One Dark Spooky Night

Halloween, the second biggest revenue holiday next to Christmas. Children flock to the streets dressed in costumes looking for treats. Superheros, villians, princesses, scary figures, all interested in a little sweet treat as they knock on your door.

Decorations abound in neighborhoods, community events of all kinds pop up offering various alternatives to the traditional door to door. Halloween is a fabulous holiday and one that adults and children alike can get creative and have a lot of fun. There are all kinds of traditions around this holiday, like the jack-o-lanterns we put on our doorsteps, dressing in costume, and going door to door.

images-25I was curious this year to find out more about Halloween and where it came from. How did this holiday begin, why do we go door to door? If you think about it, it seems like a really odd thing to do, dress up and go ‘begging’ for candy. I wanted to know more.

Halloween, also called All Hallow’s Eve, stems from the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain, which is a festival in which they celebrated the end of the harvest season and the first day of winter. It was also believed that this transition between seasons was when the veil between worlds was the thinnest and a bridge to the world of the dead. It was when deceased would come back and wreak havoc such as sickness or damaging crops.¬†Masks and costumes were used during the festival to mimic the evil spirits and appease them, so to protect and leave the community alone.

The tradition of going door to door in costume was first found in medevial times when the practice of ‘souling’ was done. On All Hallow’s Eve poor folks would go door to door receiving food in return for prayers for the dead, therefore protecting people and offering peace to the deceased. Fascinating I thought, instead of candy, it began with people asking for actual food.

images-27The Jack-O-Lantern was one of the most interesting. Based on the Irish folktale of Stingy Jack, who had tricked the Devil into not taking his soul, had nowhere to go when he died. As he had led a sinful life he could not go to Heaven and because he made a deal with the Devil who couldn’t take his soul, he had no place to rest and was left in darkness. Unable to see, the Devil threw him an ember from Hell to light his way. Jack placed the ember in a turnip, his favorite vegetable and wandered the Earth looking for a resting place. The Jack-O-Lantern became a symbol to keep spirits and ghosts away on Samhain.

Traditionally, all these Halloween events took place and originated in Ireland, Scotland and England as early as the 10th century, not reaching North America until 19th century, really taking off in the late 20th. In fact, during World War II, Halloween was toned down quite a bit due to sugar rationing during that time.

HalloweenHow the items given out at the door evolved from food items to candy is a mystery, and I have not been able to find out exactly why this changed. I can only hypothosize that it may have been a cheaper alternative as trick or treaters became more abundant or something along those lines.

Today, many of the Halloween traditions still hold true, though there is a strong trend to reduce the amount of candy and sugar surrounding the holiday and with anything, there is controversy on both sides whether we should or shouldn’t do so. Honestly, I believe it is a personal choice as to what you choose to do and why. Regardless, people still dress up in costumes and enjoy going door to door, parties or other events finding their ways to celebrate and enjoy the holiday.

Stingy Jack

Stingy Jack

Here are some more fun facts I discovered in my research on Halloween:

  • The colors orange and black are associated with Halloween because orange is associated with the Fall Harvest and black with darkness
  • The fear of Halloween is known as Samhainophobia
  • If you see a spider on Halloween it represents the spirit of a loved one that passed away is watching over you
  • It is believed that if you have a Halloween birthday you have a gift of communicating with those that have passed over
  • Cats, spiders and bats are not random symbols, they are associated with witchcraft
  • The pumpkin took over from the turnip for the Jack-O-Lantern when they Irish arrived in America and discovered the orange vegetable in abundance

If you have any fun or interesting facts about the history of Halloween please share them in the comments below!

Halloween Martinis

IMG_4259I am so excited about Halloween this year! For the first time in years I am going to a Halloween party. That’s right, dressing up, going dancing and socializing with other adults. It’s been years since I have done this and though I have always wanted to have more of an adult experience around Halloween, it was often more about the kids, their costumes, their events and trick or treating. So my adult adventure never worked out.

