As a child I treasured a sepia tinted postcard decorated with fantastical beasts and the following verse:
“From Ghoulies and Ghosties and Long Leggetty Beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord deliver us”.
It was framed by well worn, walnut brown leather and protected me from childhood nightmares right up until I left home. I found out later that my mum had bought the card as a souvenir whilst on holiday in the West Country. This makes sense, as you can just make out the faint subtitle, “An old Cornish Litany” printed on the back.
From “The Verry Folk” of Welsh ghost stories to the hulking Loch Ness monster, the United Kingdom is enriched with layers of legends and folklore, in some cases centuries old.
Halloween was, as children growing up in England in the 1970s, a brilliant combination of “jump scares”, old school, sugar laden party food and DIY fancy dress. Our rudimentary outfits were white sheets accessorised with fake blood splatters. Red food colouring did the job nicely.
According to Rose Eve Loth, writing for the Smithsonian Magazine on October 29th 2021, this Halloween penchant for ghoulish costumes began, “…with a Celtic tradition. It celebrated the end of the year by dressing up as evil spirits… the Celts believed… as we move from one year to the next the dead and the living would overlap. Demons would roam the earth again. Dressing up as demons was a defense mechanism… If you were dressed up they would think you were one of them”.
Our DIY spooky fancy dress celebrations had innocence about them until one year we woke to discover that our drive way gates had gone missing. This was our first introduction to trick or treating. Living in a spooky looking Old Vicarage, we had unwittingly become the ultimate trick or treating destination for local dare devils. I can remember my dad tut- tutting as he re hung the gates (which had been deposited in a neighbour’s hedge) about “imported American consumerist nonsense”. There was definitely a sense, in our sleepy village, that trick or treating was some how a corruption of our simpler, English Halloween celebrations.
However, there is evidence that trick or treating actually began here in England in the middle ages. “People began dressing as ghosts, demons and other malevolent creatures, performing antics in exchange for food and drink. This custom, known as mumming, dates back to the Middle Ages and is thought to be an antecedent of trick-or-treating”. This is according to the informative www.history.co.uk website.
I think my dad did have a valid point though; namely that the consumerism surrounding trick or treating that was emerging in the UK in the early 1980s was definitely a US import. Mass produced Halloween outfits, including wigs and masks were often based on characters from TV and film. These began to replace our home made efforts. Sweet manufacturers such as Hersheys in the States began to produce Halloween themed goodies specifically for trick or treating.
Call me a nostalgic dinosaur, but I do look back fondly on those simpler times – when you could cobble together some friends, pitch a tent in the garden and spook yourselves out with tall tales of ghosts, gremlins and ghouls. Best of all (for me at least) would be the home made treats mum would bring out to us. Toffee apples, pigs in blankets, mini jacket potatoes and buttery squares of flapjack dipped in chocolate would be deposited outside our tent on a tray.
Inevitably each year we would pledge to last the whole night camped outside in our old army tent… but by midnight inside we’d all scamper indoors after having retold our favourite story of “the lady in white.”
If you fancy some nostalgic, old fashioned treats this Halloween check out our gorgeously gooey trio of autumnal tray bakes available this autumn…
We’ve used seasonal fruit and spice as our inspiration for our ridiculously moreish Apple Crumble Bar which has a hint of cinnamon and lemon. This beauty is vegan, gluten & dairy free and soy free.
Or for a full on chocolatey treat- our salted caramel brownie should keep the little spooksters happy. Our vegan and wheat free brownie is smothered in our home made plant based caramel.
Finally we present our brand new gluten free Cinnamon Slice. This cleverly layered slice is bursting with flavour and texture. The cinnamon filling is made by us from dates, almond butter and date syrup a top nutty polenta shortbread. The sponge top layer is flavoured with cinnamon and raisins. Enjoy this very special slice whilst snuggled up with a latte or hot chocolate. Perfect cakes for snugly, hygge afternoons by the fire.
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You might also be interested in our quick and easy gluten free and vegan brownie recipe.