Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.
This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.
When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
5th Century B.C. – Celts observe the festival of Samhain at the end of October, when they believe ghosts and demons roam the earth more so than at other times.
43 A.D – The Romans conquer the Celts and adopt the spiritual rituals of Samhain combined with Roman festivals Feralia & Pomona
609 A.D. – dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honour of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1.
1000 A.D. – 2nd November is designated as All Souls’ Day to commemorate the dead. It’s widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related church-sanctioned holiday.
All Souls Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-Hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.
Irish emigrants took the Halloween custom with them to the United States, and over time, combined with similar customs of emigrants from Britain and Germany, as well as Africa and other parts of the world, the custom has slowly spread to other countries.
Some Halloween Customs & Symbols Origins
Vampires, Werewolves, Witches, Zombies: These creatures have long been associated with the evil spirit world.
Candy: The ancient Celts tried to appease wicked spirits with sweets. The church later encouraged celebrants to go from house to house on All Hallows’ Eve, asking for food in return for a prayer for the dead. This custom eventually became Halloween’s trick or treat.
Costumes: The Celts wore frightening masks so that evil spirits would mistakenly think the wearers were spirits and would leave them alone. The church gradually amalgamated pagan customs with the feasts of All Souls and All Saints. Later, celebrants went from house to house wearing costumes of saints, angels, and devils.
Pumpkins: Carved, candlelit turnips were displayed to repel evil spirits. To some, the candle in the turnip represented a soul trapped in purgatory. Later, carved pumpkins were more commonly used.
Cheesy Pretzel Broomsticks
Put some savoury in your Halloween platter this year with these cheesy pretzel broomstick snacks. Wonderfully witchy and surprisingly more-ish, they’ll fly off your Halloween table before you can say, “Trick or treat”!
- 12 x stick pretzels
- 6 x cheese slices (the processed kind)
- 3 x shallots
- Cut each cheese slice in half and cut the fringes of the broom using a small sharp knife.
- Wind the fringed cheese slice around the end of a pretzel with the fringes facing down.
- Slice the soft green end of a shallot into thin 2mm strips about 10cm long.
- Use the shallot strip to secure the cheese to the pretzel.
- You could also use chives to secure the cheese to the pretzel.
This hyper-green smoothie is not only a perfect drink for Halloween, it’s packed with healthy fruit and veggies!
- 1 cup baby spinach (packaged)
- 1 cup watermelon (diced)
- 1/2 lemon (juiced)
- 1/3 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup frozen mango (pieces)
- 1/4 cup fresh mint (loosely packed)
- Place the ingredients into a blender and blend on a high speed until bright green and liquefied.
Halloween Eyeball Cupcakes
These Halloween eyeball cupcakes are fun to make and kids will love them. Use them as a feature at your next creepy Halloween celebration.
- 1 Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup jam
- 1 pkt white fondant icing
- icing sugar or icing mixture, for dusting
- green Lifesavers
- red writing icing
- Preheat oven to 160°C fan forced. Line a 12-cup muffin tray with red patty pans and set aside.
- Using a mixer, combine the cake mix and eggs; gradually add the oil and water. When all ingredients are combined, mix on high for 3 minutes.
- Using a 1/3 cup measure, fill the patty pans and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the centre springs back when touched. Leave to cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Take out of pans and leave to cool on a wire rack.
- Remove the fondant from all of its packaging and microwave for 20 seconds to make pliable. Knead and roll out flat. You may need some icing sugar or icing mixture to ensure the fondant doesn’t stick to the bench and rolling pin.
- Use a round cutter to cut circles large enough to cover the tops of the cupcakes.
- Heat the jam for 1 minute in the microwave. Brush the tops of each cupcake with the jam. Place the cut-out fondant round on top of each cupcake and smooth down.
- Place a small piece of licorice in the centre of each Lifesaver to create a pupil. Use a dab of writing icing on the underside of Lifesaver to stick onto the centre of each cupcake.
- Use the red writing icing to draw on the squiggles that make the bloodshot parts of the eyes.
- Do not fear the fondant! Consider it play dough for grown ups 😉
- Fill the cupcakes almost to the top so they mushroom over the edge like a muffin.
