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Volume XVII, Issue 44 ~ October 29 - November 4, 2009

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Sky Watch

by J. Alex Knoll

A Quarter Closer to Winter

Halloween marks the spot

The near-full moon brightens Halloween night, helping dispel the darkness for wandering trick-or-treaters. And while the kids are traipsing about in costume and you’re handing out candy, you’re keeping alive a celebration dating back thousands of years.

Long ago the Celts marked this time of year as the last of four cross-quarter days, the midpoint between equinox and solstice. These cross-quarter days marked the end of one season and the beginning of the next, and Halloween, or Samhain as it was called, marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter.

Samhain was not only the day of transition from summer to winter but also from light to dark and life to death. On this night, the veil between the the living and the dead was especially thin, allowing those who had recently died a final chance to visit with friends and family. People set out food for these visitors and lit bonfires to guide them.

By the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV sought to replace Samhain with a Christian holy day, and so November 1 became All Saints’ Day, or Alholowmesse in Old English; the night before became All-hallows Eve, or Halloween.

All Saints’ Day marks this year’s Hunter’s Moon. Rising at sundown and not setting until sunrise, this high-climbing full moon gave Native Americans light to bag game in the race to fill their food stores before the coming of winter.

Winter’s grip tightens this weekend, as Sunday marks the end of Daylight Saving Time. Setting our clocks back earns us an extra hour of sleep and a brighter morning, but it covers us in evening darkness all the earlier. While resetting your clocks, be sure to change the batteries in your smoke detectors.

Illustration: © Copyright 1925 M.C. Escher/Cordon Art-Baarn-Holland; Graphics: © Copyright 2009 Pacific Publishers. Reprinted by permission from the Tidelog graphic almanac. Bound copies of the annual Tidelog for Chesapeake Bay are $14.95 ppd. from Pacific Publishers, Box 480, Bolinas, CA 94924. Phone 415-868-2909. Weather affects tides. This information is believed to be reliable but no guarantee of accuracy is made by Bay Weekly or Pacific Publishers. The actual layout of Tidelog differs from that used in Bay Weekly. Tidelog graphics are repositioned to reflect Bay Weekly’s distribution cycle.Tides are based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and are positioned to coincide with high and low tides of Tidelog.

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