Friday, October 27, 2017

Fun Friday Facts #119:Halloween Edition the Fourth (I Think)

Halloween is with us again -- almost. In past Fun Friday Facts Halloween columns I've discussed Halloween traditions that have fallen out of favor; haunted places; the origins of Halloween and its traditions; and candy. This year, as part of ongoing efforts to knock the dust off this blog and get it going again, I'm going to look at some of the world's weirdest Halloween traditions.

My assistant helped write this post.

According to the Reader's Digest, which is now a website even though old people don't use the Internet (or do they?), Germans celebrate Halloween by hiding all their knives. This makes sense -- doesn't the killer in Halloween have a knife? But apparently Germans aren't worried about serial killers stabbing them to death with their own santokus; instead, they're concerned that they'll accidentally cut returning spirits while chopping veggies or something. In order to avoid this, they hide the knives for an entire week, from October 30 to November 8. How do they chop things in the meantime? Is there a market in Germany for pre-chopped food stuffs? Do they chop everything in advance? I'm asking the real questions, here.

Speaking of the movie Halloween, maybe you didn't know that the mask Michael Meyers wears in that movie is a mask of William Shatner, chosen because it was the cheapest mask available at the time. Shatner himself has said that he goes trick-or-treating wearing his own mask. Oh, the perks of fame.

Many cultures have Halloween traditions that involve food. As I mentioned in a previous Halloween facts post, the Irish traditionally make a cake called barmback, which, like the French king cake, contains tokens intended to predict the fortunes of the eaters. Austrians leave a lamp on at night during All Souls Week, and leave out bread and water for the spirits of the dead. Italians are less stingy, preparing a full-on feast for the dead, and then leaving it laid in an open house while they go out to church, so that the dead can feast in peace, without having to constantly walk through their annoying descendants. Italians also make fave dei morti, beans of the dead, which are vaguely bean-shaped cookies whose purpose is unclear. 

Then again, they're cookies -- do they need a purpose?
Image by Cantalamessa, Wikimedia Commons

Other Italian Halloween foods include anthropomorphic breads and cakes, such as the bone-shaped oss de mord dolci, sweet bones of the dead, which are bone-shaped cookies traditional to the Lombard region. Sicilians make pane dei morti, bread of the dead, which may be decorated with a skull and crossbones or baked in the shape of a ring with two joined hands. These foods, along with Italian customs of decorating with pumpkins and questing, in which children go from door to door seeking gifts for the dead in the form of sweets and dried fruits, go back to pagan times, though they have now been incorporated into local Catholic traditions.