Happy Cabbage Night!

I knew Halloween evolved from the Celtic festival of Samhain and All Hallow’s Eve, but that was about all I knew. This year I decided to change that and dove into researching Halloween. First, I learned in New England the night before Halloween is Cabbage Night. Right now, I’m glad I live in Texas, because this tradition involves “pranksters” leaving rotten vegetables near a neighbor’s front door! I doubt this did much to promote good neighbor relations! Despite that, Happy Cabbage Night y’all.

Now on to Halloween…

I discovered many Halloween traditions revolved around helping women identify her potential husband or reassuring her she would indeed find a one. In 18th century Ireland, a cook would bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween. The hope was that the ring would bring the finder true love.

In Scotland, fortune tellers instructed marriage-minded women to name her hazelnuts after her suitors. Boy does that sound odd. 🙂 Then she was to toss them, the hazelnuts not her suitors, 🙂 into the fire. The nut that burned completely rather than exploding represented her future husband. Another legend insisted if a woman ate a sweet treat of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg on Halloween, she would dream of her future husband that night.

Women would throw apple peelings over their shoulders in hopes of forming the initials of her future husband’s name. I wonder if there was strategic throwing involved with this tradition to get a desired result. Another legend told a woman to stand in front of a mirror in a dark room holding a candle. The hope was if she peered into the mirror, would see her husband’s face over her shoulder.

Halloween parties could get competitive regarding matrimony. For example, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut hunt would be the next one to marry. The first one to successfully bob for apples was predicted to walk down the aisle soon. This tradition had visions of unmarried women practicing their bobbing for apple skills before Halloween parties to ensure a victory to pop into my head!

Because beliefs of different European countries mixed with American Indian traditions, America developed its own unique version of Halloween. At first, celebrations featured “play parties” to celebrate the harvest. Neighbors shared stories about the dead, told fortunes, danced and sang. The night also included mischief. But in the late 1800’s, people tried to shift the holiday away from ghosts, pranks and witchcraft to a more community or neighborly get together holiday. Parents were encouraged to remove anything frightening, grotesque or scary from their Halloween celebrations. Despite this community-centered focus, adding parades and town-wide parties, by the 1920’s and 30’s, vandalism became prevalent.

However, by the 1950’s communities had tampered down on the vandalism and Halloween became a more child-centered holiday. This probably was a result of all those post-war babies, too. Communities revived the tradition of trick-or-treating after it was halted due to sugar rationing during WWII. The thought was people could prevent being pranked by giving children a small treat.

Today, Halloween is America’s second largest commercial holiday, surpassed only by Christmas. We spend around 9 billion, yup with a billion with B, annually. That’s a lot of candy, costumes and yard art. It works out to an average American shelling out $86.79.

Speaking of candy…we haven’t even touched that delicious subject. But let’s do that now. Leave a comment on what’s your favorite trick-or-treat candy and why or what one makes you you want to pull a trick on someone to be entered for today’s giveaway. One random commenter will receive the pumpkin coasters and a copy of Family Ties.

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Julie Benson has written five novels for Harlequin American, and her Wishing, Texas series is available from Tule Publishing. Now that her three sons have left the nest in Dallas, when she isn't writing, Julie spends her time working on home improvement projects, rescuing dogs, and visiting Texas wineries with her husband. Visit her at www.juliebenson.net.

50 thoughts on “Happy Cabbage Night!”

  1. Snickers is my favorite.

    We had Mischief Night on the night before Halloween where I grew up. Most things were innocent like soaping car windows, some TPed trees, and throwing loose, dried corn at someone’s door. Of course, there are other areas where Mischief Night had more criminal activity. I was pleased to learn it didn’t exist in the town where I moved and presently live

    • Denise, I’d never heard of anything like Cabbage Night or Mischief Night before I researched Halloween traditions. Where i grew up any mischief we had was on Halloween. Thanks for stopping by today, and you can’t go wrong with Snickers. I’m excited to see what ends up being our favorite Halloween candy today.

  2. I don’t think I’d have the nerve to stand in a dark room with a lot candle waiting to see my future husbands face over my shoulder. ? We also had mischief night and it usually meant you’d wake up to find cars egged toilet tissue on all the shrubs & trees. Not fun. Thankfully my neighborhood is very mellow now and that doesn’t happen anymore. Kids have rang our football’s in a few years now since they do Trunk or Treat now. My favorite is Three Musketeers.

