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Scared to enter the season of spirits? Here's how to cope with the dark forces that are coming.
Halloween is coming. But what does it all mean? It's all part of the dark season in which witches, ghosts and flickering lights are upon us! The gloomy evenings are already a-glow with signs that there's something spooky about to happen and feeling scpooked is all part of the entertainment. A string of ghostly LEDs! Just £3.95 (+p&p).
A brief history of a season of which to be scared
You might assume that Halloween celebrations originated in the USA but in fact its roots are planted much closer to home. The ancient festival can be traced back to Celtic Samhain which is pronounced sow-in. Celts celebrated their new year on November 1 and it was therefore an opportunity for feast and fun. The end of October straddles the period between autumn and winter and therefore marks the natural harvest at a from enjoying plentiful food during the harvest towards frozen ground and less pickings. This, of course, during times when supermarkets were not on every street corner.
Halloween gives many people a boost of energy and a reason to enjoy the increasing darkness. Just imagine: ghosts and witches on a sunny summer's evening just wouldnt be scary at all!
Walls between worldsThe Celts lit bonfires and wore costumes in order to keep any roaming ghosts at bay. The Gaels believed this to be a time when walls between worlds became thin, allowing spirits to slip through and create mayhem. Pope Gregory II then designated 1 November to be All Saints' Day, a time to honour saints and martyrs. Thus, the day before became known as All Hallows' Eve of course later becoming Halloween. The lanterns, made from the fruits of the harvest, were a way to brighten up the darkness and children called door to door asking for sweet cakes in return for praying for the souls of friends and relatives. This expanded into mumming plays when children would sing and offer poetry, jokes or plays in exchange for fruit, sweets or money.
Trick or treating
America invented the phrase trick or treat and the idea is now well and truly part of the UK calendar of fun. So, what do you need in order to prepare your home and garden for 31 October?
Let's get ready
A lantern is essential! Make your own by carving out a pumpkin, or buy a ready-made, themed lantern that can be used every year. Don't throw away your pumpkin flesh! Remember, this is a celebration of the harvest so make sure you enjoy the feast. Make a pumpkin pie (recipe below); soup; casserole or use the flesh to add to other dishes such as stews.
Get yourself a few spiders, some cobwebs and maybe a witches broom. Then there's the costume of course! You can really let your imagination roam on Halloween and fake blood, grotesque masks and creepy crawlies are all part of the celebration. Goody collection bags are an essential for children who are embarking on a trick or treat adventure after all, there's only so many sweets that can be consumed on the spot.
Just add sweetsAnd for the householder? Once you have placed a signal on your doorstep (a lit lantern is ideal); armed yourself with a copious amount of food, sweets, treats and maybe a few surprises, youll be ready to join in the fun!
Recipe for Pumpkin Pie
It has to be said that the pumpkins used for Jack 'o lanterns aren't the best for eating. But, don't be scared, it's such a shame to waste them. If you have other types of squashes you can mix them all together as this type of pumpkin flesh tends to be quite watery and a little stringy.
For the pastry:
250g plain flour Pinch of sea salt 150g butter, cut into pieces 1 medium egg, beaten 2 tbsp caster sugar (optional) Make your pastry. Use it to line a 22cm tart tin (the type with a loose bottom is easy) and bake it blind for about 25 minutes so that you avoid the 'soggy bottom'.
For the filling:
Pumpkin around 750g. De-seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkling of ground nutmeg. Quarter of a teaspoon of ground ginger. Sprinkling of ground cinnamon. Quarter of a teaspoon of mixed spice. 140g light brown sugar or a mixture of sugar and maple syrup. 2 eggs, beaten. 25g melted butter. 175ml milk or a mixture of cream/cream cheese/evaporated milk
Roast the pumpkin in an oven for about 25mins until soft. This not only cooks the flesh but wicks away the moisture too. Blend or mash the pumpkin until smooth. Add the spices, sugar, eggs, milk mixture. Pour into the cooked pastry case. Bake in the oven (around 210 degrees C) for about 40mins until set. Can be eaten warm or cold. Serve as a sweet dish, with a smile!