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I got this from Delancyplace who send out nonfiction reading selections in a 5 times per week email.

the origins of Halloween:
"Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
Snap-Apple Night, painted by Daniel Maclise in 1833

"To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

Irish Halloween turnip (rutabaga) lantern
"By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of 'bobbing' for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.
"By the 9th century the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. ... In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints' Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The All Saints Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. Together, the three celebrations-the eve of All Saints', All Saints' and All Souls' were called Hallowmas."




Oct. 27th, 2016 07:59 pm (UTC)
Do you have any history you can add to this?

A little bit, maybe. For Samhain/Halloween, I bake "soul cakes", which are more like flat little butter cookies than cake. These were traditionally baked in England and Ireland hundreds of years ago. Children would go from door to door, singing songs and saying prayers, and they'd get a soul cake from each household they visited. For each soul cake eaten, it was said that a soul was freed from "purgatory". That tradition even survived into the last century in some areas, and is how trick-or-treating we know today originated.
Oct. 30th, 2016 05:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much :)
I found a recipt on babble. Does this seems about right from what you do?

2 1/2 cups (340 grams) all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 cup (170 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (170 grams) butter
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp of apple cider vinegar
raisins (optional)

1.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bow. Work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add the egg and white wine vinegar Thoroughly mix all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl sifted flour, spices, and sugar. Rub in the diced butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add in the beaten egg and vinegar and mix with a wooden spoon until it comes together into a ball. The dough will be firm. Use your hands to press the dough together into a ball, if necessary. Cover the bowl and chill for 20 minutes.

3.Lightly flour a clean, flat surface and roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into large rounds using a cookie cutter. Use the end of a wooden spoon to press a cross shape into the cakes. Place the cakes onto the baking sheets and press raisins into the top of the cakes, if desired. Gather the scraps together and roll again until all the dough has been cut into cakes.

Bake, one sheet at a time, for 12-15 minutes, or until the cake tops are lightly golden. Can be eaten warm or at room temperature.
Oct. 30th, 2016 05:50 pm (UTC)
Mine is very similar, yeah:


1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup fine white sugar
3 egg yolks
2 cups unbleached white flour
1 tsp mixed spice (I didn't have this, so I used: 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. allspice, and 1/4 tsp. salt)
1/4 cup raisins (optional)


- Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
- Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the egg yolks.
- Sift in the flour and the spice, and blend.
- Stir in the raisins if using (I left them out), and add enough milk to make a soft dough.
- Shape the dough into flat, round cakes and place on a greased cookie sheet (or one lined with parchment for easy clean-up). Using a fork, score the shape of a cross into the tops (or any other pattern you like).
- Bake for 10-15 minutes until they're golden brown.

These would probably be a little less sweet and a little richer with the three egg yolks, but they are sweet and have a warm bit of spice - we really enjoy them. :)

Edited at 2016-10-30 05:51 pm (UTC)
Oct. 30th, 2016 06:19 pm (UTC)
Think I'll use your recipt as they have always worked for me in the past. Thank you!
Oct. 30th, 2016 06:21 pm (UTC)
You're welcome, I hope you like them! And an extra tip, I store them in a cookie tin with the lid cracked just a little for a day or two. That way they can absorb some moisture from the air and get soft and chewy.
Oct. 30th, 2016 11:37 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the extra tip. I'll let you know how they come out :)
Oct. 30th, 2016 11:45 pm (UTC)
Cool, and you're welcome. :)

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