2,000 years ago Celtic people, who lived in Ireland, England and parts of northern France, viewed the arrival of winter with foreboding; harsh weather, food shortages and disease brought suffering and, too often, death. In their culture the new year was celebrated on November 1 with the festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in), marking the end of summer and the return of cold, dark weather. Enormous sacred bonfires were lit, and embers from those fires were carried home to relight home hearth fires in the hope that they would provide warmth all winter long. Celtic priests, called Druids, attempted to foretell the future.

Celts also believed that their new year’s eve, October 31, was a time when, just as the seasons were changing, so too were boundaries that separated the living from the dead. They expected the souls of the dead to return to Earth and walk among the living. While ghosts of beloved friends and family were benevolent, other spirits were mischievous and some were downright unfriendly; they could wreak havoc on harvest crops and livestock, so food was left out to appease them. Bowls of food left outside one’s door might distract a malevolent spirit from entering, and bowls left inside would honor more welcome guests. Many chose to stay home on the night before Samhain, but those intrepid enough to venture out wore costumes or masks, usually animal heads and skins, intended either to prevent ghosts from recognizing them, or fool them into believing they were fellow spirits.

By 43 A.D. the Romans had conquered most Celtic territory, and during their prolonged reign Roman traditions mingled with Celtic religion. Feralia was a Roman festival held in late October to commemorate the passing of the dead, and a second October festival honored Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona was the apple, which may explain why bobbing for apples is a standard Halloween party game today.

By the ninth century Christianity had spread to Celtic lands and absorbed or supplanted older Celtic rites. In 1000 A.D. the Catholic Church proclaimed November 2 to be All Souls Day, a day to honor the dead, an act now widely seen as an attempt to replace Samhain with a Church sanctioned holiday. It, too, was celebrated with bonfires, parades and the wearing of costumes (this time as saints, angels or devils). All Souls Day also was called All Hallows, and the night before it was called All Hallows Eve, eventually Halloween.

There was little appreciation of Halloween in the austere environment of colonial America, but later, as successive waves of immigrants arrived (especially the millions of Irish fleeing the potato famine), the celebration was popularized. And popular it surely is today. There are estimates that Americans now spend as much as $6 billion on Halloween annually, an amount second only to their Christmas expenditures. And fully one quarter of all candy sold annually in the United States is purchased for Halloween.

MENU:  COCKTAILS AT THE COVEN: A HALLOWEEN HORROR D’OEUVRES BUFFET (Come inside, my pretties, I have some special treats for you….)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeijing bat wings (Beijing chicken wings)
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe coldest cuts and the moldiest cheese
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEntrails mix (Crisp, spicy almonds, hazelnuts and pecans)
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPuree of frog anchoide with crudites (basil anchoide)
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAForbidding fruits (clementines and black seedless grapes)
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMouse mousse (chicken liver pate with calvados)
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPickled pinkies (Susie’s pickled shrimp)
Appetizers, toasts, tapenade toasts 3Appetizers, toasts, red pepper and sun dried tomato toasts 3Tadpole tapenade and newt paste toasts (tapenade and sundried tomato toasts)
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToadstool pate (wild mushroom pate)
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVampire punch (with cranberry juice, liquor optional)
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWitch’s brew (mulled apple cider, liquor optional)
halloween wineYour choice of thematically correct wines, for example: Casillero del Diablo cabernet sauvignon from Chile,  Ghost Pines cabernet sauvignon or Vampire cabernet sauvignon from California;  Poizin zinfandel, Seven Deadly Sins zinfandel, or Twisted old vine zinfandel from California;  Phantom petite sirah, old vine zinfandel and old vine mourvedre blend from Bogle Vineyard, California; Vampire chardonnay from California;  Giocato pinot grigio from Slovenia;  Zeller Schwartz Katz mosel-reisling from Germany, and/or
halloween beersbeers: La Fin du Monde ale, Maudite (the damned) or Terrible ale from Canada; Hobgoblin, Old Devil Beer or Old Nick Ale from England; or Dixie Blackened Voodoo, Pete’s Wicked Ale or Rogue Dead Guy Ale from the United States
halloween coffeeDead Man’s Reach or Raven’s Brew coffee




The Ghost (Fleetwood Mac)

Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard (Tom Waits)

The Richest Guy in the Graveyard (Uppity Blues Women)

Tombstone Shadow (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Tombstone (Suzanne Vega)

No Headstone on my Grave (Esther Phillips)

Dead Man, Dead Man (Bob Dylan)

Skeletons (Stevie Wonder)

Spooky (Classics V)

A Ghost in this House (Alison Krause and Union Station)

Haunted House (Leon Redbone)

Miss Ghost (Don Henley)

Ghost of Jealousy (Michael Jackson)

Ghostbusters (Ray Parker Jr.)


Hells Bells (AC/DC)

Sympathy for the Devil (Rolling Stones)

Fire Down Below (Bob Seeger)

Voodoo Woman (Koko Taylor)

Running with the Devil (Van Halen)

Friend of the Devil (Grateful Dead)

Abracadabra (Steve Miller Band)

The Day the Devil Comes to Get You (Laurie Anderson)

Superstition (Stevie Wonder)

Voodoo (Godsmack)

Devil with the Blue Dress On (Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels)

Hellhound on my Trail (Cassandra Wilson)

Evil Ways (Santana)

Highway to Hell (AC/DC)

Fire (Jimi Hendrix)

Fire! (Arthur Brown)


Feed my Frankenstein (Alice Cooper)

Born Under a Bad Sign (Cream)

Bad Moon Rising (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Werewolves of London (Warren Zevon)

I was a Teenaged Werewolf (Cramps)

The Mummy (Slackers)

Vampires, Mummies and the Holy Ghost (Jimmy Buffet)

Vampire (Peter Tosh)

Goblin Girl (Frank Zappa)

Monster Mash (Bobby Pickett and the Crypt Kickers)

Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)

Psycho Killers (Bare Naked Ladies)

Relating to a Psychopath (Macy Gray)

Lucretia McEvil (Blood, Sweat and Tears)

Thriller (Michael Jackson)

Put Your Lights On (Santana)


Run the Voodoo Down (Cassandra Wilson)

Season of the Witch (Donovan)

I Put a Spell on You (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Spellbound (Koko Taylor)

Spiderweb (Joan Osborne)

There’s a Spider in my Room (Bare Naked Ladies)

Broomstick (Paul McCartney)

Love Potion #9 (Clovers)

Strange Brew (Cream)

Black Magic Woman (Santana)

Witch Queen of New Orleans (Redbone)

Witchy Woman (Eagles)

Devil Woman (Cliff Richards)

Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress (Hollies)

Sisters of the Moon (Fleetwood Mac)

Witchcraft (Frank Sinatra)