By Mara Papatheodorou, your Tastes & Traditions Expert
Happy Halloween! Ghosts, goblins, black cats, bats and witches’ hats mark October 31st as a day and night filled with mystery and magic. Harvest folklore and festivities, celebrations and superstitions, tricks and treats, savory and sweet bites all play a part in the world’s oldest unique holiday. Many of the beautiful countries and ports to which Regent Seven Seas Cruises sails have tastes and traditions tied to Halloween. In fact, it is all about treats and delicious memories when cruising with Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
SIP: Mulled Warm Apple Cider, with or without rum, to honor the autumn apple harvest.
SAVOR: Candy treats and Soul Cakes.
FUN HALLOWEEN FACTS:
What is the history of Halloween?
Halloween history is filled with religious traditions and folklore from the Celts and the Druids who lived in England, Ireland and Scotland. Its origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in), which marks the new year on November 1st. and the beginning of dark cold winter. The rituals began the night before on October 31st on All Hallow’s Eve –later to be known as Halloween—when people lit bonfires, feasted on harvest fare and wore costumes to ward off roaming ghosts desperate to be settled.
How did Halloween first become a holiday celebrated in the United States?
In the mid 1800’s, Irish immigrants brought their All Hallow’s Eve traditions of celebrating the harvest with parties and sharing treats like sweetened apples and soul cakes with neighbors door to door to the new world. Tricks were fortune telling and wearing costumes to frighten spirits away. Today it is the second most commercially celebrated holiday in the United States, after Christmas.
Why are orange and black the dominant colors of Halloween?
Orange is for the seasonal turning color of the autumn leaves while black is associated with the darkness of night and the spirits from the afterlife.
Why are pumpkins so symbolic?
Today, pumpkins are the symbol of the holiday. But this wasn’t always the case as pumpkins are not native to Ireland! Originally turnips, gourds and rutabagas, all harvest crops in Ireland and Scotland, were hollowed out, carved with symbols and lit with embers to light the paths for visitors and priests. The Irish newcomers found the pumpkin easier to carve and that’s what made it the Halloween emblem.
What’s the Irish legend of the Jack O’ Lantern?
Stingy Jack invited the Devil to climb an apple tree and then surrounded the tree trunk with crosses that the Devil could never touch. Stingy Jack freed the Devil after he promised he would not claim his soul upon his death. When Stingy Jack died, God would not allow him into heaven and the Devil kept his word not to capture his soul. With no place to go, Stingy Jack’s unsettled spirit was left to wander. As the Devil sent him away, he gave him a piece of lit coal to place in a hollowed out turnip as Jack’s Lantern—which became Jack O’ Lantern– to light his path.
What’s the affiliation with witches?
The word witch comes from the Latin Word “Wicca” meaning “Wise One”. In ancient times, wise healers mixed herbs, balms and steamy potions and kept a cat nearby to keep mice away. Healing the afflicted was magical when it worked and scary when it didn’t. Hence this mythical aura began and Halloween and witches still go hand in hand.
Besides the United States, what other countries celebrate Halloween?
The British Isles continue the Celtic traditions of parties and feasting with the modern day twist of trick or treating. In Mexico, South America and Spain, Dia de Los Muertos (All Souls Day) is a three-day feast.
What’s with the apples?
As the season’s bountiful fruit, the sweet apple became the first treat. Mulled warm apple cider, spiced with cinnamon and often spiked with rum, still keeps away the autumn chill and makes it the perfect party drink. A festive “trick” game by fortune-tellers was bobbing for apples in a tub of water and it remains a fun Halloween game.
What about the treats then and now?
Besides apples, the other Irish or Scottish treat was a soul cake, a biscuit like cake flavored with apples and currants. These were made especially for All Saints Day in honor of the souls departed and served to priests, visitors and costumed Halloween entertainers. Today, it is all about candy with over 600 million pounds of candy sold just for this night!
Candy galore! What are popular choices?
Originating in 1898, the iconic Halloween candy is the orange, yellow and white candy corn from the Goeletz Confectionary Company in Cincinnati, Ohio. Chocolate remains the most popular treat to give and to receive. Today’s #1 choice is Snickers® followed by Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Kit Kat® and M&M’s®.