This month we explore the origins of Halloween and I have a couple of good Halloween recipies for you.
I am not one for complaining as a rule but this year has been a very poor summer and I am now feeling the cold. In fact we had the chimney sweep here a few days ago to give the chimney a good clean ready for the autumn and winter nights. We do enjoy a real fire.
On a good note, I have been very busy making use of the apples we picked last month when down in Sussex staying with our son. We now have lots of apple chutney and apple pies as well as cooked apples in the freezer for other dishes over the winter. Wonderful!
Also, another really great thing happened to me last month. I was busy browsing on Ebay and could not believe my eyes when I saw the most wonderful Provencal table and chairs for sale. It was very old and of course had a few scratches and blemishes as it would as part of it's character and charm. It had a very low price of £20 to start with. Yes, I bid - at the last moment - I dithered about it - but finally won! (finishing at £36.00). We now have a Provencal table and chairs from one of our favourite destinations in France. (I think France is drawing us closer to it's bosom - maybe we will retire there!) At least the sight of French food on our little Provencal table will cheer the autumn days ahead!
France is beautiful in October and if you are thinking of having a holiday at this time, you cannot do better - in fact take a look at the properties available on French Connections there is such a good variety in all areas to suit all pockets.
Paris and the north of France can be a little rainy at times and often blustery. However the countryside everywhere is beautiful with the warm golden colours of autumn leaves and a mild and pleasant climate.
The south is much warmer and you will have much to choose from if you want sight seeing or just a lazy time on the coast.
The food is wonderful at this time of year and if you go to the local markets they have an abundance of fresh apples, pears, squash, and gorgeous orange pumpkins.
It's also time for the grape harvest season and there will be many wine related events to visit and of course to sample! One of the areas to visit for this is in the Roussillon wine region where you will see the children stomp the grapes in traditional manner. They even have the traditional wine growers lunch on the beach!
You can go mushroom picking too if you would like to enjoy picking your own fungi. However, a word of caution as you really do need to know your mushrooms from the poisonous fungi! I think it will be safer to go and buy them fresh from the local markets!
If you love horses or horse racing, then a visit to Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the largest horse race in France is a must for you. This is held on the first Sunday in October at Long Champ Racecourse near Paris. So if this is your kind of sport it is well worth a visit.
October is of course the celebration of Halloween in many countries and France does celebrate it nowadays much in the same way as in America and other countries but perhaps not on the same scale.
Halloween in France is not a traditional French holiday but it is becoming more popular every year.
Pumpkins are used as lanterns during Halloween and therefore the demand for pumpkins is greater at this time of year. The contents of the pumpkin are used to make a hearty hot pumpkin soup and this will definitely keep everyone warm on a chilly night!
The celebrations are much the same in France as in America with people dressing up in scary costumes and visiting friends, going to parties or restaurants etc. Usually they will dress up as witches, goblins, or ghosts etc.
Interestingly Halloween did not originate in America as many believe, but is in fact a tradition from the British Isles. Around 2,000 years ago in the North Eastern region of Europe, around the areas of Ireland, the UK, and Northern France, a group of people known as the Celts held sacred religious rituals on the night of October 31st to celebrate the upcoming new year on November 1st. This celebration was know as Samhain, which is pronounced like "sow in", and is a word that means "Summer's End".
The Celts believed that this night, the night before the beginning of the new year, was the one night the spirits of the dead came back to their earthly realm and could potentially cause havoc. On this night, they believed that their priests, also know as the Druids, would be able to communicate with these spirits to predict the outcome of the new year more accurately.
At the beginning of the Samhain celebration, a sacred bon fire would be lit by the Druids in which participants would then burn crops and animals considered sacrifices to their gods in attempts to appease them with a prosperous new year. The animals used in these ceremonies were selected carefully and believed they were unable to survive on their own throughout the harsh winter months ahead.
Throughout the festivities, the Celts would wear costumes constructed mainly of animal skins and heads. After all the celebrations had ended, each participant would take a bit of the bonfire back to their homes and relight their fireplaces that were extinguished earlier in the evening prior to the ceremonies. They did this as a form of protection to keep themselves safe and their farms prosperous during the dark, cold winter months.
While these traditions were practiced for many years, they were about to change when the Romans conquered the Celts around 43 A.D. This would last for the next four hundred years. The Romans combined the Celtic celebration of Samhain with two of their own that occurred around the same time. The first was called Feralia. This Roman traditional celebration was for remembrance of the dead. It lasted for one day toward the end of October. The second celebration was a day of honour for the Roman goddess Pomona. The goddess Pomona was associated with fruit and trees. Her main identifying symbol was the apple, and could give some explanation as to why at some modern day Halloween gatherings people bob for apples.
