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Living in Season Newsletter

Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 1, number 17
October 31, All Hallow's Eves


  • Welcome
  • Update: Beliefnet Article
  • November Calendar
  • Living in Season: Traditional Foods for Halloween
  • From the Library: Books on the History of Halloween
  • Current Offerings: Halloween Packet
  • Current Offerings: Winter Correspondence Course
  • Copyright
  • Subscribe - Unsubscribe

Welcome to my periodical newsletter featuring ideas for bringing the beauty of the current season into your life. And a special welcome to the many new subscribers from Beliefnet. Please forward this newsletter if you enjoy it.

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I was honored when Beliefnet asked me to write the lead article on Halloween for their website. It was hard to compress everything I know and wanted to say into a suitably short essay. I ended up focusing on the way this seasonal holiday invites us to appreciate the death part of the cycle of life. You can read my article at: www.beliefnet.com

Meanwhile as I write this dark is falling on All Hallow's Eve. I plan to spend a quiet evening at home carving my pumpkin, setting up my Days of the Dead altar and lighting a candle in each window at midnight to invite the spirits of my beloved dead to visit. As I wander from room to room, checking on the candles, I look forward to their company, which usually surrounds me with warmth, like the soft fluttering of the wings of doves.

November Calendar Up!
The November calendar is now updated for 2003. It features ideas for celebrating Guy Fawkes, Martinmas, St. Catherine's Day, the Dead Dance, Advent and many other holidays.

Living in Season: Traditional Foods of Halloween
My Halloween packet contains many recipes for traditional Halloween foods including Bread of the Dead, Sugar Skulls and Soul Cakes, but I found some new recipes that I haven't had a chance to add to the packet so I thought I'd include them here.

Colcannon is traditionally eaten in Ireland on Halloween Night. This recipe comes from Theodora Fitzgibbon's book of traditional Irish foods:

1 lb kale (or cabbage), cooked
1 lb potatoes, cooked
2 small leeks or green onion tops
1 cup milk or cream
4 oz (1/2 cup) butter
salt, pepper and a pinch of mace

Cook the kale or cabbage, let it cool a bit and chop it up while the potatoes are cooking. Chop up the leeks (or onion tops) and simmer them in the milk (or cream) until soft. Drain the potatoes, season and beat them well. Return them to a pot and add the cooked leeks and milk. Then blend in the kale, beating until it is a pale green fluff, over a low flame. Transfer to a dish, make a well in the center and fill it with melted butter. Leftovers can be fried in hot bacon fat until crisp and brown on both sides.

Potatoes (perhaps because they come from under the ground or maybe just because they're harvested at this season) feature in many Halloween recipes. Corsicans eat Sciacce, small pies filled with cooked mashed potato seasoned with garlic, tomato sauce and grated cheese, bound with beaten egg on All Saints Day.

Sicilian children receive gifts of marzipan fruit from the ghosts of their ancestors during the Night of All Souls (Nov 1/2). This marizipan recipe come from Mary Taylor Simetti's book on classic Sicilian recipes co-authored with Maria Grammatico, who learned the art of pastry making in a convent.

Measure out 2 cups of granulated sugar. Grind 2 cups of whole blanched almonds with 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a food processor, until fine, almost powdery. Add the rest of the sugar, 1/3 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla (plus a teaspoon of almond extract if you want a stronger almond flavor) and blend until you have a very smooth paste. Knead on a marble slab or other cold work surface dusted with confectioners sugar. You can wrap the paste in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

When ready to make the fruit, dust your hands and a marble slab (or other cool work surface) with cornstarch and a pinch of cinnamon. Take a small piece of the marzipan, knead it briefly and shape it. To color the marzipan, set aside fruit you intend to color pink or white (watermelon slices, strawberries, etc.) and "paint" the rest with a base coat of yellow food color, diluted with water until very pale. Dry for at least 4 hours or overnight. Mix the food colors in saucers to achieve different colors. Start light and apply the darkest colors last. For a natural effect, remember that no fruit is all one color. A tomato often has green near the stem; for an apple overlay green with red and/or yellow. For spots or speckles, dip a toothbrush in brown food coloring, hold it close to the fruit and run your finger over the bristles. To make peaches and apricots look fuzzy, rub them with a bit of cotton dipped in cornstarch.

