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How Halloween Treats Differ by Culture: Foods Celebrating All Hallows’ Eve in the U.S. and Europe

Halloween kickoffs the season of holidays and heralds the beginning of fun and excitement as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year soon follow one another. At the onset of October, planning for Halloween parties begin and every party host puts in great efforts to make his or her party as hauntingly thrilling as possible. Planning has to be done on several fronts like sending Halloween invitations, arranging for decorations, deciding activities, games, party menu and costumes and so on. However, before embarking on the planning activities it is necessary to decide your Halloween party theme. All the other factors will be dependent on the theme you have chosen; if the party is for adults then the scary element can be heightened while a party for kids has to be a mix of fun and little amount of fright.

<p>countries around the world.</p>

<p><b>Common Themes of Halloween: Soul Cakes, Light, and the Spirit World</b></p>

<p>Although the specific foods and customs differ across cultures, Halloween represents an important time of year when the food and ceremonies originally reflected the end of the harvest, as well as a keen awareness of hunger, impending winter, and the souls of the dead. Specifically,</p>

<ul>
<li>Sweets, in one form or another, are common, representing sustenance. They may take the form of skulls or other reminders of the dead.</li>
<li>Light–in the form of bonfires or fireworks, or candles placed in pumpkins or (in Scotland) turnips, rutabagas, or potatoes. Lighting the dark symbolizes superstitions about the dead, “crossing over,” and a time when the living and the dead come closest to each other.</li>
</ul>

<p><b>Different Halloween Food and Customs by Country</b></p>

<ul>
<li><b><i>U.S. “Trick or treat.”</i></b> When children say “trick or treat” in America, the treat refers to candy or something sweet. Taffy or candied apples, candy corn, and other candies are traditional Halloween foods in the U.S.</li>
<li><b><i>England’s: “Snap Apple Night.</i></b>” Nicknamed “Nutcracker Night” or “Snap Apple Night,” Halloween in the U.K. is a time when families would sit around the hearth roasting nuts in the fire and eating apples.</li>
<li><b><i>England, Scotland and Italy: Soul Cakes</i>.</b> Each soul cake eaten represents a soul being freed from Purgatory. In England, the term refers to dark fruitcakes flavored with saffron, mixed spices and currants. In Scotland, the soul cakes are flat, round buns of oat flour, known as “Dirge Loaves.” In Italy, cakes are bean-shaped and called “Beans of the Dead.” Also in Italy, biscotti in the form of bones are served on All Soul’s Day.</li>
<li><b><i>Spain: “Bones of the Holy.”</i></b> The Spanish “bread of the dead” (or “Pan de Muerto),” is shaped into skulls or round loaves, with rolled out strips of dough attached to resemble bones. The bread is made with anise seed covered with an orange glaze.</li>
<li><b><i>Portugal: Sugar Cakes</i>.</b> These are cakes made using cinnamon and herb flavoring. In addition, the Portuguese hold feasts of wine and chestnuts at the cemetary.</li>
<li><b><i>Mexico: Favorite Food/ Dia de Los Muertos</i>.</b> The Mexicans celebrate for three days starting with October 31st, during which they make altars for their loved ones who have died-placing candy and the favorite food and drinks of the departed at the graves.</li>
<li><b><i>Ireland: Colcannon</i></b> At one time, Halloween was a day of abstinence from eating meat. Instead, dishes based on potatoes were eaten, such as mash with milk or cream, kale, and leeks or spring onions (called colcannon). Boxty pancakes, fried potato cakes that could be sprinkled with sugar, were also common.</li>
<li><b><i>Czechoslovakia: Cold Milk.</i></b> According to halloweentime.net, the Czechs celebrate Halloween by putting chairs in front of the fire: one for each family member and one for the family member’s spirit. To remember the dead, they drink cold milk (in addition to eating cake), “to cool the souls roasting in Purgatory.”</li>
</ul>

<p>These customs clearly reflect cultural differences in how Halloween is celebrated, and the foods that are used in those celebrations. But what’s also interesting is the degree to which Halloween centers around similar themes relating to the harvest, winter, and the spirit world. Halloween is a time of vulnerability and mystery. And although there are different ways of marking this special time of year, the fears and the attempst to alleviate them, are universal.</p>

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