Once again has come the night of tricks and treats and eerie apparitions. This is the night when masked and costumed creatures roam the streets, their devilry appeased only with heaps of sugary goodies. Many of us have taken part in Halloween, but the traditions in Newfoundland and Labrador surrounding it have changed considerably over the years. Here's a look at where it all started and how Halloween has been celebrated in this province.
Halloween customs originate from a Celtic harvest festival called Samhain (pronounced Sow-in), meaning summer’s end. For the Celtic people, October 31 marked the end of the harvest and beginning of winter. On this night the veil separating the worlds of the dead and living was said to become so thin that spirits could cross and harass the living. To hide their identity from these ghosts, the Celts disguised themselves in animal skins. To appease the ghosts, they left food outside their homes.
|"Cauld Cannon will be Served"|
The Evening Telegram, October 24, 1895.
|"The Blue Puttee Celebrate Halloween"|
|An excerpt about Halloween pranks.|
The Twillingate Sun, November 12, 1940.
There are several Halloween customs in Newfoundland and Labrador and this annual celebration has gone by many names, such as Snap-apple Night, Colcannon Night, or the Eve of All Saints' Day. The days just before Halloween (and sometimes after) are called Mischief Week and in some areas the antics were resigned to one evening called Mischief Night. Children traditionally believed that there were certain kinds of mischief allowed at that time, such as removing and switching gates and soaping windows. Most of this was harmless fun and tolerated by adults, except when your gate went missing and ran the risk of becoming bonfire fuel! (see above)
|The Evening Telegram, November 02, 1900.|
Halloween was also once known as Snap-apple Night in Newfoundland. This name simply referred to the tradition of bobbing for apples as part of the festivities. Due to the nature of the game, where a number of individuals each place their entire head into a bowl of water, it is thought to be a somewhat unsanitary and has fallen out of favour over the years.
The Evening Telegram, November 02, 1922
Another tradition in Newfoundland and Labrador associated with Halloween is the serving of colcannon, which means "white-headed cabbage". At one time, Colcannon Night was synonymous with Halloween in many parts of the province. An old Irish Halloween tradition, colcannon is a dish consisting of mashed potatoes with cabbage and/or kale. The Newfoundland colcannon tastes quite different from the Irish version and is often a mixture or hash of boiled vegetables such as potatoes, turnip and cabbage with butter to taste.
The Evening Telegram, October 28, 1922
Four objects were traditionally hidden in the large dish of colcannon served on Halloween: a ring, a coin, a thimble and a button. As the tradition goes, whoever finds the ring will marry soon and whoever finds the coin will become rich. Sadly, the person who finds the button and thimble will remain single forever. In some variations finding the button signifies marriage for a girl, instead of a life of spinsterhood.
|"Turnip Scooping Competition"|
The Evening Telegram, October 29, 1 908
|"Halloween Themed Political Cartoon"|
The Evening Telegram, October 31, 1919
Interestingly, it was once tradition in Newfoundland to carve turnips for Halloween rather than pumpkins, a carry over from Celtic tradition. Pumpkins carved as jack-o-lanterns would not have been part of traditional Halloween festivals in Celtic Europe, since pumpkins are New World plants. Large turnips were hollowed out, carved with faces and placed in windows to ward off evil spirits.
|"Fairies, Cowboys, Clowns and Witches"|
The Twillingate Sun, November 01, 1952
|"Exorcism in Bristol, England and Halloween Curses"|
The Twillingate Sun, March 24, 1950
|" A Halloween Centerpiece"|
The St. John's Daily Star, December 04, 1920
Happy Halloween from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Office!