Did you know that the origin of Halloween comes from the Festival of Samhain in Ireland’s Celtic past? This festival marked the end of the summer and signified the beginning of a new year. As the end of the year, it was believed that souls of the departed would return to their former homes on the 31st of October. Given the Celtic roots of this holiday steeped in tradition, the Irish have developed many customs for Halloween over the years. Here is our list of 6 Irish Halloween traditions you never knew.
Not all fairies are as sweet and friendly as those on the Irish Fairy Door Trail here in Dublin! Some fairies and goblins are said to try to collect as many souls as they can at Halloween, but if they met a person who threw the dust from under their feet at them, they would have to release any souls they were holding captive.
Colcannon is the traditional dinner to have on Halloween night before you head out for an evening of fun! It is a simple dish made up of boiled potatoes, curly kale, and raw onions. Traditionally, coins were wrapped in pieces of clean wax paper and slipped into the children’s colcannon for them to find and keep. Sometimes you may even find a ring in your portion of colcannon! If you do, it is believed that you will be married within the year.
For colcannon recipes and other traditional Irish foods, click here.
Each member of the family places a perfect ivy leaf into a cup of water and it is then left undisturbed overnight. In the morning, if the leaf is still perfect and has not developed any spots, then that person will be assured 12 months of health until the following Halloween.
There story of the Jack-o-Lantern is based in Celtic tradition. In order to carry home an ember from the communal bonfire, people would carve out a turnip so they could place a flame inside and walk it home. When the Scot-Irish emigrated to America, they adapted the tradition and used pumpkins instead, as they were easier to find than turnips.
Some even still use turnips instead of pumpkins to page homage to this Celtic Tradition. For instructions about creating a Turnip Lantern, click here.
During Samhain, it was said that this was the one day of the year that spirits could walk the earth. The community would gather together on the 31st of October and light a bonfire to ward off bad fortune and evil spirits in the coming year.
Snap apple is essentially the Irish version of bobbing for apples with a bit of a twist. An apple is suspended form a sting and participants are blindfolded with their arms tied behind their back. The first one to get a decent bite of the apple gets a prize! Apples are associated with love. It is said that whoever gets the first bite will be the first to marry.
Of course, our friends at Ha'Penny Bridge Imports of Ireland are doing Halloween the Irish way! Stop by their store to pick up An Irish Hallowe'en, a children's book that tells the story of a Halloween on the Emerald Isle, made extra tricky by 3 trouble making goblins. See if you can find some of the traditions mentioned above, in this Celtic tale!