- There are 3 green Lifesavers per packet, so you would need 4 packets so that all 12 cupcakes have green irises.
Want a spooky cupcake to liven up your Halloween table? These Tombstone cupcakes are easy-peasy and you will be able to get these on a plate quick smart!
- 1/2 cup (125g) butter, room temp
- 3/4 cup (170g) caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup (125ml) milk
- 1 1/2 cups (225g) self-raising flour
- To decorate:Chocolate icing
- black writing icing
- Honey Jumbles
- plastic skeleton arms (from discount shop)
- Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced).
- Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla essence. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Add milk and self-raising flour. Mix until just combined.
- Spoon into patty cases and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden. Cool on wire racks.
- Ice cupcakes with chocolate icing, sprinkle with Milo. Write R.I.P in black writing icing on Honey Jumbles. Insert Honey Jumbles into the cupcakes. Cut plastic arms from skeletons and insert into the cupcakes.
- The biscuits that we used for the tombstones are called Honey Jumbles but if you can’t find these in the supermarket you can use sponge fingers like the ones you use for Tiramisu.
- If you are really in a hurry you can cheat and buy store-bought frosting.
These spider cookies are so tasty, who knows how many will crawl into your mouth before making it onto the plate 😉
- 125 g unsalted butter (softened)
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 1 3/4 cup plain flour (sifted)
- 1/2 tsp McKenzie’s Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp McKenzie’s Bi-Carb Soda
- 1 cup milk chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup McKenzie’s Moist Flakes Coconut
- 40 Maltesers
- 200 g dark chocolate
- 40 candy eyeballs
- Preheat oven to 180C. Line oven trays with baking paper.
- Beat butter, sugar, egg and vanilla essence in a bowl with an electric mixer until combined.
- Slowly stir in sifted flour, baking powder and bi-carb. Add milk chocolate chips and coconut flakes.
- Place 1 tablespoon dollops of mixture onto the trays, each 5cm apart.
- Bake cookies for approx. 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool on trays.
- Use a bit of melted chocolate to glue on two Malteasers per cookie to form the spider’s body.
- Using a piping bag, create four lines of melted chocolate on each side of cookie to form the spider’s legs.
- Stick on candy eyeballs with remaining melted chocolate.
Halloween Severed Fingers
These ghoulish severed finger biscuits will have your guests shaking their heads until they actually taste them. It turns out that severed fingers are delicious!
- 100g almond flakes
- 2 tbsp pillar-box red food colouring
- 125g butter, softened
- 1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
- ½ cup icing sugar, sifted
- 5 tbsp caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 2/3 cups plain flour
- Place 24 fingernail-shaped almond flakes into a small bowl and pour over the food colouring. Leave to soak while you make the biscuit dough.
- To make the biscuit dough, using a mixer, cream the butter and eggs until combined. Beat in the icing sugar, caster sugar, vanilla and salt and mix until smooth and creamy (about 2 minutes).
- Still using the mixer, add the flour and mix until just combined. Form the dough into 2 disks and cover in cling film. Refrigerate for 20 mins.
- Preheat oven to 180°C or 160°C fan-forced. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper and set aside. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll 12 finger shapes from each disk. Use a sharp knife to cut knuckle ridges into the dough and pinch together for knuckles.
- Place an almond fingernail on each fingertip. Bake for 12 minutes.
- Remove from oven and dip each finger end into the food colouring.
- These biscuits are firm on the outside and soft on the inside – serve them up in a little black pot to resemble a witch’s cauldron or just put them all in a large, clear airtight jar so it looks like you have a big jar of chopped fingers.
- Use tweezers to get the almond flakes out of the food colouring and just apply some pressure to the centre after laying them on top. They became very firmly attached during baking.
Halloween Mummy Sausages
These chipolatas are wrapped in pastry bandages to make them spooky in a very cute, yummy way.
- 24 chipolata pork sausage
- 4 sheet puff pastry
- 3 tbs American mustard
- 1 egg (lightly beaten)
- Preheat the oven to 220˚C.
