It’s that time of year to get in touch with your inner ghost, when the Halloween spirit fills the air with spooky little ghouls, goblins and witches trick-or-treat their way through the neighborhood, navigating glimmering jack-o-lanterns, draping cobwebs, errant bats and other haunting decorations.
Second in popularity to Christmas and secular in nature, Halloween originally was referred to as Old Hallows Eve. Celebrated on October 31, the day before All Saints Day, which was created by Christians as an attempt to convert pagans and a day on which Catholics honor all the saints, Halloween has many versions and origins, depending on different cultures throughout the world.
As one of the world’s oldest celebrations dating back to pagan times that honor the dead, Halloween is thought to have originated with the 5th century Celtic Festival of Samhain, marking the New Year on October 31 celebrating the end of the harvest season in preparation for the winter in Gaelic culture.
The ancient Celts, who lived 2000 years ago in an area today known as Ireland, believed that disembodied spirits of those who died during the year roamed the streets and villages at night, would come back and join them, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living.
Steeped in superstition, this holiday was marked with outlandish costume wearing Druids dancing around bonfires warding off evil spirits and roaming ghosts.
One of the main traditions of Halloween originating in Ireland and Britain, trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of "souling," when underprivileged people would go door to door on Hallomas, November 1, receiving pastries made out of bread and currants called ‘soul cakes’ in return for their promise to pray for the dead on All Souls Day, November 2.
Halloween arrived in America in the 1840s when Irish immigrants left because of their country’s potato famine. They brought their customs and rituals of the holiday and by combining traditions with those of the British, Americans began the ‘trick-or- treat’ tradition, shifting from religious to more communal celebrations that helped popularize the celebration nationally.
While there are many versions to Halloween’s origin that grew out of the rituals of the Celtics celebrating the New Year, traditions and rituals vary worldwide. Western festivities typically include trick-or-treat, pumpkin carving and attending costume parties.
With spooky ways to celebrate frightful fun next Wednesday, this spooktacular recipe for Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes will certainly tingle the spine of even the smallest ghost, goblin or witch that can be served either before or after trick-or-treating festivities.
Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes
4 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup corn starch
4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
For the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper cupcake liners. Blend the eggs, oil, sugar, and pumpkin in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and beat until well blended. Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full and bake in preheated oven 15 to 18 minutes, or until center of cupcake springs back when touched.
Cool completely and spread each cupcake with frosting.
For the Frosting:
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
3 tbsp. butter, softened
1 tbsp. orange juice
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp. freshly grated orange peel
1 cup powdered sugar
Beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients and beat until smooth. For added holiday fun, add a few drops of orange food coloring to the frosting.
Add some ghoulish flair by topping each cupcake with colorful sprinkle confetti or Halloween inspired party picks.
Yields about 24 cupcakes