Not that I don’t enjoy hanging with the kids and doing all kinds of activities with them around Halloween. Each year I find fun new Halloween crafts to do, create a Halloween menu for the day (which traditionally includes pumpkin pancakes – yum!), and add more to the decorations we have around the house and outside on the front lawn.

It’s fun, I get very excited (almost as much as I do for Christmas), as do the kids and we spend a good couple of weeks preparing, planning and expanding on our Halloween adventures.


Bat Bites

But I would be lying if I said I am not looking forward to my adult Halloween. There’s just something about no bedtimes to worry about, no other people to be responsible for, and an evening where you can enjoy the company of other adults sans enfants.

So in the spirit of Halloween I started thinking about what I could do to add a little more ‘adult’ to my Halloween. What was out there that could make things a little more interesting? I always enjoy finding some new recipe to make in some kind of fun Halloween shape or theme. Last year I discovered Bat Bites, a cream cheese ball rolled in poppy seeds with tortilla chips for wings. Not only did they look super cool but they were also delicious!

This year I decided to go with some kind of Halloween drinks, some spooky concoction I could whip up in the kitchen. And with my new adventures in trying different martinis I decided there must be some kind of Halloween martini out there and would be the perfect fit! I hopped on Pinterest to see what I could find.

I was not disappointed, I found an abundance of Halloween themed martinis, the question was which one to try? Of course I wanted one that was sugar and dairy free, or one that I could modify easily. Yes I know, but this would just make things simpler and I would feel less gross after (I have really noticed that if I fall off the wagon, even a little bit with that I just feel sick after, my stomach is not happy at all).

I discovered a few and now have a list of martinis to try, such as the Black Widow and Witches Brew. But I did of course feel I should try at least one right away, so that I had something to share with everyone this week, you know to enjoy your adult Halloween this year.

The Poison Apple, a fabulous mixture of apple juice, pomegranite juice, honey and tequila, even a little healthy. Deadly in it’s title, it is also deadly delicious. I made two versions last night. First a virgin martini, omitting the alcohol, so that I could share with my son while we enjoyed our show for the evening. Then the full on version a little later, after he went to bed, you know so I could get a good idea of what it tasted like before I suggested it to all of you.

Both are very good, I love the pomegranite juice, but the one with the alcohol has a definite strength to it. Even if you are not a fan of tequila, you will likely still enjoy it as the juices and the honey sweeten it just enough to make it go down nice and smooth. You can even add in an apple floating in it for effect. Pretty cool.

I am looking forward to trying out those other martinis, though I have to purchase some ingredients first. There were even some recipes with dry ice, which would be super cool to do!

Poison Apple Martini

2 oz. apple juiceIMG_4254

1 oz. pomegranite juice

2 oz. tequlia

1 tsp. honey

Fill martini shaker with ice. Mix ingredients together in shaker. Shake well, pour into chilled martini glass and enjoy!

What’s your favorite Halloween drink?


Halloween Joy

Halloween is almost upon us and as parents we get excited about what to dress the little ones up in. The euphoria of the older kids who know what it’s all about eagerly pick out or make their costumes, anticipating the candy rush that is to follow an evening of going door to door. But the little ones, say 3 and under, have no idea what is going on and could probably care less.

Yet we as parents are so excited to get the little ones into a costume cause honestly it is so cute! We can’t wait to get the perfect picture and share it with all our family and friends. Yet many a time we have a picture like this – where the child is crying cause they are so unhappy about this costume thing, whether they are too warm, squished into it, or just don’t like the idea. And we tend to look at the picture and go “Oh poor little guy!” and then gush about how cute the costume is.

