Saints, Souls, and Haints: Cabbages and Rings

Cabbage, vegetarian food, natural green background. Young fresh cabbage on an organic farm.

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.

Another 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: “Haints” comes from a slang term used for “ghost” in the American South.

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