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Break out the candy corn!

african masquerade

As the days grow shorter and fall leaves begin to reveal their vibrant colors, attentions turn toward the annual ritual of Halloween. With trick-or-treating, fall parties, pumpkin carving, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, haunted houses and costumes that run the gamut from frightening to whimsical, Halloween is an occasion to enjoy an abundance of sweets and good times with friends and neighbors.

In African countries, Halloween is not observed as a holiday as it is here; however, Africa’s use of elaborate costumes and masks in rituals, ceremonies and events offer many similarities. In African culture, masks may represent different things that vary across the continent’s numerous cultures and tribes. Masks may represent or depict spirits of ancestors, deities, spirits (both good and evil), and animals, just to name a few. The art and symbolism of mask making in Africa is typically learned and passed on from father to son.

While there’s much speculation on the origins of Halloween in the United States, one thing is certain – there’s a lot of spook-tackular fun to be had by all. In the United States, Halloween is a time for filling trick-or-treat bags with an abundance of candy and for serving home-baked treats at parties. And like the art of mask making in Africa, the art of baking is passed down from generation to generation in Africa as well as America. In observance of Halloween and to add an African twist to your Halloween gathering, pull out your baking pans and try these centuries-old African cookie recipes have been passed down and adapted to modern times.

Mbatata cookies are a popular cookie from Malawi in Southeast Africa. Malawi is known as the “warm heart of Africa,” and these cookies made from sweet potatoes can be cut into heart shapes to commemorate the friendliness of the Malawian people.

Chin Chin cookies are a popular snack cookie that originated in the West African country of Nigeria. Often made with spices and deep fried, these crunchy cookies will bring the exotic taste of Africa to any Halloween gathering.

So whether you’re trick-or-treating with costumed kids, wandering through the corn maze or selecting the perfect pumpkin for your holiday decor, remember to take time to appreciate the time-honored traditions from home and to expand your horizons and learn about holiday traditions and customs from abroad.