigators, and ATF agents, this downward trend continued. In 2017, after Devil’s Night fires reached a record low, Mayor Mike Duggan ended Angels’ Night, so residents could focus on the positive festivities of Halloween. Point of Interest: A few years back, I google-earthed my once former residence in Detroit, and found nothing but an empty lot where my house once stood.


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  • map917reno

May 23, 2021

The Grand Hotel: Mackinac Island, Michigan

After a year-long Covid retreat, I'm looking forward to visiting family in my home state of Michigan, where my parents settled after coming to America. Not taking into account its long harsh winters, Michigan is a wonderful place to visit in the spring, summer and fall, surrounded in a plethora of crystal blue lakes and green forests.

If you've never been to Michigan, I recommend you check out historic Mackinaw City, located in the northern tip of Michigan's Lower Peninsula along the southern shore of the Straits of Mackinac. Across the straits lies the state's Upper Peninsula. These two land masses are connected by the Mackinac Bridge, which is an experience in itself to cross. It's five miles long and is one of the top five longest suspension bridges in the world.

My favorite thing to do is to take the ferry from Mackinaw City to Mackinac Island. When you arrive at the island, you find yourself lost in time in the Victorian era. There are no cars permitted on the island. Bicycles and horse-drawn carriages abound. The island is only eight miles in circumference, so you could walk. It will only take about an hour if you don't stop at any of the quaint shops and boutiques lining the streets along the way. Not to mention, the aroma of warm melting chocolate beckoning you to the homemade fudge shops found on every corner.

What definitely stands out, however, as the centerpiece of Mackinac Island is The Grand Hotel. The five-star hotel features the world’s largest front porch and hosts lavish afternoon tea and nightly dancing. All guests (even older children!) are required to dress up for dinner.

Built in 1887, the Grand Hotel was designated a State Historic Building in 1957. In 1972, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. And on June 29, 1989, it was named a National Historic Landmark.

Mackinac Island is a prime candidate for hauntings, rich in its violent and colorful history where a military fort was built and a massive number of people were killed, amounting to a huge Native American burial ground.

The Grand Hotel is one of the hot spots for paranormal activity. Legend says construction workers uncovered human remains while digging the hotel's foundation and then failed to properly dispose of them. Since its inception, the hotel has maintained a reputation of being haunted with all sorts of metaphysical occurrences. One story tells of an "evil entity" which shows itself as a black mass with glowing red eyes. A maintenance man, working on the hotel's theater stage, reported that the black mass rushed after him, knocking him off his feet. Staff have reported seeing a man in a top hat playing the bar's piano. Others see a woman in Victorian clothing who roams the halls, even getting into beds.

But the main reason why I chose to bring up The Grand Hotel is because it was the setting of the movie, Somewhere in Time, the classic time-travel romance which starred the late Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. The story is about a young playwright who becomes obsessed with a photograph of a young woman while staying at the Grand Hotel. As he learns more about the woman in the picture, he discovers that she was the same woman (although aged at the time) who gave him a pocket watch eight years earlier and pleaded with him to "come back to me." Thus, he travels back in time to 1912 to find the long lost love of his life.

In my novel, Chapter Thirteen, Katy Barton (my protagonist), brings a video cassette of her favorite movie, Somewhere in Time, to her boyfriend's house after she realizes how much she loves him. At the end of the movie she asks Mike (her boyfriend) if he'd ever been in love before. He appears to evade the question by making light of it, saying, "Maybe in a past life," and then adding, "You're the one I love, here and now." Katy seems satisfied with his answer, although it makes you wonder what he wasn't saying.

When I wrote Chapter Thirteen, I thought bringing up the movie "Somewhere in Time" seemed appropriate because, in essence, Katy and Mike's romance also stemmed from "somewhere in time."


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April 24, 2021

I am so excited to share the news that one of my favorite singers/musicians of all time--Sting, and his wife, Trudie Styler, were appointed Goodwill Ambassadors at the Disposal of San Marino (my birthplace)! A resolution was signed by the government on November 23, 2020, after a meeting took place on October 10th, when Sting visited Mount Titano for the first time at the invitation of friends.

The couple took an oath and formally accepted the nomination in front of the Captains Regents, Gian Carlo Venturini and Marco Nicolini on April 24, 2021 at the Palazzo Pubblico (Public Palace) in San Marino. The official ceremony was followed by pranzo (a luncheon feast) at the famous restaurant Righi with the renowned Italian singer Zucchero, at which time the British musician and singer-songwriter announced that he would "tell the world how beautiful Mt. Titano is."

Sting, born Gordon Matthew Sumner, was the principal songwriter, lead singer and bassist for the rock band, The Police, from 1977 to 1984 before launching his solo career in 1985.

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