Samhain marks the turning point in the calendar which marks the end of the season of light – harvest – and the beginning of the dark half of the year.

The night of Halloween itself was when charms and incantations are at their most powerful, when people looked into the future and when feasting and merriment were ordained.

Some harvest traditions were simply around the farming calendar – bringing in the cattle for the winter, that all the potatoes had to be dug up by Halloween and that all the oats should be stacked by then.

Others had and have more of a twist! Blackberries and apples were not to be picked after Halloween because Púca spat on these fruits the night after Samhain. In parts of Ireland the old tradition of leaving a symbolic meal for the fairies or Púca on Halloween is still observed. A plate of champ with a spoon would be set at the foot of the nearest fairy thorn (hawthorn or whitethorn) or at the gate entrance to a field on the night of Halloween and on All Souls’ Night (2nd November).

One old tradition is to make thick oaten cakes with a hole in the centre which a string could be threaded through. Any child who came in to collect apples and nuts (nowadays “trick or treating”) would be given an oaten cake to be tied around their neck.


Colcannon

A dish of mashed potatoes, chopped kale or green cabbage and onions. Traditionally cooked in a skillet pot with a large round bottom, three small legs and two ear-like handles at the sides. Eaten by dipping each spoonful into a well of butter. Naughty but delicious!


Champ

An Armagh name for another mashed potato dish but with the incorporation of sweet milk and chopped chives or onions. Eaten in the same way as colcannon, by dipping each spoonful into a well of butter.

Boxty Pancakes

This is a pancake batter made of grated raw potatoes, squeezed in a cloth to remove excess water, mixed with flour, baking powder, salt, beaten egg and sweet milk (or buttermilk). Fry in a pan until golden on both sides and serve hot, buttered and sprinkled with caster sugar. Yum!!

Alternatively, a similar batter could also be used to turn them into scones called farls which are baked on a griddle.

Barmbrack Recipe

Barmbrack

(Makes 1 loaf)

Recipe from East Coast Cookery School

Ingredients:

300g of mixed fruit such as sultanas, raisins, currents, glace cherries, candied peel (usually called ‘luxury fruit mix’ in the supermarket)

300mls of tea

1 egg whisked

200g of soft brown sugar

225g self-raising flour

½ tsp of cinnamon

¼ tsp of nutmeg

¼ tsp of allspice

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180˚C, 160˚C  gas mark 4

Place the fruit in a bowl and cover with the hot tea and leave to soak overnight

Line the loaf tins with some grease proof or baking powder paper

In a bowl whisk the egg and brown sugar together

Then add the flour, mixed spice and fruit, combining well

Place your “lucky ingredients” into some greasproof paper & add to the mixture.

Pop into the loaf dish and bake for about an hour, keeping an eye on it all the time – insert a skewer to check that it’s cooked

The Lucky Ingredients:

A gold ring to foretell marriage within a year

A small coin to forecast wealth

A stick to foretell dispute

Fadge (Apple Potato Cake)

Fadge is a really popular treat in the north-east of Ireland. This cake batter is made of freshly boiled potatoes, a pinch of salt, melted butter and flour. The mixture is divided into 2 equal portions and rolled into rounds. Layers of sliced apples are then laid on the base round before the top round is placed on top. The fadge is traditionally cooked in a pot-oven on a bed of red-hot turf. When the cake is almost ready, it is sliced around the side, the pastry lid turned back and the apples generously sprinkled with brown sugar and a knob of butter. The fadge is then returned to the oven until the sugar and butter has melted to form a sauce.

Of course the Irish love to hide symbolic things in their Halloween food. In Fadge a ring is sometimes baked into the cake and the superstition says that whoever finds it in their slice would be married before year end.

Samhain Games & Superstitions

Here are some games for you to try this Halloween, if you’ve the nerve for it!

Apples

  • Ducking or dooking for apples in a barrel or in a basin of water. Plunge your head into the water (usually cold!) and try to grab an apple between your teeth.
  • Peel an apple and let the peel fall to the ground. Superstition says that it will show the initial letter of your future partner’s name.
  • A girl is to eat an apple in front of a mirror at the approach of midnight whilst combing her hair. She will see her future husband looking over her right shoulder when the clock strikes twelve.

Colcannon

Check out some recipes online to make your own Colcannon at home and try hiding a ring and thimble in there.

  • Those who find a ring hidden in the mixture would soon be married.
  • Those who find a thimble hidden in the mixture would be a spinster.
  • The first and last spoonfuls of colcannon are placed into a girl’s stocking and hung from a nail in the door. The superstition is that her future husband would be the first man to enter through the door.

Barm Brack

This is a very traditional seasonal fruit cake. Find a recipe online and try making your own!

Various items can be hidden in this fruit cake to foretell the fortune of those who finds it in their serving:

  • A ring signifies the finder would soon be married.
  • A thimble signifies the female finder would be a spinster whilst a button signifies the male finder would forever be a bachelor.
  • A silver coin signifies the finder would become wealthy.
  • A rag signifies the finder would stumble into poverty.
  • A chip of wood signifies the finder would be beaten by their spouse (!!)
  • A religious medal signifies the finder would live the rest of their life as a priest or a nun.

Cabbage

  • If you happen to live near a field of cabbages belonging to a friendly farmer you could try this!
  • A blindfolded girl would walk out at night to pull a head of cabbage. The size and shape of the root would indicate the size and shape of her future spouse.

Salt Herring

  • A salt herring eaten before bed would guarantee that one’s future spouse would appear in a dream that night offering a cup of water to quench the thirst of the dreamer.