Archive | Halloween Facts

Why do leaves change color in Fall?

It’s one of those questions — like why is the sky blue? — that can stump a parent on an otherwise enjoyable fall walk. So let’s answer the question.

Most simply, to survive the winter, deciduous trees need to store nutrients in their roots, which means they must absorb the nutrients in their leaves. Changes in color are triggered as the trees absorb essential nutrients.

How leaves change colors

Throughout the warm sunny months, trees are lush and green because they’re working hard. Tree leaves are green because of the abundance of the pigment chlorophyll, which is essential to converting sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into energy-rich sugars.

Yellow colors that were always present in leaves become unmasked as the chlorophyll is broken down and absorbed. Called carotenoids, these are the yellow pigments that give trees like birch, beech, and tulip their bright fall colors.

Red and orange colors, like those that characterize the famous red maples of New England, are made by different pigments, called anthocyanins. Unlike the ever-present yellows that simply become unmasked when chlorophyll recedes, red pigments are actually created as a tree is going dormant to protect leaves from the sun and give leaves extra time to unload nutrients.

As summer wanes, changes in tree leaves are triggered by the cooler temperatures, changes in rainfall and weather, and most of all, the shortening of daylight hours.

Leaves in the fall

(Photo: Sherry Ziolkowski)

While leaves will always change color as the amount of sunlight wanes, several weather conditions can affect how brilliant they become.

According to the U.S. Forest Service: A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp but not freezing nights seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays. The amount of moisture in the soil also affects autumn colors. Like the weather, soil moisture varies greatly from year to year. The countless combination of these two highly variable factors assure that no two autumns can be exactly alike.

Leaf colors in Fall 2010

This year, for instance, much of the eastern U.S. has experienced near-record high temperatures and a significant drought, leaving trees stressed enough that many leaves will change straight from green to brown, or drop their leaves early, according to Mark Abrams, a professor of forestry at Pennsylvania State University. A cool, dry September won’t help matters.

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Vampires and Halloween

Halloween has been touted as the time when the undead decide they want to come back and visit. There is no bigger undead celebrity than the vampire. Armed with gleaming white fangs and a thirst for all things thick and red, vampires are a popular attraction on Halloween.

What is the basis for the vampire craze? Well, most of what we know came from the book by Bram Stoker. Through science and fiction, he was able to create a character of timeless quality. This is where most myths become immortal. Add a touch of truth to a lot of make believe and you get a concept that people won’t soon forget.

There was once an evil ruler named Vlad the Impaler, a Romanian prince. He was a cruel man, using torture and murder to subdue his victims. He was in perpetual war with the Turks and disposed of his enemies in gruesome ways. His moniker, Impaler, was well earned.

There is no evidence that this man had fangs or drank blood, but the name Dracula was applied to him. It was most likely an association with a knightly order, but his cruel ways perpetuated many myths.

Vampires are thought to be created by other vampires when bitten. Just enough of the blood is taken to turn the victim into one of the undead or the body is drained to kill them. The bloodlust of a vampire is so great that they must kill, or feed, on a regular basis.

There have been vampire chases throughout movies and books. They use garlic, wooden stakes, and holy water to damage their prey. The biggest vampire killer however is sunlight. As the undead, they dwell in darkness. Any light turns them into ash.

Europeans based their beliefs in vampires on folklore and stories of vampire bats. The fear of someone sucking their blood and turning them into an abomination of God frightened them into believing almost anything and doing even more to prevent it from happening to them.

On the American front, vampires are thought to be more sexual than sadistic. They still drink blood, but their dealings with humans are more for pleasure. Unlike witches who use animals as familiars, vampires use humans to do their bidding.

If this sounds familiar, you’ve probably seen one or all of the Blade Trilogy movies. Hollywood has scripted most of the modern day beliefs about vampires and Halloween. Demons or deformed gargoyles scare us, but vampires are beautiful and cool so they don’t scare as much on Halloween. Instead, they make a fashion statement.

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History of Halloween

The History of Halloween is almost as frightening as seen a real ghost.   It’s almost that time or year  again. Things are about to go bump in the night. Spook masters would have you believe that the dead actually walk the earth on that day, but Halloween is as much a matter of shadows and mirrors as the horror movies we watch. For anyone interested, here is a history of the modern day holiday known as Halloween.

First of all, it was called All Hallows Eve.  We are not speaking of Sleepy Hollow.  Hallow means holy, like in The Lord’s Prayer for all the Sunday schoolers out there.

History of HalloweenEarly pagan religions specifically the Celts would celebrate different phases of the earth. One such festival was Samhain. It is pronounced “saw-in.” it was a festival that commemorated the lives of the dead. There was nothing wrong with this, except that they didn’t discriminate between the “good” dead and the “bad” dead. People remembered all of the dead. The date that this festival fell on was October 31st.

Isn’t sounding too scary so far is it? Well, you must remember that early pagan religions were prone to superstition as in the Middle Ages. They were afraid of spirits and the thought of them returning to the human world frightened them.

As history goes, during this time, priests of the religion would contact these spirits to divine the future of the harvest as this was also harvest season. People’s livelihood depended on those crops and they were afraid that the spirits would curse them and destroy the crops.

The church decided to combat such superstition by adding a bit of Christianity to the occasion. They moved the celebration of All Saints Day from March 13th to November 1st. People would hopefully be less scared and more into the Christian celebration than the pagan one.

Everyone didn’t change their long held beliefs however. People would cover their faces with masks when they went out at night in hopes that any roaming spirits would recognize them as fellow travelers and suspend their mischief. They also used large carved turnips with candles inside as lanterns.

All Hallows Eve became Halloween in modern times. Instead of walking through the veil between this world and the next, kids dress in a variety of costumes to scare each other silly and get a bit of candy in the process. The only spirits around on Halloween are the ones we create on the movie set. Watch out!  And there you have the History of Halloween.

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