Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Divination Food

There are several games traditionally associated with Halloween parties, most of which are played as forms of divination. The most well known being apple bobbing, which is called "dooking" in Scotland.  A bunch of apples float in a tub of water and the someone must remove an apple from the basin using only their teeth.  After the person has rubbed their germ filled mouth and drool all over the apples trying to get one, it's the next persons go.  If you put the apple under your pillow you are supposed to dream of your future spouse.  A more hygienic variant involves holding a fork between the teeth and trying to drop the fork into one of the apples.
A traditional Scottish form of divining one's future spouse is to carve an apple in one long strip, then toss the peel over one's shoulder. The peel is believed to land in the shape of the first letter of the future spouse's name.  In the early 1900s a Halloween game that was played involved walnut shells. People would write fortunes in milk on white paper and, when dry, the paper was folded and placed in walnut shells, a bit like a fortune cookie. When the shell was warmed, the milk would turn brown and the writing would appear.
One custom that continues in Ireland is the baking of a barmbrack (often shortened to brack), which is a light bread with raisins and used as a sort of fortune-telling game. Baked into the barnbrack is a ring, a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a small coin (originally a silver sixpence) and a medallion, usually of the Virgin Mary.  Commercially produced barmbracks for Halloween still include a toy ring but not a filthy rag or a dirty stick from they yard.  Each item carried a meaning for the person who received it in their slice.  The pea meant the person would not marry that year; the stick meant an unhappy marriage or constant disputes; the cloth meant bad luck or poverty; the coin meant good fortune or wealth; the ring meant they would be wed within the year; the medallion symbolised going into the priesthood or joining the nuns, however, the medallion is not widely continued today. 
Another similar old Irish Halloween tradition is to serve colcannon with a ring and a thimble hidden in the fluffy green-flecked dish. Prizes of small coins such as threepenny or sixpenny bits were also concealed in it.  Mush like x-mass pudding, there are probably many stories of people finding their coin by choking to death.  Colcannon is a traditional dish that is made from mashed potatoes and kale (or cabbage), with scallions, butter, salt and pepper. Occasionally it contains other ingredients like milk, cream, leeks, onions and chives.
Yet another fortune-telling game involved paper cut out symbols on a platter and some ice.  The paper symbols included: a dollar sign or a penny for wealth, a button for bachelorhood, a thimble for spinsterhood, a clothes pin for poverty, rice or a ring for a wedding, an umbrella for travel, a cauldron for trouble, a 4-leaf clover for good luck, and a key for fame. Someone would enter a dark room and would put their hand on a piece of ice then lay it on the platter and their "fortune" would stick to their hand.

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