Halloween in Ireland
Did you know Halloween originated in Ireland?
Halloween came from the ancient Celtic festival Samhain (pronounced sow-in) which is said to be over 2,000 years old and in Irish means ‘end of summer’.
In fact, the word Samhain is still used in Irish today when referring to the month of November which is mí na Samhain (pronounced me na sow-in).
Samhain was considered a pivotal turning point in the Celtic calendar which marked the close of the season of light and the beginning of the dark half of the year.
In this transition time it was believed that the boundaries between our world and the ghost world were blurred and that supernatural creatures could come and go as they pleased!
Tales and legends tell of the intrusion of mischievous supernatural beings like fairies, púcas, banshees, and the souls of the dead.
Spooky, spooky, spooky!
Halloween Traditions In Ireland
Many of our Halloween traditions like dressing up and pumpkin lights also come from this Celtic festival.
To ward off the evil spirits let loose at Samhain, huge bonfires were lit and in the time of the Celts, animal bones were burnt in the fire to ward off evil spirits, hence the meaning of the word bonfire or Bone-fire.
People would often carry home an ember from the communal bonfire to light their own fireplace with the spirit-repelling flame. The jack-o’-lantern or carved pumpkins we know today were based on the hollowed out turnips the Celts used as a way of getting the flames safely back home.
They carved menacing faces in the turnips and left them on their doorsteps in order to prevent unwelcome guests entering their homes at Samhain, adding a lit candle to the hollowed out face for added protection.
People also dressed up in ugly masks and disguises to confuse the dark spirits and to remain hidden from returning dead that had disliked them during their own lifetime.
In the hope of appeasing the spirits, food was left out in the home or offerings were left at the nearest hawthorn or white-thorn bush (where fairies were known to live).
To this day we still call Hawthorn trees Fairy Trees in Ireland.
Halloween Fairies, Ghosts & Horses
The Banshee is a female fairy, who warns of approaching death by screaming a terrible, eerie wail. The cry of the Banshee of Ireland would send a shiver down the spine of anyone that hears it and legend has it if you hear her, you should look out for a funeral carriage pulled by a headless horse.
The fairy most connected with the origin of Halloween is the dark and sullen Púca (pronounced Phooka) who is particularly mischievous and capable of assuming any shape in order to abduct mortals to fairy land.
The Púca is particularly adept at taking animal shapes, especially horses!