Halloween can trace its routes all the way back to Celtic Ireland. Some of the most popular customs and traditions date all the way back to Ireland’s Ancient East and the Celtic festival of Samhain, a great celebration of fire and feasting that marked the end of the season of light and the beginning of the dark days of winter.
At this moment of transition, the Celts believed there was an interaction between the worlds of the living and the dead and that spirits could move between them. Fearing that all manner of beings might pull them into the otherworld before their time, the Celts would disguise themselves in costumes to confuse and scare off the roaming ghosts, fairies, hobgoblins and demons.
The History of Halloween
The modern practice of dressing up at Halloween is firmly rooted in these old pre-Christian Celtic customs, as is the tradition of lighting bonfires, which began on hilltops in Ireland with clans and community gathering to light huge ceremonial Samhain fires.
Lit up pumpkins with ghoulish faces is another much-loved aspect of Halloween. The practice of carving them began in Ireland, where turnips and large potatoes served as the original Jack-o-lanterns. Irish immigrants eventually brought the tradition to America, home of the pumpkin, and the winter squash has now become integral to the Halloween festivities.
Trick or treating is another Halloween tradition originating in Ireland, in this case with children and the poor going from door to door to ask for food, kindling or money. They sang songs or offered prayers for the soul of the dead in return for food, usually a soul cake which was a flattened bread that contained fruit. This tradition was known as ‘souling’.
Where to Celebrate Halloween in Ireland
Derry Halloween What started life as a simple fancy-dress party in a pub in the famous Walled City of Derry~Londonderry has become the most exciting Halloween celebration in Europe, with the readers of USA Today voting it as the number one Halloween destination in the world. Derry Halloween is now an unmissable, bucket list event, with people from around the world – not to mention the otherworld – flocking there to enjoy a spectacular festival fusing ancient myth and cutting-edge culture.
Bram Stoker Festival – The famous Bram Stoker Festival will once again bring fun and adventure to the Irish capital over the Halloween weekend as it delves into the legacy of the Dublin-born creator of Dracula. The festival often includes interactive and fun experiences for all age groups.
Púca Festival – At the inaugural Púca Festival last year thousands of people gathered at locations across counties Meath and Louth to celebrate Ireland as the original birthplace of Halloween. With a programme of events including a recreation of the symbolic lighting of the Samhain fires on the Hill of Ward, the festival lit up the darkness with fire, folklore, music, myth, light installations, and great food and drink.
For more information on the history of Halloween, or to dream about retracing the haunted path in Ireland, visit www.ireland.com