Saturday, 3 November 2012

Samhain for children

Once upon a time in the Celtic lands the nights became longer, colder  and  the leaves began to fall. The harvest season was ending and the winter was creeping in. The beginning of the dark season meant the door to the Otherworld would be open allowing fairies and  the souls of the dead and other spooky beings to pass into our world.
The people lit huge bonfires  and celebrated the dead with a huge festival called Samhain.  They had huge feasts and beckoned the souls of their dead relatives to celebrate with them.
Today we celebrate this time of year with Halloween but all  the things we like to do on Halloween today all evolved from  the Samhain festival that happened lots and lots of years ago.

Carving Jack O Lanterns 

During Samhain the people were frightened of the nasty evil spirits and fairies that passed through the door from the otherside. They did lots of things to protect themselves.
They made lanterns and carved scary faces into turnips and placed them in their windows to protect their homes.
Years later some of the people traveled by boat to North America (which was far far away) and passed the tradition of carving lanterns to the Americans. Turnips were really hard to find in the new lands so Pumpkins were used instead. They found that pumpkins were a lot easier to carve and made better lanterns.

We had a go at carving a turnip. It was really tricky.

Trick or treating

During Samhain the people  left food and drink out as a peace offering to the spirits, fairies, and creatures from the otherside to try stop them from becoming angry.  Over the centuries people started getting dressed up like the dreadful creatures and performing in exchange for food and drink. People started making Soul cakes which were used as a offering for the dead and were given to children and poor people who went door to door singing songs and saying a prayer for the dead. When a soul cake was eaten it represented a soul of  the dead being freed. 

We had a go at making our own soul cakes and sang a song that was traditionally sang in exchange for them.

Soul Cake Recipe 

340g plain flour
170g sugar
170g butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp  mixed spice
pinch nutmeg
1 egg beaten
2 tsp white wine vinegar

Mix all the dry ingredients.

 Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs

Add the egg and white wine vinegar and knead until soft.

Cover and put into fridge for 20 mins.
Preheat the oven to 200 °C Roll the dough out until it is around  7mm thick and cut into rounds.

Draw a cross shape on the top of the dough

Place on a greased baking tray and bake 15 - 20 mins

Cool for a few minutes and enjoy. We all found them very yummy.

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