Did you know that Halloween began in Ireland? In fact, many of our modern day customs come from Celtic traditions at Halloween!
The Origins of Halloween Come From Ireland
Halloween originated from the fire festival of Samhain (sow-in) and has been celebrated in Ireland for about 2,000 years.
Speak Irish Samhain is also the Irish for November.
Samhain marked the division of the Celtic year, when light (summer) moved to dark (winter).
The festival began on October 31, the evening before the Celtic New Year on November 1st. On this evening the veil between the living and the spirit world was a thin veil. Pooka, banshees, and fairies, as well as other spirits, could travel freely.
Celtic Traditions at Halloween
Many of today’s Halloween traditions come from the customs of Samhain.
With so many spirits wandering the earth it was best to be prepared. Disguises were donned to confuse the spirits- if they thought you were also a spirit they wouldn’t carry you away! Costumes were also used to hide from the spirits of the dead who may hold a grudge!
What will your costume be this Halloween? Is it funny or scary?
On Samhain eve all fires were put out. Massive communal bonfires were lit, and from those embers all other fires were re-lit. To carry the embers home in the dark large root vegetables, usually turnips, were hollowed and carved to keep the ember aglow. The scary face was extra protection against the spirits.
Do you carve pumpkins for Halloween?
Trick or Treat
This custom began in Ireland when children and the poor would go door to door prior to Samhain. In return for songs or prayers for the dead the beggars were offered food, kindling, or small coins.
Do you have a trick to earn your treat?
References If You Wish To Know More
Learn more Halloween words in Irish!
Old Irish Customs that Survive in Modern Ireland with author Felicity Hayes-McCoy (podcast)
Enough is Plenty: A Year on the Dingle Peninsula by Felicity Hayes-McCoy (book; Amazon affiliate link)
Celtic Festivals– and introduction