Is Halloween just another opportunity to commercially exploit us, or is there a little more substance to our penchant for tricks and treats? Evelina Hubert explores the history behind all things spooky.
Well that’s it. Finally we can relax. We no longer need live in fear of hordes of little monsters, I mean darlings, turning up on our door steps, insisting we open up and hand over anything remotely sweet and sticky. Our cupboards are bare, gone are all the sweets, chocolates, cupcakes and yes even those lovingly prepared, but suitably scary, witch’s hat and bat wing biscuits you made especially for your own children, have been swallowed up by those strange little gangs of children who hassled you all Halloween night.
So breath… no one is going to call you up at the last minute and test your culinary skills, asking you to deliver home-made, lovingly prepared suitably decorated themed treats for that Halloween party, they’ve just decided to throw. That’s it. It’s an end to the preparation of silly, savoury, sweet and sticky treats, because its official – Halloween is over.
Not just for kids
So what do we focus on now? The days are shorter and the nights are longer. But for those of us who secretly love Halloween it feels like something is missing in our lives. We’ve got a whole year to wait for another culturally and socially accepted opportunity to indulge in all things creepy, spook each other with stories about ghosts and witches and actually enjoy experimenting with edible spider webs and sweet green gunge.
Halloween is not just for kids after all. Or is it? Supermarkets do great business out of us parents, who can’t help it seems but relent to the pressure of nagging children demanding yet another bumper bag of sweeties. And as for the costumes, we’re either up all night creating bespoke gory numbers for our little cherubs or spending ridiculous amounts of cash on shop bought scary dress costumes. But it’s not just about chilling costumes and slimy sweets, despite what the commercial takeover would lead us to believe, there’s so much more to Halloween than money making enterprise. So who started all of this? And more importantly who owns the copyright on all this kerfuffle?
So let’s explore the fine line between the living and the dead and discover Halloween’s true meaning. The word Halloween dates back to 1745 and the definition of this perennial favourite is actually ‘holy evening’ or ‘hallowed evening’. Although widely believed to be of Christian origin, Halloween has its Pagan roots in Celtic countries and it’s actual source is said to lie in the Scottish expression ‘All Hallows Eve’.
Closely related to ancient cultures, myths and legends, the celebration of Halloween takes place in countries all over the world, but is traditionally celebrated after the end of summer’s harvest festivals.
In Europe, countries with a Roman Catholic historical background, traditionally use the popular holiday of All Saints Day to visit cemeteries, light candles and decorate graves and tombstones with flowers.
Autumn in Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland is commonly known as the season of harvest defined by a flourish of fairies, feasts and wine. Over the centuries, farmers have known that on All Saint’s Day, the entire crop should be harvested and under the farmer’s roof.
In fact there are several holidays similarly celebrated in the middle of Europe during November and December – Saint Barbara on November 4th, St. Martin on November 11, Saint Katherine on the 25th, and Saint Nicklaus on December 6th and Saint Lucia on the 13th.
Modern day symbols
Whilst in Mexico , the Day of the Dead is celebrated as a day when families gather to celebrate and pray for loved ones who have died. And in Japan, Buddhists traditionally celebrate their Bon Festival as an honour to the spirits of deceased ancestors.
So Halloween has a myriad of related celebrations, but it only appears to be in English speaking countries particularly the UK and especially in America where it has become dominated by commercial values. The modern day symbols of Halloween are usually associated with images of the macabre and horror influenced by creepy literature and movies. Whilst themes of evil, death, monsters and demons of course dominate, played out under a now established palette of black, orange and purple.
Of course the symbol most commonly associated with Halloween is the pumpkin, used as a Jack-O’-Lantern, now if Irish folklore is to be believed Halloween’s most iconic artefact represents the soul of ‘Jack’, who was refused entry to heaven and hell after outsmarting the Devil. As a result his spirit is trapped in between both worlds and the slightly creepy face in the lit lantern captures Jacks attempt to find a place to rest his poor soul.
Speaking of which, rest while you can, because before you know it, an onslaught of more festive activities will be upon us. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner I’m afraid, so don’t get too comfortable. Prepare yourself, mentally at least, for another series of culinary challenges , testing your ability to create fantastic feasts, creative cooking, beautiful baking and curious cocktails. Discover the creative baker inside of you and find new Christmas cake ideas!
So loosen your belts and keep your wallets close at hand folks, because the end of the year is close… and the stress filled spending frenzy is about to begin.
But make it an opportunity to show your love through your food, cook a wonderful roast, bake a beautiful cake and take time to sprinkle your food with love and care.
Personalised cake topper designs
So repeat after me: ‘I can do it’ You can survive this part of the year with ease, be strong, be tough and be resourceful and get ready to wow your friends and loved ones with yet another remarkable round of gastronomic temptations and creative recipe ideas. Happy Thanksgiving. And have a great Christmas.
Need a little help? Check out our fabulous recipes and our personalised cake topper designs… you’ll be the talk of the town… and for all the right reasons.