Mary Ellen Wilcox
Essential Herbal, Sep/Oct '09
It is estimated that the age of Halloween is somewhere around 6000 years, 4000 years before the birth of Christ. Tribal peoples would bring their animals back in from their grazing places before the earth became cold and dark again. These peoples would later be known as the Celts. Eventually, over the centuries, they would move around and would land in Ireland and Britain around 350 BC. The Celts celebrated four fire festivals, one being Samhain, which was the celebration of the end of summer and which also honored the dead. It is also the Celtic New Year, and took place on November 1st. They believed in the faery folk and thought them to be players of practical jokes. Not evil, but no one you wanted to annoy.
As time passed and Christianity was proclaimed by Constantine the Great in 314 A.D., the problems began. At first the Celts welcomed Christianity, but it soon became evident that they did not want to give up their celebrations or the traditions which had been with them over the centuries. The Christians misunderstood the meaning of the Samhain festival, and though it was meant to honor the dead, they thought of it as a way of worshiping Satan. In trying to stop the Samhain celebration, the church tried making the traditions associated with it frightening. The Celts belief in faeries became a belief in demons, thus far unknown to the Celts. Their use of fire in festivals was now to keep the devil at bay. Even so, the Celts were not about to give up the celebration of Samhain. Eventually, under Pope Gregory the IV in 835 A.D. a compromise of sorts took place. This change included honoring the saints. October 31st became All Hallows Even (later Halloween) and November 1st became Hallowmas, a Mass to honor the saints. All Soul's Day, November 2nd, was to honor the dead and was a reason to bring back the pre-Christian customs.
Settlement in America brought many Halloween traditions. Where the Anglican church was established, honoring the saints on November 1st and celebrating All Souls Day continued. German and Irish immigrants, with their Celtic heritage, brought the All Hallows Even customs and other festivals of the harvest.
During Victorian times most of the religious significance of Halloween came to an end. It became a time of party-giving, costume balls and community gatherings. Today, Halloween means dressing up as devils and witches, trick or treating, bobbing for apples and carving pumpkins, but those early fire festivals still show themselves in our autumn bonfires and harvest celebrations!
With parties and gatherings, food is of course, a big part of Halloween. Enjoy some of these harvest time recipes!
~ Apples - Peeling an apple in front of a mirror might bring the image a someone you would marry.
~ Pumpkins - In Europe, turnips were used at Halloween to carve faces and light up with candles. The American pumpkin replaced them because of its better shape and size.
~ Elderberry has strong ties with Halloween and harvest time. People carried pieces of it's wood for protection. Prayers were tied to its branches. It can be made into yummy pies, jams, jellies and syrups, as well as used in medicinal preparations.
~ Caraway was used to keep evil spirits or robbers from entering the house.
~ Dill offered protection against witchcraft.
4 cups pared and sliced apples (about 4 med.)
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1/3 cup margarine
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8X8X2" pan. Spread apples in pan. Mix remaining ingredients thoroughly; sprinkle over apples. Bake until apples are tender and topping is golden brown, about 30 mins. Serve warm with light cram, ice cream or hard sauce.
Pumpkin Ring Cake
1 package yellow cake mix
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup pumpkin
1 cup chopped nuts
Combine cake mix and spices in a large bowl. Add egg and water as directed on mix package, substituting the pumpkin for 1/3 cup of water. Stir in nuts. Pour into greased and floured tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 mins. Cool 10 minutes and remove from pan. Cool thoroughly.
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind
Add just enough milk to make glaze slightly thin. Drizzle over cooled cake.
2 pounds elderberries rinsed, with stems removed
4 cups water
2-1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Put the berries in a large non-reactive pan. Bring to a boil and cook 15-20 mins., till tender and soft. Put through a food mill and discard skins. Pour the juice back into the pan. Add sugar and cook at a low boil over medium-low heat till it starts to thicken. Cool for 15 mins, until the syrup has thickened. Add the lemon juice. Cool completely. Pour into a bottle or jar and store in refrigerator.
Sauerkraut and Pork Chops
2-3 cups fresh sauerkraut or 1 large can
4 boneless pork chops
1 medium onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. caraway seed
Brown chops in olive oil. Mix sauerkraut, onion , bay leaves and caraway seed in crock pot. Add water to cover. Lay chops on mixture, pushing them down a bit into the kraut. Cook for 6 hours, checking water level. Remove bay leaves. Serve with baked potatoes.
Brethren Cheese Bread
4 cups flour
2 tbsp. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 tbsp. fresh minced dill weed
2 cups milk
Sift dry ingredients; cut in butter. Stir in cheese and dill. Combine eggs and milk. Add liquid all at once to dry ingredients. Stir just to moisten. Pour into well-greased pans. Bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 mins, till nicely browned. Cool 10 mins. and remove from pans. Slice fairly thick. Freezes well. Yields 6 small loaves.