    • Carol, I’m with you on the mirror tradition. I’ve watched too many horror movies where people look in a mirror in the dark and something bad happens! Now the hazelnuts and apple peelings I could do! Thanks for stopping today and I hope your Cabbage Night and Halloween are trick free.

  3. What an amazing Halloween history and trivia. Thank you got Sharing. Snickers is My Fav, but I’d never pass up a Hershey’s Almond Bar! Have a Happy HALLOWEEN, hope you get treated, not tricked.

  4. Oh wow, what an awesome blog! I love Halloween and didn’t know any of this! Some of it was crazy! Lol Thank you for sharing all this information!! Oh my all these favorites questions you Phillies ask when I can never pick just one anything! My favorite would rarely be given out to trick-or-treaters because of the cost but the pumpkin shaped Reese’s peanut butter cups. As far as what you get door to door, I love tootsie pops! I never turn down any of my other favs, snickers, hershey’s almond bars, mounds… ugh I’m a fatty. Lol I’ve yet to read one of your books other than possibly in an anthology and would love the opportunity! Thanks for sharing today, I loved this blog!

    • Stephanie, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I learned a lot too! I never knew Halloween was associated with matchmaking and a predicting a woman’s future husband. Who would’ve figured Halloween would have a romantic twist?! I love the pumpkin Reese’s peanut butter cups too, and Tootsie pops, but only the orange. Yup, I was the kid who would dig through someone’s bowl to find the orange ones! Have a happy and safe Halloween.

  5. Dark chocolate any kind is my favorite. I live in the downtown area so we don’t get any kids trick or treating but because of the many bars in this area. Many adults in cool costumes.

    • Kim, we don’t have many kids trick-or-treating in our neighborhood anymore. Because of that when I buy candy to give out, I make sure to get stuff we like. When I was a kid I didn’t like dark chocolate, but since I’ve cut back on sugar, I really enjoy it. Thank you for stopping by today, and I hope you have a trick free Halloween.

  6. Good morning, Julie! I was a bit surprised to read that Halloween was the second largest commercial holiday, but that makes sense. Still, Valentine’s Day with all it’s candies and sweets had to be in the running – and then there’s Easter. But I’ve grown into a Halloween fan for all the fun creepiness. I’ve even been known to don a costume now and again!

    Oh, and Reese’s peanut butter cups for me!!

    • Pam, I think Halloween’s made a jump commercially because so many people are getting into decorating their yards. I was amazed how expensive all the skeleton’s were. I got the one I put in my tree and the dog one at JoAnn’s when they were 70% off. Regular price was $39.99 each! The clerk said they had big skeleton’s that were $100 and they’d been selling like crazy!

  7. Heath Bars is my favorite candy this time of year – well, chocolate, toffee and nuts – yum! Not a fan of the scary, bloody stuff seen this time of year or the very scary clowns either!

    • Teresa, I love Heath Bars, too! I used to go to a tearoom for lunch years ago, and they had a fabulous Heath Bar ice cream pie. I’m not a fan of the scary clowns either. I bet they’ll be big this year because of the new IT movies. Take care. Thank you for stopping by and I hope you have a clown-free Halloween!

    • Debra, you’re the second person to say the Reese’s Pumpkin Peanut butter cups. I wonder why we all like those so much better than the regular? Thank you for chiming in with your favorite Halloween candy!

    • Estella, thanks for the laugh about being too old to run away after a prank. I always think I could pull one off, but I suspect I’d be too old to run too. My brain keeps thinking I can do all sorts of things, and then my body says, “You’ve got to be kidding.” 🙂

      So far the pumpkin Reese’s peanut butter cups and Snickers are tied for favorites. Have a safe and fun Halloween.

  8. I really enjoyed your post. Halloween does have a lot of traditions and you told a lot about traditions that I didn’t know about. I enjoy handing out candy to the kids. I guess Reese’s peanut butter cups are my favorite but there is not much candy I don’t like.

    • Thank you for stopping by today. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It’s so fun seeing kids costumes. I wish we had more young kiddos in our neighborhood. We’re at that stage where the kids have grown and the houses haven’t turned over with younger families.

