Half Term and Halloween

Autumn is upon us and as the days become colder and darker, half term and Halloween draw closer! These three, Half Term, Halloween and Autumn highlight the end of summer and the welcoming of the dark winter months which bring with them candles and coziness. Especially this next week carries with it the opportunity of exciting things to get yourself busy with since the children will be off school and days therefore less rushed and activity filled.

Halloween – does it mean anything to you or do you merely see it as a commercial nightmare? Let’s explore a bit shall we….

For the past week or so I have indulged in Halloween with my children! We have baked and cooked and done some crafts, carved a pumpkin and face painted! It has been great fun, but I realized I did not know anything about Halloween or why it is even celebrated. To me, it has always just been another over commercialised holiday….

Researching a bit, however, I have learned that it has ancient origins linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain. The name of the festival is derived from Old Irish which roughly translates to “summer’s end”. It served to celebrate the end of a good season of harvest of apples, pumpkins, spices and cider as well as a setting for supernatural encounters. The original Celtic holiday occurred on November 1, not October 31, and was one of the most important holidays for Celtic people, who believed that the spirits of those who had died over the course of the year would mingle with the living before traveling on to the afterlife. Festivals and celebrations were meant to aid the good souls on their way, and keep bad spirits from doing harm to the living.

Since that time, however, the holiday has grown and changed – fuelled largely by horror films such as Frankenstein and Dracula.

The carving of pumpkins, which is my absolute favourite part of Halloween, stems from Scotland and Ireland where they used to carve turnips as a symbol of remembering souls held in punishment. Immigrants to North America later discovered, and used, the pumpkin which was much larger and therefore easier to carve. Today it is used to open your home to little “trick or treaters” – if you leave a lit pumpkin on your front step they know they are welcome!

Cooking wise, pumpkins provide fiber, Vitamin A and Vitamin B, iron, protein and potassium. Not to mention, they are low in fat! Lots of great recipes for you bearing that in mind!

For many, I know, half term is a potentially scary time! Children are off school and therefore home all day, some parents not able to take holiday and therefore a real juggle struggle. Whether you are lucky enough to have the time off or someone else will be looking after your little ones, this time should be viewed as one where batteries can be re-charged. The children have worked hard and many are now tired and teary. Not having to get them whipped up and into school uniforms or off to nursery is such a treat. Let them relax and if you can, spend some quality time with them and enjoy the moment. Turn off your phone, put the computer away and turn the television off!

For the sunny autumn half term days, this is the chance to spend some time taking care of your garden. Prune back your roses and any rambling you may have, tidy up the vegetable patch and get your containers ready for the winter. Bulbs such as crocuses and hyacinths are gorgeous and you want to get plants into the soil before the frost hits so that they have a chance to get their roots down and be ready to blossom in the spring.

Children love being in the garden and if you hand them a shovel they will dig you all the holes you need for the bulbs!! Another great garden job for little fingers is the clearing away of fallen leaves. They can rake them up and create lovely piles (that they no doubt will destroy by jumping in!).

Finally, why not create a bird feeder for your garden? This is a fantastic activity to do with the children and will give all the birds in your garden some food for the cold winter months ahead. All you need, for a really simple one, is a few pine cones and some peanut butter and bird seeds! Let your children cover the pine cone in peanut butter using a spoon and roll the pine cone in seeds – hang them from strings in your garden and watch the birds flock in!

In the recipe section I have compiled a long list of foods and activities that should keep you all busy if the weather is not great! If you are hosting a Halloween party there are lots of great recipes for easy and fun party food that you can sit and make with the children. I have also added a few games that will make them laugh – and make a mess….so be patient!!

Here is hoping that you will have a fantastic Half Term holiday and really enjoy Halloween for what it has now become – a lovely sociable time and a chance for the little ones to get dressed up and eat lovely food! A time to decorate your house in black and orange and watch your children have the time of their lives!  Join in the celebrations and let the fact that the evenings are now drawing in be a lovely thing – a time to slow down a bit and cuddle up in front of candles and lit fires with a glass of wine.

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