It’s the beginning of October and boy it is certainly getting colder in New England where I live. I’m readying myself by getting out my warm sweaters, long-legged jeans and winter coats and putting away the short sleeve tops and shorts that seem to mark my summer wardrobe. Around here the apple orchards are buzzing with activity and freshly made apple cider is just about everywhere. Farms that were covered with fresh tomatoes, corn and other vegetables are marked by rows of beautiful orange and creamy white pumpkins in all sizes. The start of autumn at the end of September and beginning of October marks the end of summer and the beginning of a cooler season, a season of harvest. It marks the warning of the cold, dark winter ahead. The history of one of the festivities enjoyed this time of year is Halloween starting some 2000 years ago with the ancient Celtics on the European Continent.
The Celts marked this time of year with the feast of Samhain, pronounced sow-in, when the boundary of the worlds between the living and the dead became blurred on October 31st. On this day it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth to damage to their crops. Costumes of animal heads and skins were worn as the Celtic people danced around bonfires, and made sacrifices of crops and animals offered to their gods for favors of protection and priests made predictions that gave direction to people about their future in the coming long, cold and dark winter. From the embers of their bonfires, a fire in their hearth at home would be lit in order to continue to pray for protection in the coming year.
The Roman Armies who conquered the Celtic peoples took the idea of Samhain and used it in combination to commemorate the passing of the dead with a celebration of the harvest. The Roman feast to honor the passing of the dead was called Feralia and was celebrated in late October as was the feast of Pomona, who was the goddess of fruit and trees whose symbol was the apple. Do you see any similarities to our current traditions yet?
Sometime later, like in 400 AD sometime, Catholic Popes blended feasts again as a way to honor their Christian martyrs settling on All Souls Day. This day was celebrated with bonfires and parades of people wearing costumes of angels, saints and devils on November 2nd. Then All Saints Day known as All-Hallowmas was celebrated on November 1st with prayers and alms given by the poor who went door-to-door asking for food in return for prayers for the dead on All-Hallows Eve or Halloween.
Traditions such as these continue as the child and child-like, the young and the old, celebrate Halloween with activities like costume parties, trick-or-treating door-to-door, the telling of ghost stories by bonfires, and games like bobbing for apples. I have been known to attend and enjoy a costume party or two in honor of Halloween. There has always been a feast of great food, drinks, music and a dance two sometimes by a bonfire.
So I guess that in addition to getting my “warm-woolies” out I should start doing some planning for a ghoulish and fun party. I’m starting with my list, my invitations, my menu plan and music. I’m getting my costume or in my case, a mask, and I’m looking forward to the fun ahead.
How about you? What are the outrageous and exciting ideas that you have to celebrate this Halloween: A haunted house tour; a party, maybe a murder mystery party; or a fright-night at home with a game of Clue, a scary movie and a fireside ghost story or two? Whatever you decide, I’m sure you can keep those visiting spirits at bay another year. Enjoy the day and be safe and while you’re at it, try this recipe and let me know what you think. “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” (The Fly, 1986)… Be very
- 1 4 lb. pumpkin, washed and dried
- 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 8 oz. Swiss cheese shredded
- 8 oz. Gruyere cheese
- 4 slices of white bread toasted and crumbled
- 1 pt. half and half
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- French bread fingers for dipping
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- With serrated knife, cut a two inch slice from the top of the pumpkin and reserve.
- Remove seeds and fibers.
- Pour boiling water into inside to clean out any remaining fibers.
- Blend oil and garlic and rub on the inside of the pumpkin.
- Place in a large roasting pan.
- Alternate layers of toast crumbs and cheeses inside the pumpkin.
- Combine half and half, salt, pepper and nutmeg and pour over layers.
- Replace top and bake pumpkin 2 hours, gently stirring contents after 1 and 1/2 hours.
- Accompany with French bread, buttered and toasted for dipping.