      Your vote sends Reese’s peanut butter cups into the lead vote wise.

    • Melanie, I try to avoid candy, too. I’ve had digestive issues and the sugar really messes with my system. I’ve also noticed sugar makes me cranky and depressed. Why is it always the good stuff that messes us up? Why can’t it be that we have to give up brussel sprouts?

      Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you have a fun and safe Halloween.

  9. What a fun post, Julie! I had no idea there were so many “uncover your future husband’s identity” traditions tied to Halloween. Fascinating! I guess by the time the weather turned cold, young women’s thoughts naturally turned to finding a lifetime snuggle partner.

  10. Halloween memories. Homemade costumes were the best. Don using old tire from garage and red paint to make tire track on a t-shirt- “roadkill” ( ick) or daughter cutting out headlines and news stories from the paper, glued to poster board to go as “bed news”
    Same daughter who carved the math symbol for Pi in her pumpkin and called it done.

    I like the smarties. I know chocolate is the most in demand but I pick out the rolls of smarties from the bowl.

    I am not a prankster – absolutely have no poker face and cringe at the prospect of being singled out that way so I stay far far awake from “tricks”

    Love your books Julie! Thanks for blogging too

    • Oh holy Moses LOOK at those typos!!! My SON went as road kill and my daughter went as BAD NEWS.

      That’s why you’re the writer, not me

    • Jenn, I love the costume ideas! Your kiddos always were so creative! Which one did the Pi pumpkin? It sounds like both your girls, but I’m guessing Hannah.

      I’m not a prankster either. I was always petrified of having something like that done to me. I always wanted to fit in so badly.

      Miss you desperately, dear friend!

  11. Halloween invaded Finland a few years ago, but we don’t have that trick-or-treat thing here and the Halloween candy selection is still pretty meager. Let’s just say I like any candy made out of good chocolate.

    • Minna, thank you for posting the link. What a wonderful custom! I love the idea of young children dressing up as cute witches and blessing houses! Thank you so much for sharing!

  12. I think mostly Halloween is celebrated in kindergartens (I once heard the spreading of Halloween started from English language kindergarten) and schools, but as I said, this invasion of Halloween is really new. I do have some Halloween decorations and certainly wasn’t upset about this particular invasion.

  13. wow this is some interesting research you found. Makes me wonder who came up with these initially. I used to love candy corn. Now cant eat candy. Oh well. I still love chocolate and will indulge every once in a while. Thank you for the generous give a way.

    • Lori,

      Thank you for stopping by today! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It was a lot of fun to research. What I discovered surprised me, too. I never expected to discover Halloween had a connection to matchmaking and predicting husbands! Have a fun and safe Halloween.

  14. What fun facts! Women just can’t catch a break. It should be the men going through all those antics, shouldn’t it? Especially since some of those guys weren’t really much of a catch. As for candy today, I try to buy what my husband and granddaughter will eat if we have any left (never know how many trick-or-treaters we may get) so it doesn’t temp me.

    • Sally, thank you for stopping by today. I wish I’d thought of getting the candy my husband likes but I don’t. I’m trying to avoid sugar and leftover Halloween candy is so tempting.

    • Colleen, Reese’s peanut butter cups seem to be big favorites. I Peanut M&M’s. With the peanut it makes me think I’m not being super unhealthy. Thanks for stopping by today.

  15. I loved, still do, Whoppers, Sugar Babies, and Milk Duds. Great for stretching out your goodies one little piece at a time. I was happy to get anything. I think the peanut butter taffies were my least favorite.

  16. I was surprised at all the matchmaking related to Halloween. Our part of NY state isn’t New England but a lot of our traditions were the same. Cabbage Night was one of them. Mostly it had turned into a night for pranksters involving a lot more than rotten vegetables although there were often tomatoes and cabbage included. By the early 60’s it seemed to have faded away maybe because it had become too much like vandalism instead of simple pranks and the police became involved.

    • Alice, isn’t that how it always goes? Fun pranks often get taken too far and then they’ve gotten so out of hand the police get called. Thank you for stopping by today. I hope your Cabbage Night and Halloween are both prank free!

  17. Interesting post! Since I’m allergic to chocolate, my favorite trick or treat candy is limited! I supposed I will pick Skittles 🙂 Thanks for your informative and interesting post about Cabbage Night!!!

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