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2 November 2009

Mondays Words: Colcannon Night

I hope you all had a peaceful and fun Halloween with plenty of treats and no tricks!

Michael Quinion had a fascinating piece in his 'Worldwide Words' article this week, about Ireland and the traditional Halloween dish of colcannon.

"In Ireland, years ago, it was usual to mark the day by serving up
the traditional dish of calcannon or colcannon. This was made from
potatoes and cabbage, and perhaps other vegetables such as leeks,
spinach or hedgerow greens, with a little butter, cream or bacon
fat added, and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Because of the association of the dish with Halloween, the day has
in a few places been called Colcannon Night instead. It was known
as that in Ireland two centuries ago and emigrants took the name to
Newfoundland and Labrador. The folklore department at the Memorial
University of Newfoundland tells me that it has now died out there
and so may not be current anywhere any more.

The first part of the name must surely be related to "cole", an old
term for any type of brassica, the genus that includes cabbage and
cauliflower. Some dictionaries suggest that the second part derives
from a method of pounding the cabbage - with cannon balls. You may
believe that if you like, but it is now more commonly said it comes
from the Irish Gaelic "cál ceannfhionn" (later "cál ceannann"),
meaning white-headed cabbage."

Isn't that interesting? I have to admit I hadn't heard of 'colcannon' before. although it does sound a little like the Welsh 'cawl' only that uses leeks and lamb, rather than cabbage. so next year I may wish you Happy 'colcannon' rather than 'Happy Halloween'!

*World Wide Words is copyright (c) Michael Quinion 2009. All rights reserved. The Words Web site is at http://www.worldwidewords.org