For weeks, as many of you may have noticed, the infamous images of Jack O Lantern, symbol of the Halloween party in Anglo-Saxon countries, have stood out on the entrances of the buildings. The writer, before moving to Asia, had always lived in hectic Milan where the night of October 31st is none other than the one that precedes the Feast of All Saints, the day in which Catholic Christians celebrate the all saints. For Italians, in fact, it is not common to celebrate Halloween but, after all, we say "country you go, custom you find". So let's see how this celebration was born and what are the countless connected legends.
The word is said to originate from the Scottish variant All Hallows' Eve which means "Night of all Saints" although some historians claim that its roots lie in the story of the character of Jack O Lantern, condemned by the Devil to wander the world at night with the only light of a candle contained in a hollowed out pumpkin. But who was this character?
As with any tradition, there are many versions of Jack's story even if the one we tell you, perhaps the most accredited, is that he was a cunning blacksmith but with a habit of drinking. Although he had mocked the Devil several times who had promised him not to damn him in hell, he is rejected by Heaven because of his countless sins, finding himself, again, face to face with Lucifer who, very happy to let him wander for eternity , throws him a burning ember that Jack places inside a turnip, thus starting to wander without respite.
But how is this night celebrated? What are the customs, typical sweets and dishes inherited from tradition?
Of course the protagonists of this day are the sweets, the treats of the nursery rhyme "trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat" that the little ones try desperately from door to door in memory of the medieval custom in which poor people, in exchange for prayers in commemoration of their dead, asked for food.
But let's see together, with the approach of lunchtime, which are the typical dishes of some countries. In Ireland they celebrate with the typical Colcannon, a mix of potatoes, cabbage and onions cooked with butter and milk that accompanies the main courses of meat and with the curious ritual of the Barmbrack, a rather strange custom in which, inside a bread sweet they insert a pea, a wooden stick, a small piece of cloth and a coin. Depending on who finds one or the other "intruder", more or less unfortunate consequences are expected such as an unhappy marriage for the "troubadour" of the stick, or the classic economic problem for those who will chew the piece of cloth. Luck, however, for the one who draws the coin ... of course!
In the States we find something simpler like the famous pumpkin pie (which we like in every season!), candied apples and soul cake, the dessert that was traditionally offered to beggars in antiquity and which contains the typical aromas of autumn: cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
And the "belpaese"? As always, each region has its own typical dessert even in this period. From north to south, therefore, we find preparations basically based on flour, eggs and sugar and, sometimes, almonds. The most famous are the fava beans of the deads (fave dei morti), white biscuits that refer to the Roman custom of offering this legume to the gods of the underworld. Equally famous are the bones of the dead (ossa dei morti) which, from Piedmont to Sicily, vary in texture and aroma. In Lombardy we have the bread of the dead (pane dei morti) with raisins, crumbled biscuits, dried figs and cinnamon. Puglia has the Colva, a dessert made from cooked wheat, grapes, dried figs and dried fruit and in Sicily we find the sugar puppets (Pupi di zucchero), figurines of sugar, flour, egg white and clove water.
But what would an anniversary be without a series of parties where one can have fun and be late? Covid, alas, has cooled the souls of the enjoyers from all over the world a little, but Hong Kong does not give up and offers various alternatives including the "Money Heist" themed party and woe to those who do not wear the Dali mask! There will be, however, for thrill-seekers (!) who do not suffer from seasickness, the bewitched cruise by Aqua Luna or the classic free flow by Honi Honi that they always like.
In short, times change, traditions remain and we will see you next week with a new appointment ... by the way: is there a topic that you would like us to talk about? Tell us!!! #followus #stayconnected