Halloween is just around the corner and it’s plausibly the only day that we enjoy having a spooky fun time with ghouls, monsters and so on. Unfortunately, this spooky holiday is no match for the far scarier Covid-19 pandemic, so this will send all the ghosts off to hang up their sheets and vampires to return back to their coffins. Putting the unfortunate circumstance aside, Halloween is now a tradition that is known for dressing up, pulling scary pranks on people and enjoying amazing spooky treats.
However, do you really know what this eerie holiday is all about?
History of Halloween
Dating back to pagan times, the popular spooky holiday used to be celebrated by the Celts who believed that the ghosts of the dead would be returned to earth. Halloween takes place on October 31 but did you know that word itself means “hallowed evening”?
In addition to that, the day actually marks the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the cold winter. Often associated with human death, the people believed that the conceptual boundaries between the living and the dead will be blurred. Hence, the beginning of the celebration of Samhain, the ancient Celtic festival.
Halloween guising, jack-o-lanterns and trick-or-treating
In terms of tradition, the Celts would hold ritualistic ceremonies to connect with spirits during the pagan religious festival. Although there are not many details, the deceased would come to Earth in search of food and comfort whereas malevolent spirits come in search of mischief. This was the main reason why people would disguise themselves as spirits, mostly in animal skins to blend in with the nefarious spirits.
Another thing you probably didn’t know was how important jack-o-lanterns are during the celebration. These pumpkins are usually carved into a demonic face and lit with a candle inside, known to have begun in Ireland. But it’s more than just decor.
Not only does being in disguise could ward off the evil spirits but these carved out pumpkin works too. Hence why people would place these jack-o-lanterns on their windowsills and outside of their home.
As for trick-or-treating, it was originally known as “souling” when people will dress up in costumes and go door to door reciting songs and verses to save the dead souls. Whereas kids would also do the same but instead of reciting they would ask for some ‘soul cakes’ instead.
Eventually, that concept evolved to “trick-or-treating” which implies, if a treat is given then there will be no tricks played on the homeowner.
Typically beginning at dusk on October 31, that’s when kids would be ready to go and collect candies around the neighbourhood.
Whereas in the US, Halloween has become such a mainstream event that homeowners would even go all out by decorating their homes with plastic skeletons, artificial spider webs and jack-o’-lanterns.
So now that we know the history and how the spooky holiday has evolved, let’s find out what are the traditional Halloween foods that used to be served back then.
Traditional Halloween foods
This is a mashed potato and kale dish that is usually known to be cooked in a skillet with a large round bottom and two ear-like handles at the sides. An Irish Halloween tradition is to serve colcannon with a ring, a coin or a thimble in the dish and whatever trinket that you have found in your potatoes is said to help predict your future.
Boxty on the griddle, boxty on the pan, if you can’t make boxty, you’ll never get a man!
This traditional Irish potato cake tastes better when it’s cooked on the plain old griddled and it was decades ago when it was considered a ‘peasant dish.’ However, Boxty is the perfect traditional Irish Halloween breakfast for all. These savoury potato cakes are absolutely creamy and crispy and are recommended for your Halloween table.
Soul! A soul! A soul-cake! Please good Missis, a soul-cake!
To commemorate the dead in the Christian tradition for All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day — a small round cake or also known as a soul cake is usually made and given out to soulers. The tradition of giving soul cakes was usually celebrated in Britain or Ireland during the Middle Ages.
Legend has it that the dead spirits may harm the living unless they were fed.
Legend of ‘Stingy Jack’
Originated in Ireland, they didn’t have access to pumpkins back then and so they would carve turnips and rutabaga instead. But once they immigrated to the US, they realised that it was far easier to carve a pumpkin rather than turnips for this spooky holiday. Legend says that the Irish decided to make vegetables into lanterns because of a mysterious character known as Stingy Jack. Not only is Jack a drunkard and a cheat but he managed to even swindle the devil.
According to the Irish folklore, Jack convinces Satan to pay for his bar tab by turning it into a coin. His defence was that Satan could take on any shape and turn back into his demonic form after. So with that, Satan agrees.
But little did Satan know, Jack decided to not pay for the drink and put the coin into his pocket that contained a crucifix. Immediately, it stripped Satan of his powers hence trapping him. In order to be freed, Jack made a deal with the devil and the condition was that he would not bother Jack for ten years. Even if Jack should die, the devil should not claim his soul. Since Satan didn’t have a choice, he had to agree to Jack’s terms and was freed.
As time went by, Jack eventually died and because of his sinful deeds, he wasn’t able to go to heaven nor could he enter Hell because of the deal he made with Satan. So as a lesson to others, Satan gave Jack an ember which he puts inside a turnip to light his way.
From that day on, Jack is doomed to roam the worlds between the living and the dead until eternity’s end.
Bobbing apples to predict the future
Apparently bobbing for apples used to be a popular British folk tradition. The game can only be played by unmarried young adults as they’ll take turns to bite an apple that’s hanging from a tree or floating in the water, without the use of their hands. Legend had it that when the first person bites into an apple, they supposedly are the next one to get married. To get more in detail, the peel apples on the ground would give a hint to young women of seeing their future husband’s name spelt out.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic is far scarier than the actual Halloween celebration, it’s time to get comfy with some popcorn and fizzy drinks. We have curated a list of horror films for you to watch during this trying time. Get busy this Halloween and scream yourself to sleep.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
The Witches (1990)
Child’s Play (1988)
The Conjuring (2013)
Get Out (2017)
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Stay safe and Happy Halloween.
Pictures by Benedikt, Andy One, Top Shelf, Bettmann, Witchy Kitchen, GFree Foodie, CNN, Celtic Canada, Business Insider, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, NYT, Daniel Lincoln, Stu Harrington & Pinterest