It is that time of the year again...31st October and for some the Celtic New year or Samhain. It is said this event known to most of us as All Hallow's Eve was regarded by the anciens Celts as a day to honour the family's ancestors, allowing harmless spirits to visit whilst warding off harmful ones.
Disguising themselves with costumes and mask allowed people to ward off harmful spirits. In Scotland revelers would wear white costumes and blackened their faces. Samhain was a time to take stock of food supplies and prepare for the winter. Bonfires were lit and each home lit their hearth from the bonfire.
Traditionally in Celtic Samhain, turnips were hollowed and carved with scary faces then placed on window sills. Since pumpkins are much more readily available in the US and much easier to carve than turnips, children and adults alike use them instead in the making of their jack o' lanterns.
As to trick or treat, in some parts of Scotland children still go guising or perform some sort of trick such as telling a ghost story or sing a song to earn their treats.
Along with Irish and Scottish immigration in the 19th Century this holiday came to the US.
Giving Soul Cakes on All Hallows Eve originated in the UK and the Isle of Ireland in the Middle Ages. These cakes were filled with Cinnamon, Allspice and Nutmeg, Raisins or Currants and the top was marked with a Cross.
These little round cakes were referred as Souls and given out to Soulers, children and the poor who would sing and say prayers for the dead.
Each Soul Cake eaten defined a Soul freed from the Purgatory thus seen as the origin of the modern Trick or Treating.
Recipe for Soul Cakes
- 3/4 cup butter
- 3/4 cup superfine sugar
- 4 cups flour, sifted
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 3 tablespoons currants or raisins
- a little milk
1. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale in colour and fluffy in texture. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time.
2. Mix together the flour and spices. Fold into the creamed butter mix.
3. Gently stir in the currants/raisins. Add enough milk to make a soft dough.
4. Form into flat cakes and cut each top with a knife to make a cross.
5. Bake on a well-greased baking sheet at 350 F for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden.
So now like me, you know a little bit more about All Hallow's Eve. Whilst Trick or Treating, be safe and have fun!