Forget the candy, the costumes, the carved pumpkins.
Strip away the decorations and the slasher movies.
Take away all that is modern and what do you have?
An Irish tradition.
Yes. Halloween is an Irish tradition predating St. Patrick by more than 300 years. It arose from the Celtic fire festival called Samhain (pronounced “sow-in”) and was a celebration marking the end of the harvest period and the beginning of winter.
Being a pagan society, the Celts believed that on the eve of Samhain, the thin veil separating the living from the dead opened briefly allowing for mischief and, sometimes, anarchy. Huge bonfires were lit to keep evil spirits at bay and costumes were worn to protect people from being lifted into the “other world”. The friendly spirits of loved ones were welcomed home at this time and hazel nuts and apples were offered as enticement.
Over time, Samhain was replaced with the Christian holiday of All Hallows Eve but many of the traditions associated with the old Celtic ways remained. These customs traveled with the Irish as they emigrated away from home during the potato famine. By the late 1800’s, Halloween was firmly rooted in America as a day for dressing up and going from house to house asking for sweets or money. Then, in the mid-1990’s, as the Celtic Tiger roared its way through Ireland, the returning Irish brought back to Ireland the now popularised version of Halloween which we celebrate with ghoulish pleasure.
Today carved turnips have been replaced with brightly lit pumpkins and kids running from house to house expect candy instead of nuts and apples. Thankfully, old Irish ways die-hard and there are some remnants of the true Irish spirit in Halloween to be found. Colcannon and Barmbrack are still served at home, parades and festivals run the length of the country, and bon fires light up the chilly night air in estates everywhere.
To learn more about the Irish and Halloween, click on this video link featuring historian Joe McGowan on TV3.
For wickedly more information on haunted castles, eerily silent islands and other scary happenings around Ireland check out these sites: https://inanirishhome.com/2012/10/31/haunted-ireland/ and http://www.discoverireland.com/us/ireland-things-to-see-and-do/whats-on/listings/?l=1all&wo=999229131 and here: http://www.independent.ie/travel/travel-destinations/ten-best-halloween-treats-1502960.html?start=2
Recipe for Colcannon here: http://www.bordbia.ie/aboutfood/recipes/potatoes/pages/colcannan.aspx
For my Barm Brack recipe click here: https://inanirishhome.com/2014/10/27/halloween-irish-barm-brack/
Recipe for Barmbrack here: http://edible-ireland.com/2011/10/31/barmbrack/
Irish words and phrases associated with Halloween may be found at: http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/3Focloir/Halloween.html
To read more about Ireland and Halloween: Halloween in Ireland – GoIreland
- The History of Halloween (irishmantx.net)
- An Irish Samhain (thewiccangecko.wordpress.com)
- Trick or Treat? A History of Halloween (Feature) (popmatters.com)