Thursday, 8 October 2009

October - The Eighth Month

Alexander Pope, in a letter to John Gay, dated October 6th, 1727 said "Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed." On that note I ask that you take Pope's advice and expect nothing at all from this article lest you run the risk of being bitterly disappointed at the end, after all it is really just a drawn out list.

From today, if you are indeed reading this on the first day of October, you will have 91 days remaining of 2009 to fulfill all those promises you made to yourself last New Year's Eve. 91 days to clear the decks of old promises before 2010 descends and compels you to make even more promises, one of which will surely be to fulfil your New Year's resolutions.

The eighth month in the old Roman calendar, hence 'octo', October has a very interesting history, a few interesting things happened and a few more interesting things will happen. People died and people were born, things were bombed and estranged citizens were reunited.

Below is just the tiniest glimpse of what went on during this month throughout history and a little taste of what might be going on this very month somewhere in the world.

The first thing that comes to a lot of people's minds, in the West at least, during October is Halloween. Samhain, the Gaelic festival that appears to have influenced the secular customs now connected with Halloween, is a festival held at the end of the harvest season in Gaelic and Brythonic cultures. The Welsh equivalent of this holiday is called Nos Calan Gaeaf and marks the beginning of the dark half of the year and it officially begins at sunset on the 31st.

Just as spooky and probably more creepy is the anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney World near Orlando on the 1st of October, 1971. Whilst on the subject of creepy it is worth mentioning that it was on the same day in 1957 that the phrase "In God We Trust" first appeared on paper currency in the U.S.A.

Staying with creepy for just a while longer we find that on the 3rd of this spooky month in 1990, East and West Germany formally reunited, thanks, mainly to one man, The Hoff. At a concert the previous New Year's Eve, to celebrate his part in bringing the Berlin Wall down, Hoff was "Looking for Freedom" when someone threw a bottle at him, narrowly missing his tightly permed head, check it out on YouTube.

The PRC was founded on the 1st of October and every year they celebrate National Day with fireworks and all kinds of fun and state organised festivities. The day after this is International Day of Non-Violence, which is sort of funny, in a sad way. It's also Gandhi's birthday.

Japanese Shinkansen trains made their technological entrance during October, there was a thriller in Manila and an 84 year old baseball record was broken by Ichiro Suzuki. The world's first postcards were sent, Rock Hudson died and John Lennon was born.

The most famous birth for Koreans is of course that of their nation. October 3rd is foundation day, the day when a bear turned into a woman, made love to a God and had a baby that decided to make this glorious country we (readers and writers of Groove) call home, or something like that. Other Korean births include Kim Ki-young, born on the 1st in Seoul during the Japanese occupation but raised in Pyongyang, Kim spent time in Japan where he became interested in theater and cinema. He made propaganda films for the United States Information Service during the Korean War and in 1955 he used discarded American equipment to produce his first two films. A year before his death in a house fire in 1998 the Pusan International Film Festival screened a retrospective of his work.

This is also Armed Forces Day in Korea and is celebrated on the day that South-Korean forces broke through the 38th parallel in 1950 during the Korean War. It is not a national holiday or public day off (unfortunately), but you will probably see a few national flags about.

Speaking of those up North, October 2nd 2007 was the day when President Roh Moo-hyun walked across the Military Demarcation Line into North Korea on his way to the second Inter-Korean Summit, an act that seems unlikely to be repeated. And exactly one year later in 2008, actress Choi Jin-sil was found dead, apparently because of negative comments by Korean netizens and rumours regarding her lending money to Ahn Jae-hwan.

Bored yet? No. Then I'll carry on.

Hangeul day, on the 9th of October, coincides with the 3rd anniversary of the North announcing that they had successfully conducted their first nuclear weapons test. The following day there will be fireworks in the ROC (Republic of China), commonly referred to as Taiwan, to celebrate Double Ten day, which celebrates the start of the Wuchang Uprising of October 10, 1911, which in turn led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in China and establishment of the Republic of China.

Seeing as there are quite a few Americans in Korea, here are a few dates for them (or you, if you're American). Columbus Day, which is celebrated by most, but not all apparently, of the United States is the second Monday of October. A lot of hyphenated Americans have October as their month of national awareness, whatever that means, including Polish-Americans, Italian-Americans, the Hispanics and the German-Americans.

Finally a quick round-up of a few other important or interesting events during the month. The UN was born after Japan surrendered, Dwight Eisenhower pledges to end the Korean war as part of his campaign to become president and both Rosa Parks and Gene Roddenberry died.

But don't despair, not everyone died. Welsh poet Dylan Thomas was born in Swansea in 1914 and you can do your part to keep the doctor away by eating an apple on the 21st as it is Apple Day! On the second Monday of the month it is both Health and Sports Day in Japan and Thanksgiving in Canada, World Food Day is on the 16th and the entire month is given over to World Blindness Day.

There are a few festivals in Korea during October but given the over reaction already experienced with regard to swine flu there is little point in mentioning them as they will all probably have been cancelled by the time you read this but here they are anyway.

  • The 14th Pusan International Film Festival

  • Jinju Namgang Yudeung (Lantern) Festival

  • Jeonju International Mime Festival

  • Namdo Food Festival

  • Jarasum International Jazz Festival

  • Seoul Yangnyeongsi Herb Medicine Culture Festival

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