Did you know that Halloween is one of the oldest holidays? The American tradition of “trick-or-treating” dates back to the early All Souls Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives. The practice, referred to as “going a-souling” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given drink, food and money.
In Ireland, where Halloween originated, the day is still celebrated much as it is in the US. Bonfires are lit and all over the country, children get dressed up in costumes and go trick-or-treating. Afterwards, most people go to parties with neighbors and friends where they bob for apples, go on treasure hunts and play card games. A traditional food eaten on Halloween is barmbrack, a kind of fruitcake that can be bought in stores or baked at home. The Halloween Brack traditionally contains various objects baked into the bread and was used as a sort of fortune telling game. I love the idea of having a tradition like that!
In various parts of England there is a festival called holy day which falls on November 4th. On this night, children play tricks on adults which range from the minor to more serious such as taking garden gates off their hinges. Throughout England, as is common in much of the British Isles, children carve faces or designs into pumpkins. Usually illuminated from within, the lanterns are then displayed in windows in keeping with the night’s theme of fright and horror. Before the introduction of pumpkin carving from the USA, they would carve large yellow turnips and this is still done today in some areas.
And who can forget the age old tradition of Cabbage Night? In parts of the U.S. it is known as Cabbage Night, Goosey Night or Doorbell Night and is always on the evening of October 30th . Tricks like toilet papering yards and houses, powder-bombing and egging cars, and smashing pumpkins are just a few of the tricks played by teenagers on that night. In Northern England it is also known as Miggy Night, Goosey Night, Tick-Tack night, Corn night or Trick night. In Liverpool UK, it is known as Mizzie Night. In Ireland, it is called Mischief night and is becoming so popular that teenagers get the week around Halloween off school. I remember thinking it was pretty cool to go out on Cabbage Night when I was a teenager, but now that I’m older, I’m keenly aware of when Cabbage Night is so that I make sure to pull my car into the garage, bring all the pumpkins inside, and keep all my outside lights on. Plus, I try not to go out on that night so that my car doesn’t get “egged”. So remember to watch out for yourself on October 30th because it’s Cabbage Night!