Banana Chestnut Loaf
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
The climbing and beating the trees; the gathering the nuts; the pricking with the burs; the young companions– and all that go to make up a happy day at chestnutting."
~ American Agriculturist for the Farm, Garden, and Household, 1870
Hickory nuts, Chestnuts, Walnuts, Nutting parties! A classic autumn harvest activity, Nutting parties were a much anticipated outdoor event for young people in Victorian times for socializing and fall picnics. Baskets and blankets would be collected and a search mounted for the groves with the best nut trees. Shaken branches would yield a shower of nuts which could be eaten on the spot or brought back for an indoor party. Nut gatherers made sure to save some nuts for the month of October, when nuts tossed in the fire could be used for fortune telling or romantic divination, especially near or on Hallowe'en's Nutcrack Night! 🌰
The Nut Loaf
A favourite social activity of autumns past for young people were nutting parties, a indoor party with a nut theme including an outing to search and pick various types of nuts. Depending on your region, two days of the year were particular important.
14th September for Nutting Day - a good day to collect nuts
21st September for Devil's Nutting Day - when you should not collect nuts!
An English folk tradition dating back over 450 years connects Holy Cross Day on September 14th with another custom called ‘nutting’. In 1560 some Eton schoolboys were granted a half-day holiday on Holy Cross Day and decided to amuse themselves by gathering nuts.
“All the youths are now a-nutting gone.”
~ Grim the Collier of Croydon- a popular 17th century play.
However, over the years the Devil became associated with the collecting of nuts. Country folk were warned not to go nutting on Sundays as the Devil would be disguised as a gentleman and trick them by offering to pull down the top branches.
In Warwickshire, another legend is associated with The Devil's Nightcap hill near Alcester. Supposedly, the devil was out nutting on September 21st and met the Virgin Mary. He was so surprised and shocked that he dropped his bag of nuts, which became the hill.
The old Sussex saying 'as black as the Devil's nutting bag', is associated with the superstition that it is extremely unwise to gather nuts in autumn on a Sunday because that is when Old Nick is himself out nutting.
But should you be lucky enough to have avoided the Devil and procured some chestnuts or other sweet nuts, you can make a sweet nutloaf perfect for any autumnal or holiday feast. For the recipe, click Winslow Chestnutting from Every Saturday, An Illustrated Journal of Choice Reading, 1870.