Halloween: One of the World’s Oldest Festivals
Halloween is one of the world’s oldest holidays dating back to pagan times. It originated in the lands such as Ireland, which were inhabited by Celts and marked the start of the Celtic New Year on the first of November. This festival was called Samhain (pronounced sow-in).
The word Halloween comes from Christian tradition and was originally “All Hallows Eve” or the evening before All Hallows’ Day or All Saints Day
The images of ghosts at Halloween hark back to a time when it was believed the spirits of the dead came back to the earthly world at this transition from summer to winter. Candles were lit to help to guide the spirits. The tradition of bonfires comes from the Celtic druids who used to build huge bonfires and offer sacrifices to the Celtic gods.
When people left their homes after dark at Halloween they were scared of being recognised by ghosts and so dressed up in animal skins. This carries into our tradition today of wearing masks and costumes to go out trick or treating or go to parties. Now people wear costumes associated with scary stories or characters that have nothing to do with Halloween such as Dracula, Frankenstein or even zombies.
How we celebrate Halloween in Ireland:
• Trick or Treat: On the 31st of October children dress up as ghosts, zombies, devils and witches. The children knock on the door of your house and recite a poem like this one :
Trick or treat, smell my feet,
Give me something nice to eat
Not too big, not too small
Just the size of Donegal.!
Then the owners will give you sweets, fruit or monkey nuts which are brought home for the Halloween party.
• Bobbing for apples : You fill a basin with water and drop a few apples (or coins) in. Then you duck your head under and try and get an apple, or a coin in your mouth!
• Snap apple is when you hang an apple from a piece of string and you have to take a bite out of the apple. You are not allowed catch the apple. It is very hard but good fun!
Barmbrack is a light fruit cake that we eat at Halloween. It has a ring inside and if you are lucky to find it you can keep it. Whoever finds the ring will marry his true love within the year.
• Pumpkins: Traditionally, Irish people carved turnip lanterns to frighten away the ghosts and ghouls at Halloween. Around the time of the potato famine in the middle of the nineteenth century many Irish emigrated to America taking this tradition with them. However pumpkins were a more common crop in America and so they were used for the lanterns instead.
• Mid term break: In Ireland all primary and secondary schools are closed for a week at Halloween. It is called the mid term break.
• How is Halloween celebrated in your country?
Darragh Brennan 6th class