Food & Fun for a Stay-at-Home Celtic Halloween
Nudged by the chilly October wind, a dead leaf scrapes along the sidewalk. The moon hides behind storm clouds. A crow’s caw shreds the silence. I love Halloween! But this year, health experts warn that kids shouldn’t trick-or-treat and no one should invite friends over for costume parties. So is Halloween cancelled this year? No! We just have to celebrate a little differently. We have to stay home. But we can still party with our housemates. Here are some ideas for having an at-home Halloween that is fun and Celtic in its inspiration.
Atmosphere is important and setting the scene for a Celtic Halloween is actually pretty easy. You likely already have what you need or you can find it at a dollar store. Since All Hallows’ Eve grew out of the Celtic fire festival of Samhain, the usual decorations have a connection to the ancient celebration.
1) Black Cats: the Cat Sith, an Irish faerie in the form of a black cat, travels from house to house on Samhain’s Eve, blessing families that leave a bowl of milk out for it and cursing families that don’t.
2) Bats: at midnight each Samhain, the Sluagh Sidhe, a faerie collective, flies out of the Hell Gate in Co, Roscommon, Ireland, in search of human souls to enslave. While the collective resembles crows in flight, up close each member of the Sluagh Sidhe looks like a skeleton with large, bat-like wings.
3) Jack O’ Lanterns: although originally carved turnips, these grinning pumpkins have their origin in Celtic folklore. Stingy Jack was so bad that, when he died, he couldn’t get into heaven, so he went to hell. But he was so obnoxious that he was denied admittance there too! Doomed to roam the earth in a twilight state for all eternity, Jack took an ember from hell’s fire, put it in a turnip, and used the glowing veg for a lantern.
4) Witches: witchcraft gets very little mention in Celtic folklore but cailleachs and cauldrons show up for sure. A cailleach looks like the typical old hag witch but she is a faerie. She likes to steal dairy and cows (two things highly valued in Celtic culture). Cauldrons are not much associated with witches in Celtic folklore. They show up, instead, in mythology as the possession of gods and goddesses, in legends as objects sought by heroes, and in history and archeology as cooking pots. Cauldrons were used at communal feasts, such as Samhain. In Celtic culture, cauldrons symbolize abundance, knowledge and mystery, feminine power, and rebirth.
5) Ghosts: a tenet of Celtic spirituality is the belief in the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. After people die, their souls go to the Otherworld. But they can return to the land of the living. In fact, they are expected to return on Samhain, the time when the veil between this world and the other is so thin that anyone can cross back and forth between the two. On Samhain, families make extra food and set a place at the table to welcome back the ancestors. Also, folklore says that those who’ve died over the past year will return to complete any unfinished business.
6) Autumn Fruits, Veggies, and Grains: Samhain is a harvest festival, so be sure to include items like apples, squashes, and wheat shafts in your Halloween décor.
7) Crystals and Tarot Cards: Divination games were a part of the Samhain celebration so they will fit right in at an All Hallows’ Eve celebration.
So how can you have fun if you’re stuck in the house? Here are a few ideas:
1) Have a Trick-or-Treat Hunt: This is one for the kids (but parents will enjoy it too!) Take a number of small baggies and put candy and other goodies in some, plastic spiders, skeleton rings, and similar items in others. Wrap the contents of each baggie in a napkin. Then hide the baggies throughout the house. On Halloween night, send the kids to search for them. As they unwrap the napkins, they’ll discover if they gotten a treat or a trick!
2) Faerie Costume Contest: Ghosts aren’t the only ones who cross over from the Otherworld on Samhain. Faeries do too. Ancient Celts disguised themselves to blend in (and keep from being found by a returning spirit with a grudge). So have a costume contest with a Samhain flair. Challenge everyone to design their best Celtic faerie costume. Some possible characters are: a banshee, a cailleach , a clurichaun, or the Dullahan. Read my posts “Irish Faeries: They’re No Disney Princesses,” “Irish Faeries, Part 2,” and “Expanding the Enchanted Forest” for ideas.
3) Divination Games: Samhain is a time of powerful magic and the Celts used that energy to get a glimpse of the future. Some just-for-fun games can be found online, for example in the “Harvest Games” section of the blog post “Historical Halloween Games and Spells” on www.interrobangtarot.com. I would recommend playing the folk games and steering clear of spells since it is Halloween and you never know what power you might be tapping into. Just saying.
4) Storytelling: Celts are expert storytellers so go for it! Lower the lights and have a good old-fashioned spooky tale session. If you need some inspiration, check out my post “Spooky Tales for a Celtic Halloween.”
5) The Family That Bakes Together, Eats Together: Play and bond by baking and decorating Halloween-themed sugar cookies or building an edible skeleton from veggies.
What’s a party without food? A group of hungry, grumpy people! Here are some food and drink ideas to keep spirits soaring at your Celtic Halloween party. Just click the name of the dish to get the recipe.
1) Vegetable Skeleton Tray: a bit of a project but a fun way to bond with housemates.
2) Pumpkin Cheese Balls: decorative, easy to make, and yummy!
3) Cauldron Dip: A squash bowl, basil dip, and veggie fire.
1) Jack O’ Lantern Stuffed Peppers: easier to carve than pumpkins!
2) Monster Eye Pizzas with Pesto Slime: the name tells it all.
3) Autumn Bisque: a hearty, creamy soup that’s dairy-free!
1) Rachael Ray’s Halloween Ghoul-ash: delicious ground beef that can be poured over pasta, potatoes, or rice.
2) Chicken and Sweet Potato Jack O’ Lantern Pie: A taste of autumn.
3) Slow Cooker Red Wine Beef Stew: If you’d prefer to spend your time decorating, playing, and eating rather than cooking, here’s a make-it-and-forget-it, one-pot meal.
1) Mac O’ Lantern & Cheese Bowls: a non-meat version of stuffed peppers.
2) Pumpkin Cannelloni with Sage Brown Butter Sauce: Elegant, satisfying, and entirely meat free.
1) Caramel Apple Snickers Cake: a cool looking, crave-worthy dessert
2) Ghost in the Graveyard: easy to make, fun to decorate
3) Ridiculously Easy Blueberry Crumble: if you like blueberries, eat them now. After Samhain, the Puca spits on them and ruins them!
1) Poison Apple Punch: a flame-orange drink with warm spices and gummy worms. Alcohol optional.
2) Bubbling Cauldron Punch: green, slimy, and limey-good. Alcohol optional.
3) Haunted Graveyard Cocktail: an adult beverage garnished with a spooky sprig of smoking rosemary.
If you’d rather have a quiet night than an at-home party, still do something fun this Halloween. With all we’ve been through this 2020, we need something to celebrate.
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Slan go foil!
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