You know sometimes we say “The things we do for our kids” but sometimes we should consider the things they do for us ūüôā ha ha


A Horribly Healthy Halloween – Tips for Sugar Free Halloween

sugar free halloweenSince eliminating sugar from our diet holidays have taken on a very different look for our family (yet we still enjoyed¬†pumpkin pie¬†at Thanksgiving! -sugar free of course). There is so much sugar and sweets that come with each holiday that it can be challenging to get around. The key is to find alternatives that meet the child’s needs without making him feel different or like he is missing out.

Halloween is no exception, in fact I would venture to say that it is the worst holiday connected to candy and treats. I remember Matthew asking me shortly after we eliminated sugar if he would be able to go trick or treating for Halloween. Thinking ahead, I already had an answer for him and told him yes he would be able to and then I told him the plan.

These are the things that we will be doing this Halloween to ensure it is sugar free and still enjoyable.


Tips for a Sugar Free Halloween

Go to a Candy Buy Back (or do the Switch Witch)

sugar free halloweenMatthew will go trick or treating this year but he will take all of his candy to an event called the Candy Buy Back, put on by a local dentist here in Calgary. It is the day after Halloween and they give the kids $1 for each pound of candy that they bring in. They have all kinds of prizes and they wear their Halloween costumes again.

We have done this for the past couple of years and he uses the money he receives to buy a book. So he still gets to participate in the “main activity” of Halloween and get something that he wants and is able to have.

Now some people may be upset by this as they go out and spend money on candy to give to kids and then they go and sell it. I do see their point but it is a choice and once you give it away who knows what happens to it. You could buy something else that is non candy and give that out (and people are starting to do that), decide not to hand anything out, or be ok with it. If we as a society want things to change then it has to start somewhere and the method may not be preferred but at least it is a start.

Have a Healthy Fun Supper

sugar free halloweenThere are also other things that you can do to eliminate or reduce the amount of sugar your child ingests this Halloween. Nina Manolson of Healthy Yummy Kids, suggests that for supper that night you prepare a full healthy meal that the kids will enjoy with a nice healthy yummy sweet at the end (you can make the cookies, cakes and treats without the sugar- check out some of my sugar free recipes). I take it one step further and make it a fun Halloween themed supper. This is basically taking healthy foods and getting creative and making them spooky. In the past we have done Monster Face Pizzas, Monster Brains and Skeleton Veggie tray.

This will not only satisfy their craving for sweets but they will also feel full, and therefore when offered candy to eat, they won’t eat it because they are not hungry. (Nina also suggests this strategy for afterschool outings and birthday parties).

Attend a Halloween Community Event

sugar free halloweenIt is also important to remember that there is more to Halloween then just the candy; there are many events and activities around it. If you look at the history of¬†Halloween¬†it originally had nothing to do with¬†candy¬†-it is society that has added the “treats” over the years.

When attending an event, the kids still get to dress up, and there are usually games, crafts and other activities. There are many special events in the community¬†(for instance in Calgary, we have the¬†Boo-roofic Bash,¬†Ghouls’ Night Out, Haunted Houses, etc). There are dances and classes that you can wear your costume to with other activities. Yes there are likely candy and sweets available but there are more to these events than the treats and it is easy enough to skip the treats if you choose to.

Decorate your Home for Halloween

There are loads of Halloween crafts that the kids can make and then use as decorations to put up. You can also add in things like Halloween soap dispensers and towels, spider webs on mirrors, a graveyard and skulls in your front yard. You can get really into this (just check out Pinterest for great easy ideas!) That is all part of the fun and demonstrates another fun aspect of the holiday that is not candy related. My son is already asking me if we can put out the Halloween decorations (and has been since September).

I feel that Matthew will have a very enjoyable and healthy Halloween this year and I don’t think that he will feel like he missed out at all. It really is easy to do and I encourage you all to give it a go yourselves. You will eliminate all those wired and moody kids the next morning!

As for the twins, we dressed them up last year, but did not go trick or treating. So they are familiar with the event and love to dress up! We might take them out this year to a few neighbors, and we’ll contribute their candy at the Candy Buy Back, because for them it is all about the costume!

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