What better place to spend your Halloween
break than in Ireland - as this is where this festival is said to have
originated! So if you're up for fancy dress parties, bonfires,
fireworks, festivals and all things spooky, then there is nowhere better
to be at Halloween than in Ireland.
During Halloween in Ireland you'll find
some ancient traditions and customs still practised here - so come and
experience them for yourself. Here's a little guide to Halloween in
Ireland so you can brush up on your knowledge of one of the world's
oldest festivals before you join the Halloween celebrations in Ireland!
The celebration of Halloween started in
Ireland around 100AD. Back then, Halloween was a pagan festival
celebrated by the Celts of Ireland who called it "Samhain", an
old Irish word meaning the 'end of Summer'. They believed that on the
eve of Samhain (Halloween), the dead spirits would revisit the mortal
world, so huge bonfires were lit to keep away any evil spirits. It is
known in Gaelic as 'Oíche Shamhna' and is celebrated on the 31st of
October each year, which is All Souls Day, so in Ireland it is often
referred to as the Feast of the Dead.
Here are just some of the Irish Halloween
traditions which are still very much alive today.
The Pumpkin at Halloween
In Ireland, the Pumpkin traditionally
known as the Jack O Lantern, is a carved out pumpkin whose top and stem
have been removed. The shell is then carved normally in the shape of a
scary face which is then lit up by placing a candle inside.
There are many stories of how the Jack O
Lantern custom came about in Ireland. One old tale says it was as a
result of a blacksmith called Jack who crossed the devil. He made the
devil promise he would not go to hell, but when he was denied entry to
heaven, he was left to wander the earth. He told the devil he could not
wander about forever in the dark and the devil tossed him an ember from
the fires of hell, so Jack placed this in a hollowed out turnip. From
that day, Jack roamed the earth using his Jack O Lantern to light the
way so you might spot him when you visit Ireland this Halloween!
It is said that when the Irish immigrated
to the States they took this Halloween tradition with them, but instead
of using turnips, then began to use pumpkins as they were much more
Irish Halloween Food: The Barnbrack
This traditional Halloween cake is a
fruit bread. What's special about this bread though, is that various
things are baked inside the bread such as a coin, a rag, a ring and a
thimble! The bread is then shared out among family members and eaten
very carefully. Each of the items in the cake signify different things,
for example if you got the 'rag' it meant that you'd be poor, the coin -
rich, the thimble meant you would never marry and the ring meant that
you would find romance and be happy ever after; so, of course, everyone
wants to find the ring!
At Halloween in Ireland the shelves at
the local supermarket are packed with every kind of Barnbrack, but
nowadays it's only possible to buy one that contains a ring!
Ireland's Halloween Bonfire
The Halloween tradition of the bonfire in
Ireland is said to also have originated during Pagan times when the
Celts lit huge fires on the hills so the spirits could find their way.
It was also said that these fires would help to keep away evil spirits.
Another old Irish Halloween tale says that if you drop a strand of your
hair into the flames and dream of your future husband or wife to be,
you're dreams will come true!
Bonfires are a huge part of the Halloween
festivities in Ireland and are lit in both rural areas and towns
throughout the country. They are built from all sorts of materials and
some take days of preparation!
Trick or Treat in Ireland
This old Irish Halloween custom
originated centuries ago when the poor would go round to the rich
peoples houses and ask for food or money, which they would then use for
their celebration of Halloween. Nowadays, children dress up in scary
costumes and go house to house trick or treating, arriving home with
bags of goodies which they use for their Halloween party.
Halloween fun & games
There are many games associated with
Halloween. Apples are a traditional Halloween fruit as they were very
plentiful in October. These games are still played today.
One of the most popular Halloween games
in Ireland is 'Snap Apple'. In this game an apple is hung from the
ceiling and the children are blindfolded. The first one to take a bite
from the apple wins! This game can also be played by putting apples into
basin of water. The first person to lift out an apple by grabbing the
stem with their teeth is the winner.
Another Halloween custom involves peeling
an apple in one long strip. Then throw the peel over your left shoulder
and try to figure out what letter it resembles. The initial will be the
first letter of the name of you future spouse!
If you're in Ireland during Halloween
then you might like to sample some traditional Halloween foods. Try some
Colcannon, it's a tasty savoury dish which consists of potatoes,
cabbage, onions, butter, milk, salt and pepper. Other foods such as nuts
are also hugely popular at Halloween (especially hazelnuts, monkey nuts
and peanuts), corn on the cob and, of course, apples!
Over the past number of years, people
have begun decorating their homes more and more for Halloween with
ghosts, ghouls, witches, goblins and harvest displays. Some of the
bigger cities may have authorised firework displays, but be aware that
to buy fireworks or bring fireworks into Ireland is illegal and the
There are Halloween celebrations in towns
all over Ireland, but if you want to really get into the spirit of
Halloween, then we recommend you head for Derry city in Northern Ireland
or Dublin city for two of the best Halloween parades in the country!
About the Author
Mairead Foley writes for the Ireland
travel and accommodation website http://www.GoIreland.com
Visit www.GoIreland.com for all you need
to know before visiting Ireland, like what to see and where to go. View
B&Bs, guesthouses and self catering all over Ireland, as well as
hotels like Dublin