Another Marzipan Recipe
This unusual recipe from Festive Foods of Spain, features both potatoes and almonds:

1 3/4 cups (200 grams) ground almonds
2-1/2 oz (75g) cooked mashed potato
grated rind of 1 small lemon
7 oz (200g) sugar
cinnamon [optional]

3 T (40 ml) cornstarch
1 egg white, slightly beaten
3-1/2 oz (100g) pine nuts OR
2 oz (55g) desiccated coconut OR
chopped almonds

Mix together the almonds, potatoes and lemon rind. Gradually add the sugar, (and cinnamon if desired) kneading well with each addition. Divide the paste in two, then divide each half into 12 small balls. Roll the balls in the cornstarch, then in beaten egg white, then in either pine nuts or coconut or chopped almonds. You can also brush the balls with egg yolk for extra color. Place on a baking tray covered with baking parchment or greased and floured. Bake for about 15 minutes in a preheated oven at around 450 F (250 C) until the coating is browned. Let cool before eating.

Butcher, Nicholas, Festive Food of Spain, Trafalgar Square 1994
Fitzgibbon, Theodora,
Irish Traditional Food, St Martins 1983
Grammatico, Maria & Mary Taylor Simetti,
Bitter Almonds, William Morrow 1994

In the Library: History of Halloween
Of course, I had to go out and read all the books I could find on the history of Halloween before writing my article for Beliefnet. I went to the University of Washington's library because all the Halloween books were checked out of my local library. I didn't find Marian McNeill's Hallowe'en: Its Origins, Rites and Ceremonies in the Scottish Tradition, although I know I've read it since that's where I got the instructions on making a turnip lantern. Here are the books I did find:

Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween
by David J. Skal, Bloomsbury 2002.
I really enjoyed this book because it was easy to read. Skal uses stories to look at different Halloween customs, from its ancient beginnings through contemporary manifestations in films, street parades and costume parties. For instance, he tells the chilling story of the man who poisoned his own son on Halloween (for the insurance money) to discuss the urban myth of poisoned candy and razor blades in apples.

Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night by Nicholas Rogers, Oxford University Press 2002.
Very similar to the above. Straightforward, somewhat dry account from a historian.

Digging the Days of the Dead: A Reading of Mexico's Dias de Muertos, Juanita Garciagodoy, University Press of Colorado
I have only skimmed the surface of this fascinating and comprehensive look at Days of the Dead customs in Mexico, written by an anthropologist (therefore somewhat academic in tone). At the end, he describes the pleasure of creating his own ofrenda and asks "Why not revive a festival of liberality — gathering beloved spirits, thanking them for their positive influence on our life, living in their memory for days or weeks or months, recognizing the preciousness of life, and nurturing our relationships with the living in the awareness that we will all be joining the dead?"

Mexico: The Day of the Dead, edited by Chloe Sayer, Redstone Press 1990.
This has been my favorite source of information for many years. It's a boxed set containing a book of essays, poems and photographs, plus a tin skeleton, a poster and a posada.

Current Offerings: Halloween Packet
Contains my comprehensive look at the way Halloween is celebrated in many different cultures, including Samhain, Martinmas, Guy Fawkes, I Morti and Dias de Muertos. This illustrated, 40+ page portfolio includes:

A panoramic review of how Days of the Dead has been celebrated, including Guy Fawkes, I Morti, All Souls, Samhain & Martinmas

  • How this holiday evolved-a history of our alienation from the ancestors
  • The last of the autumnal transformation mysteries: making cider
  • Divinations for this particular crack between the worlds
  • Recipes for traditional foods like dead man's bones, sugar skulls, bread of the dead and soul cakes
  • Instructions for making skulls, masks and turnip lanterns
  • And much more.

$9 plus $2 shipping and handling. Please allow ten days for delivery. An email version is also available for $8. It will be sent as an attached Word file within three days of receiving your order. You can order through our store.

Current Offerings: Winter Correspondence Course
In the School of the Seasons, winter is rapidly approaching, since I use the old British reckoning of the seasons in which winter begins on November 1st, with Samhain. If you're interested in signing up for the Winter correspondence course, order now to get your materials before Winter begins. Visit our Store to order.

Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2003.
All rights reserved. You may reprint material from Living in Season in other electronic or print publications as long as you credit me and provide a link to: http://www.schooloftheseasons.com. Please send me a copy of the publication.

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