Halloween in Ireland. We at House of Lor love Halloween, especially the dressing up! It’s a very popular time in Ireland. Lots of children and adults will participate in the fun of Halloween on the night of October 31st; however, few will be aware of its ancient Celtic roots in the Samhain. Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in).
Samhain in Celtic Ireland
In Celtic Ireland about 2,000 years ago, Samhain was the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter). The Celts believed that at Samhain the division between this world and the otherworld was at its thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through. In other words, the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
The Celts believed that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids or Celtic priests to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort during the long dark winter. To commemorate Samhain, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.
Household fires were extinguished and started again from the bonfire after the celebrations were over, believing this ritual would help to protect them during the coming winter. The Celts wore costumes and masks to disguise themselves as harmful spirits in order to avoid harm, by confusing them. The costumes typically were of animal heads and skins. How spooky must that have looked?
Family’s ancestors were honoured and invited home, whilst harmful spirits were warded off. Food played a large part in the festivities. Food was prepared for the living and the dead, food for the ancestors who were in no position to eat it obviously, was ritually shared with the less well off.
The Irish brought their Halloween traditions to America
Christianity incorporated the honouring of the dead into the Christian calendar with All Saints (All Hallows) on November 1st, followed by All Souls on November 2nd. The wearing of costumes and masks to ward off harmful spirits survived as Halloween customs.
The Irish emigrated to America in great numbers during the 19th century especially around the time of famine in Ireland during the 1840s The Irish brought their Halloween traditions to America, where today it is one of the major holidays of the year. Over time other traditions have blended into Halloween, for example, the American harvest time tradition of carving pumpkins.
Two hills in Ireland were associated with Samhain in Celtic Ireland, Tlachtga and Tara. Tlachtga was the location of the Great Fire Festival which began on the eve of Samhain (Halloween).
The entrance passage to the “Mound of the Hostages” on the Hill of Tara is aligned with the rising sun around Samhain. The Mound of the Hostages is 4,500 to 5000 years old, suggesting that Samhain was celebrated long before the first Celts arrived in Ireland about 2,500 years ago.
Have lots of fun this Halloween and a Spooktacular time! Remember your Celtic ancestors and how they celebrated Halloween a very, very long time ago.
Connect with your Celtic roots
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