Yesterday was Tom’s second Halloween! Last year, we were up on Suffolk staying with Mr Techno’s family, and marked the occasion by dressing Tom as a little skeleton.
This year I had failed to sort out an outfit for him, so we put him in a stripy jumper and, if anyone asked, said he was Dennis the Menace.
He’s a bit young for trick or treating, so we decided that we’d focus on the origins of the festival, the blending of the Celtic festival Samhain and the Christian All Hallows Eve. Both focus on the dead, with Samhain also having an association with the end of the harvest.
On Friday, Tom’s nursery had a feast to celebrate Black History Month and asked parents to bring a traditional food from their culture. I only discovered this when I picked him up on Thursday evening. After panicking a bit (what is traditionally English, suitable for toddlers, and can be prepared from store cupboard ingredients?) I remembered I had planned to make soul cakes for Halloween, so simply made them a day early.
These little scone-like biscuity things were traditionally prepared on All Hallows Eve and given to ‘soulers’ who went door to door, receiving the food in exchange for their prayers for the dead. This is likely the origin of the trick or treat tradition.
For Halloween itself, we honoured the Samhain association with fire and harvest by having a candle lit dinner. As we’d already taken the soul cakes to nursery, we had a seasonal feast of pumpkin cakes (similar to potato cake, but made with pumpkin, squash, carrot, lentils and sweet potato instead) and kale, with spiced stewed apple and yoghurt to finish.
I’m sure we’ll be celebrating Halloween in more ‘normal’ ways in future years, but this was a lovely gentle way of marking the day this year.