Friday, 27 October 2017

Samhain (Halloween) : Festival and Food

Halloween toffee apples

 As millions of children and adults participate in the fun of Halloween on the night of October 31st, few will be aware of its ancient Celtic roots in the Samhain (Samain) festival. In Celtic Ireland about 2,000 years ago, Samhain was the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter). At Samhain the division between this world and the otherworld was at its thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through.

The family's ancestors were honoured and invited home whilst harmful spirits were warded off. People wore costumes and masks to disguise themselves as harmful spirits and thus avoid harm. Bonfires and food played a large part in the festivities. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into a communal fire, household fires were extinguished and started again from the bonfire. Food was prepared for the living and the dead, food for the ancestors who were in no position to eat it, was ritually shared with the less well off.

It is worth mentioning that Hibernia is the Classical Latin name for the island of Ireland. The name Hibernia was taken from Greek geographical accounts. During his exploration of northwest Europe (c. 320 BC), Pytheas of Massilia called the island Iérnē (written Ἰέρνη). In his book Geographia (c. 150 AD), Claudius Ptolemaeus ("Ptolemy") called the island Iouerníā (written Ἰουερνία, where "ου"/ou stands for w). The Roman historian Tacitus, in his book Agricola (c. 98 AD), uses the name Hibernia.

So, it is not surprising to discover that people in ancient Ireland and Stonehenge
had a Med type diet (e.g. honey, cheese, wine).  
How did they know about these foods? These foods have been first made in Messopotamia and Eastern Mediterranean... 
How did this knowledge travel to Ireland? 

 Most probably, by people moving to the islands here (there are numerous records that Greeks have been to Scotland and Ireland many years BC).

Talking about food and Halloween,

let's have a look at the latest and most valid literature about healthy eating patterns.

Table 1 Dietary and lifestyle components of the traditional Mediterranean diet
Dietary components
1.High consumption of food from plant sources, including grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds
2.Emphasis on a variety of minimally processed and seasonally fresh, locally grown foods
3.Olive oil as the principal dietary fat used for cooking, baking, and flavoring
4.Total fat ranging from 25% to 35% of energy, with saturated fat accounting for ≤7% to 8% of energy
5.Daily consumption of low to moderate amounts of dairy products, mainly cheese and yogurt
6.Twice-weekly consumption of low to moderate amounts of fish and poultry; up to seven eggs per week
7.Fresh fruit as the typical dessert, with sweets containing concentrated sugars or honey consumed only afew times per week
8.Consumption of red meat only a few times per month
9.Moderate consumption of wine, normally with meals. Approximately 1–2 glasses per day for men and 1glass for women (optional)
10.Use of herbs and spices to flavor food instead of salt or fat
Lifestyle components
1.Regular daily physical activity
2.Meals in the company of friends and family

Enjoy Halloween with a glass of red wine or a pint of Guinness,
both rich in polar lipids with strong anti-inflammatory bioactivities
(data to be shown very soon!) !

Ioannis Zabetakis

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