Halloween in Ireland has been celebrated for centuries and first originated from the Celtic festival of Samhain which dates back over 2,000 years. Samhain loosely translates to ‘end of summer’ and in Ireland this was an especially important festival as it marked the end of the bright half of the year and celebrated the beginning of Winter and the Celtic new year. It was also believed that on the night of the 31st of October, the portal between the real world and the other world opened making it easy for spirits to roam the world of the living.
People across the world celebrate Halloween and it comes with many fun traditions that we all know and love today. But did you know that most are traditionally Irish Samhain customs. Let us have a look at some of the most popular...
The Celts believed that on the eve of Halloween, dead spirits would visit the human world as it was the day that spirits could walk the earth. Due to this and the fear many people had of the ‘other-world’, large bonfires would be lit to ward off any evil spirits. The ashes of the bonfire the following day would be spread across the fields to further ward off any bad luck for the farmers over the coming year.
Although carving pumpkins has become more popular in the United States, it is a tradition that has been adopted from Ireland. Traditionally, turnips are harvested over the autumn period right up to Halloween. Faces would be carved into these turnips and left outside their homes to scare any nasty spirits. Over the years pumpkins have become much more popular due to their size and colour.
At Halloween, it was believed that the veil between the living and the dead was at its thinnest. The custom of dressing up in costume comes from a Celtic tradition when people used to dress in costumes that resembled evil spirits to confuse them. The idea of this was not to dress up as something, but instead disguising oneself as a sort of countermeasure to hide from the spirits and avoid being kidnapped.
Wearing a mask or covering yourself in a bedsheet was believed to trick the spirits. The Celts believed that if you did meet a spirit, they would not recognize you due to the disguise and let you go free. This is where the tradition of dressing up comes from. To this day, witches, goblins, and ghosts remain popular choices for Halloween costumes.
Trick or Treating:
The custom of ‘trick or treat’ is less joyful and dates back many years. The custom began when children would go from door to door around Halloween. They would often sing songs, say prayers or tell a joke to different households in return for food. They would typically receive a ‘soul cake’ which was flattened bread mixed with fruit. This tradition became known as ‘souling,’ which later became known as trick or treating done children across the world.
Telling the future:
Halloween was believed to be the best time to tell fortunes. Reading people's fortunes was a common pastime held during the Samhain period. Due to the connections with spirits and the ‘other world’ it was believed to be the most powerful time for reading fortunes. In today's age, one of the more popular ways this is practiced is through a Barnbrack. Traditionally, it is baked with a ring or coin placed somewhere inside. Whoever finds the ring is predicted to get married in the year and whoever finds the coin will receive good fortune.