By Kristin Olsen
“Oíche Shamhna” The night of Samhain!
Welcome the Way of the Celts, land of myth and fantasy. Let us journey down the long corridor from summer to winter on the Emerald Isle and in the Celtic Lands. After the summer sunshine begins to fade, the cool breezes begin to blow and the fall rains cascade past the hillsides like Tara and down to the Irish Sea. The most interesting tradition of Samhain or in Gaelic Oíche Shamhna is celebrated on the 31st of October. The festival was seen as the beginning of the Celtic New Year. Come join me now as we dance along green emerald paths past lilies, dandelions and daisies, fairies and butterflies into the lands of the Celtic mystery. Open your eyes wide as we explore, learn and grow and discover that all things are possible if you see it so.
Samhain was one of the four main festivals of the medieval Irish calendar. Samhain celebrations have survived in several varieties and forms as a time dedicated to the harvest and also a celebration of the dead. It represents the final harvest of the year as the sunny days become short and the long night sky dominates the winter months. It is still the custom in some areas to set a place for the dead at the Samhain feast, and to tell tales of the ancestors on this night. This is the night when the veil between the worlds is the thinest and some believe you can see and talk to your ancestors. Bonfires played a large part in the celebrations on this mystical night. In some rural Celtic Villages it was custom to cast the bones of the recently slaughtered cattle upon the flames. Samhain was the traditional time for slaughter, for preparing stores of meat and grain to last through the long winter months. It was a time to honor the dead and to honor the harvest that would see them through the cold winter in the land of Erin.
Have you ever wondered how the Celtic feast of Samhain became the modern celebration known as Halloween? In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1st All Saints’ Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. Christianity had come to the Celtic Lands and it is believed that the pope might have been attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead, a pagan tradition with a Christian holiday. Halloween came about because it was All Hallows’ Evening and it was eventually shortened to Halloween. An interesting reason for this change might have been simple compliance with Christian church doctrine. The people were still feasting at Samhain, eating meat, so a Christian alternative had to be provided. To honor the saints and martyrs on All Saints day, people abstained from eating meat or fasted to cleanse their bodies and souls.
The question has been asked and pondered by many, what did the Irish eat at Samhain? The quick answer is lots. There was a store of food for the winter and the harvest was complete. So it is very likely that that the Celts ate very well during this celebration, meats, potatoes, grains and sweet treats. Changes occurred when Samhain became All Hallows’ Eve. This day became known as a day of fasting and cleansing of the body and mind, meat and meat products were not to be eaten on this day of reverence. So a traditional Halloween treat would have been become vegetarian at this time. Some yummy examples of the Vegetarian meals might have been pancakes and dumplings, sweet or spicy, apple fritters, cakes, bread and cheese. These items were sure to fill the belly: cabbage, potatoes, leaks and soul cakes and other sweet treats.
Enjoy the delicious Irish Boxy, Scottish Egg Cookies, and some C.E. O’Bannon Punch (my granddads recipe) below. Don’t forget to bob for apples and dance to the Monster Mash!
1 cup mashed potato
2 cups flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1-teaspoon Celtic Sea salt
2 tablespoons butter or light Margarine
Grate potatoes. Put on a paper towel to drain. Mix with mashed potatoes. Add a
Teaspoon of starch and mix well. Add the dry ingredients, melt butter and add. Add a
little milk to make the dough soft enough to knead. Divide into four and form large flat cakes. Mark each into four quarters, but just on
the top. Bake in the frying pan until golden brown.
Scottish Egg Cookies
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons Crisco
4 cups flour
Sift flour, baking power and salt. Set aside. Combine sugar, Crisco & eggs, mix well
then add flour and milk a little at a time. Add some more flour until the mixture is
easy to handle. Take small spoonfuls and roll in confectioner’s sugar. Bake 350
degrees until brown on the outside. Approx. 10 minutes.
C.E. O`Bannon Punch
1-quart rye whiskey
1 large can pineapple
1 small can apricot nectar
1 can frozen orange juice with matching amount of water
Let set. Add 1-quart soda water and ice when ready to serve.
Join me again for more tales of the Celtic Lands. We have much to discuss, The Book of Kells, Celtic Mythology, The Claddagh, Gaelic, Poetry and Prose and perhaps even a way to see Fairies in your everyday world or how to obtain the pot of Gold from that dreaded Leprechaun. Magic and Adventure is all around you, just close your eyes, open your heart and listen to your soul. Celtic Magic is everywhere. Visit me at http://www.celticattic.com