- Cook the chipolatas in a pan until they are lightly browned. Set them aside to cool.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the pastry into 1cm strips. Wrap the strips around each chipolata to resemble bandages. Leave a gap at one end to create the face. Repeat with all 24 sausages and place on an oven tray.
- Brush the mummies with a little bit of beaten egg and put in the oven for 12 – 15 minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden.
- Finish the mummies off with two eyes made of American mustard.
- Make sure the cooked chipolatas are cooled before you wrap them in the pastry. If the pastry warms up too much it won’t puff in the oven.
- Serve these mummies with mustard and tomato sauce.
- You can also use cocktail frankfurts to create these but don’t cook them for too long as they tend to ‘explode’ when they get too hot.
This spooky no-bake cheesecake laced with a chocolate spiderweb is the perfect centre-piece for your Halloween party table.
- 1 kg cream cheese (softened)
- 250 g chocolate ripple biscuits (crushed)
- 185 g butter (melted)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 1/2 cup caster sugar
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 375 ml thickened cream (whipped)
- 12 g gelatine powder
- 60 g dark chocolate melts
- 1/4 cup cream
- Line a 25cm springform tin with baking paper.
- Put the crushed biscuits, melted butter and sea salt in a large bowl and mix until well combined.
- Press the mixture over the base and up the sides of the springform tin. Refrigerate while you make the filling.
- To make the filling, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Gradually beat in the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and beat until combined.
- Now add half of the whipped cream, beat until it’s all combined, then add the remaining whipped cream. Basically you are adding the whipped cream in two batches to ensure it all amalgamates properly.
- Dissolve the gelatine in 1/4 cup of boiling water and stir vigorously until the gelatine dissolves. Add the gelatine to the cream cheese mixture and beat to combine.
- Pour the filling into the crust.
- To make the ganache, melt the chocolate and cream together in the microwave in short 30 second bursts, stirring in between.
- Put the ganache into a piping bag with 1mm tip. Starting at the centre of the cake, pipe a spiral over the top, with the lines 1.5cm apart. When that’s done, run a skewer through the ganache, starting in the centre and finishing at the edge of the circle. Do this every 3cm to form a spiderweb (see video).
- Refrigerate overnight and decorate with spiders to serve.
- You can create an edible spider out of jubes and liquorice if you want to.
- The lemon juice in the filling will set this cheesecake overnight but using a sachet of gelatine will ensure your cheesecake sets in time for the party if you can’t wait.
- You can also line the base with a layer of ganache before you add the filling if you’re feeling particularly decadent.
Black Citrus Ice Cream
This vibrant ice cream has a deep black colour and a tangy and sweet lime flavour! Not only does this gloriously and naturally coloured ice cream make the perfect Halloween ice cream, but it also offers benefits as well. This paleo version is dairy-free and egg-free, so it is suitable for many diets.
The secret to black ice cream is activated charcoal, which lends itself well to a gag treat for Halloween, but is also healthy as activated charcoal acts like a mop in your digestive track.
- 3 cups of coconut milk
- The zest of one lime
- ½-¾ cup of freshly squeezed lime juice.
- ⅔ cup of organic cane sugar, or ½ cup of honey
- ¼ cup finely ground activated charcoal
- Add all ingredients into a blender, and blend until smooth.
- Optional: Chill in the refrigerator until cold.
- Pour into ice cream maker and make according to manufacturer’s directions.
- Serve right away as soft serve, or put into a container and place in the freezer.
- Remove from freezer 20 minutes before serving.
- To make a simple vanilla version, leave out the lime juice and lime zest and add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract instead.
- Use lemons instead of limes for a lemonade ice cream.
- Try an orange juice and orange zest for a creamy orange ice cream!
Do not take medication or supplements with activated charcoal, because it can adsorb them. Time them a couple of hours away from taking activated charcoal or consuming drinks or foods that contain them.
Do not take or eat foods or drinks with activated charcoal if you are constipated or have any health condition that slows food through the intestine.
If you serve this to children, you need to keep servings very small!
Read about any side effects of activated charcoal here, and talk to your health care provider about any concerns.
Have FUN trying out the above recipes this Halloween