Did you know that Ireland is the original home of Halloween?
Halloween, as we know it today, derives from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced ‘sow-en’), which marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It was accompanied by bonfire celebrations, elaborate costumes and a communal feast for the dead that included the departed as guests of honour. In Celtic Ireland (more than 2,000 years ago), Samhain represented the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter), and, by association, between this world and the Other World, which were closest on October 31st, when evil spirits passed through into this world. Later on, October 31st became the vigil of All Hallow’s Eve when Ireland turned Christian.
Many traditions that originate in the Samhain Feast of the Dead festival remain today. The scarier side of Halloween comes from the ancient belief that evil spirits (known as hobgoblins) and fairies came out on the night in great numbers. They would travel far and wide to collect the souls of the living, which is why ancient Celts themselves dressed up as witches, ghosts and goblins to confuse them. Bonfires were lit as they had protective and cleansing powers, and food offerings like apples and nuts were left outside doorways to appease the spirits. Later on, these became the candy offered to trick-or-treating children today.
The ‘Jack O’ Lantern’ pumpkin-carving tradition is also an old Irish one. Named after the Irish legend of one Jack (of the Lantern), who was cursed to roam the Purgatory in darkness and carved a lantern out of a turnip to light his way. Later on, the grotesque carvings on the illuminated pumpkins were placed on doorways and windowsills to frighten people and keep harmful spirits out of one’s home.
Nowadays, the familiar imagery of Halloween includes the flickering glow of ghoulish jack-o’-lanterns, rooms and buildings covered in spooky cobwebs, bats and black cats, skeletons and ghosts costumes, and people wearing vampire bloody fangs or witches’ hats. These creatures are synonymous with horror and often described as “familiars” (demons that performed dark magic) and “revenants“ (humans returning from the grave to torment the living). Their connection to death and the supernatural make them all fitting symbols for Halloween.
If you are out and about, there are plenty of family-friendly Halloween-themed festivals to choose from. Here are five frightening and fun events around Dublin:
The Croke Park’s GAA Museum is marking the ancient Irish festival of Samhain in a new specially-created family event: Samhain Tours & Tales.
Halloween themed activities at The Ark include a “Make you own Deadly Dance Track Workshop”, “The Supernatural Pop-Up choir Family Workshop’, ‘Dracula’s Disco’, and ‘Spooky Songs & Sounds Workshop’ throughout the mid-term break.
Do you have any favourite Halloween traditions? What are your plans for Halloween in Ireland this year? Care to share an event? Have you got a spooky recipe up your sleeve? We look forward to hearing from you.
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This article was written by Diana Valentine of Home Lust. She is passionate about design & interior and is a journalist working for diverse publications and sites such as interiors magazines, parenting and travel sites. You can read more of her work on her website Diana-Valentine.