With the changing and combining of the three traditions, it gained a new name that we are familiar with today. This new celebration, conducted on November 1st, was deemed All Saint's Day. In France known as La Toussaint – a day for saints who do not have their own holy day.
However, many people decided to also keep the older traditions and celebrate on October 31st in the ancient ways of their ancestors. This day was given the name All Hallows Eve. Now what we commonly refer to as Halloween or Hallow-e'en.
When the first settlers went to America, they left many old traditions and celebrations from the old world behind, including that of Halloween. Many puritans believed it was a pagan holiday and had no place in the development of their new life.
So, Halloween was all but forgotten until the Irish Immigration in the 1840's Halloween found its way to the United States of America. And so, adaptations began changing the custom of Halloween into what we now recognize today.
Instead of having huge bon fires as part of traditional Halloween celebrations, people would use pumpkins carving out portions and lighting candles inside as lanterns. Ancient costumes changed from animal skins to more modern attire such as dressing up as ghosts, ghouls, and witches.
And as for the trick-or-treat candy collecting, well, this is believed to have originated from another old tradition that was termed "Souling".
Souling was the practice of people going door to door praying for the souls of the departed at their neighbours homes. In exchange for the prayers, the home owners would offer food to their visitors.
Others also believe that trick-or-treating could have stemmed from people leaving food offerings out on their porches during All Hallows Eve to appease the spirits in letting their home and family be at peace.
Which brings us to why we dress up in costumes today for both parties and the act of trick-or-treating.
During the ancient festivities the Celts would wear costumes made from animal skins, believing that on this night, October 31st, the dead could cross over from their world back in to ours. To keep the spirits from recognizing them, they would dress in costumes to hide their true identities. They believed that by wearing masks, that this would conceal them and make the roaming spirits think they were other kindred spirits simply wandering about and leave them at peace.
By incorporating the disguises and leaving food offerings outside their homes, people of the past believed it would keep restless wandering spirits distracted protecting themselves and their homes from becoming infested with
unwanted spirit guests.
It's interesting to know where the tradition has come from and that we can still have fun today.
If you are in France at this time of year be sure to celebrate in French style with wonderful French food at the ready! If you would like some recipes to help with this I have some ideas this month to give you a warming and tasty Halloween Supper.
I think for a good starter, a warming Pumpkin soup is just what everyone will love on Halloween night. And you can make some colourful Halloween lanterns with the pumpkins to light up your garden or home.
A really tasty dish which is from the Central area of France is a traditional sausage cooked in vouvray wine and served with either creamed or
mashed potato and roasted apple rings. Both are very good! Of course any good pork sausage will be fine if you are not in France to buy the real thing. This would make a lovely supper for your family and friends for a Halloween meal.
This recipe is for about six people.
- 2lbs pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut in large pieces
- 2 ozs ( 4 level tablespoons) of butter
- 1/4 pint water
- 2 1/4 (1.3 litres) pints milk
- Salt and grated nutmeg
- 2 ozs (50gms) rice
- First melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan
- Cook pumpkin slowly over a low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently
- Add the nutmeg, salt and warm water
- Cook rapidly until soft
- Use a blender to bring to a puree
- Put milk in a the pan, add puree and rice
- Bring to the boil, then simmer over a low heat for about half an hour.
Andouillettes Braisées Au Vouvray (Sausages Braised in White Wine)
This recipe is for 4 people so you can adjust if you need more. The
traditional sausages are really big so you would need less. For other
sausages, buy as many as you need for your requirements.
- 2 shallots
- 1 pint white wine
- 4 andouillettes or 2 - 3 pork sausages per person
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 - 3 cooking apples, peeled and cored and cut in thick rings
- Pre heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4
- Slice the shallots finely and place in the bottom of a flameproof dish.
- Pour in the wine and bring to the boil, remove from the heat
- Prick the sausage all over to prevent them from bursting and place in
the dish on top of the shallots
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Place in preheated oven for about 40 minutes or until the juices are
absorbed and the sausages are browned. If the sausage begin to brown too
quickly, cover with foil.
Apples - you can either cook the apples in a little oil or butter in a heavy based frying pan or place them on a baking tray and bake in the oven about
15 minutes before the sausages are ready.
Serve with the baked apples or mashed potato or, as we do - with both!
P.S. For more French recipes visit www.french-recipes-to-love.com and you
will be sure to find something to please everyone!