Saints, Souls, and Haints: Cabbages and Rings

Photo credit: Martin LaBar
Photo credit: Martin LaBar

In Rustic Speech and Folk-lore (1913, p. 300), Elizabeth Mary Wright wrote:

In parts of Ireland a dish called colcannon, made of potatoes and cabbage mashed together with butter, used to form part of the Halloween dinner. In it was concealed a ring, the finder whereof would be the first of the company to be married. In St. John’s, Newfoundland, the popular name for Halloween is Colcannon-night, so named because colcannon is generally eaten then.


1 1/4 pounds russet potatoes (approximately 2 large baking potatoes), pieces and quartered
3 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1/2 cup milk, scalded
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits and softened

Cover the potatoes with salted water, bring them to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat, and simmer them in saucepan, covered, for 15 minutes, or until they are tender. Meanwhile, in a steamer set over boiling water steam the cabbage for 5 minutes, or until it is tender. Drain the potatoes in a colander, mashed them in a large bowl, and stir in the milk, the butter, the cabbage, and salt and pepper to taste.

That’s it.

Halloween cabbageAnother superstition involved going out to the cabbage patch in Ireland, or the kale patch in Scotland, plucking one of the vegetables blindfolded and seeing your future spouse.

A lot of fertility innuendos, that’s for sure, associated with Halloween …

Note: for the next two weeks, I’m working on a couple of intensive writing projects, so “Gherkins & Tomatoes” will of necessity be brief, with a look at “Haints, Saints, and Souls” in honor of the ancient traditions of Halloween, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day. “Haints” comes from a slang term used for “ghost” in the American South.


  • Very interesting post. I’ve been doing research on Halloween customs and myths for several years now and read about Colcannon only yesterday. I grew up hearing the word “haint”. I’m from Georgia. My dad would use it and it’s hard not to hear it used in the older parts of the state, especially this time of year.



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