October 31, also known as Halloween, is among the most famous festivities in the world. For some, the word “Halloween” conjures mental imagery of horror movies and children walking the streets in costume. But there’s a much tastier side to this holiday’s story….

At EFOODTRAINER we obviously love everything related to gastronomy– and we also know that October 31 has strong cultural ties. As such, today we wanted to share some dishes that are often prepared on the scariest night of the year.

Like we said- Halloween isn’t just about scares and fun—it’s about food and traditions too.  But before we dive into the common foods that are prepared on this holiday, we wanted to talk a bit about where the celebration came from. 

Halloween has been originated in Ireland, not America

Although most people assume that Halloween originated as an American celebration, the holiday was actually born in Ireland. And when Irish immigrants arrived in North America, they brought the tradition with them. 

The tradition of Halloween originated more than 3,000 years ago, when (in the eighth century), Pope Gregory III declared November 1st as All Saints Day (aka- a holiday which would honor the saints.) And, as time progressed, the night before this celebration became known as All Hallows Eve. It was also believed that on October 31, that spirits of the dead could walk in the world of the living.

Not surprisingly, families began to prepare food and serve banquets at the graves of deceased relatives. In some countries, people would place candles in their windows, to help the dead find their way back to the world. And since it was also believed that both good and evil spirits could emerge on this night, some people chose wo wear scary masks as a way to frighten off spirits with bad intentions. 

Now that you know the history of Halloween, are you ready to learn about the types of food that people eat to celebrate it, in various parts of the world?

Ireland

Dish: Colcannon / Photo: VEGATEAM

Since Halloween was born in Ireland, it seemed like a good idea to start by talking about some of the gastronomic traditions that are rooted in country where the holiday was born.

Among the most popular dishes eaten in Ireland is colcannon, which is prepared with a base of cabbage, mashed potatoes, milk, garlic, leeks, butter, salt and pepper. (Fun fact: this dish is also served on  St. Patrick’s Day.)

Other typical Halloween foods include boxty (a type of potato cake),  barmbrack (a type of fruit bread) and soul cakes, which are cookies used to represent souls leaving purgatory on Halloween.

United States

In the United States, the pumpkin is Halloween’s protagonist.

Americans adopted the use of pumpkins from the Celtic tradition—in which people carved faces on the orange gourds to scare away evil beings.

Throughout October, many American dishes, such as soups, breads, and sponge cakes are prepared using pumpkin.

Some restaurants, such as Starbucks,  have adopted special edition foods and/or drinks with that flavor. The most widely known specialty beverage is Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, which is prepared using coffee, vanilla syrup, pumpkin cream foam and spices from that same vegetable. Have you tried it?

Another common Halloween food is the apple. Since the celebration coincides with the end of the fruit harvest, people often use apples in various recipes.  A popular example includes caramel apples, in which whole apples are dipped in caramel and, in some cases, topped with nuts and other types of candies.

Lastly, of course, the most popular foods associated with Halloween are sweets and candies- and many are shaped as monsters, ghosts and spiders. 

England

Dish: Bonfire Toffee / Photo: EMILY ANGLE / BBC FOOD

Similar to the United States, people in England also eat pumpkin-flavored foods during Halloween. The most commonly prepared foods are soups and cakes. 

Another traditional October 31 dish is “bonfire toffee” or “caramel of bonfire”. This dish is made using dark, sweet molasses, and once it’s prepared, it’s very hard, and must be broken into pieces in order to be eaten. 

Apple flavored candy is also quite common. And– speaking of apples … we have to discuss the tradition known as “bobbing for apples.”

To play this game, several apples are floated in a large container of water. The goal of the game, is for the players to take apples from the water, using only their mouths. Whoever collects the most apples, wins.

(In some countries, participants are blindfolded, and “surprises” are added to the water container, such as plastic spiders (and other types of undesirable critters). The goal of this is to make the game more difficult.)

Final thoughts

For now, it’s time for us to wrap up our discussion of traditional Halloween foods that are eaten throughout the world.

If you’re wondering why we left out traditional foods from Spain, Mexico, and other Latin American countries, that’s simple. For this post, we wanted to focus on the gastronomic traditions for Halloween- not for All Saints Day (i.e. Day of the Dead).

Does your country celebrate Halloween, and if so, what food traditions do you have? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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