Halloween in Ireland then and now
Halloween is an ancient Celtic festival, (Oiche Shamna in Irish language.) It has been celebrated for many years where the young and sometimes not so young take to the streets in spooky costumes such as witches, goblins and ghouls trick or treating for sweets. The aim is to knock on as many houses as you can in your neighborhood filling up baskets and bags with sweets, nuts, fruits and sometimes moneys shouting “trick or treat, trick or treat, give me something nice to eat”. The treat is getting home that evening and for one night only being allowed to gorge on all of your goodies.
In olden times it is said that for one night only fairies, pixies, ghosts and ghouls arise from the dead and the reasoning behind the costumes and masks is so that said creatures don’t recognise you and drag you back to their dark, eery underworlds.
Some Halloween traditions have been around for many years such as pumpkin carving, bonfires and bobbing for apples and most have superstitions attached to them such as the Barn brack (Bairin brack in Gaeilge) which would be a typical tea time treat in every Irish household at Halloween and it is always a treat to be the one to find the ring that is planted in the middle of the brack. In the past, similar to a barnbrack, charms were mixed into the colcannon. Charms found were seen as a portent for the future. A button meant you would remain a bachelor, and a thimble meant you would remain a spinster for the coming year. A ring meant you would get married, and a coin meant you would come into wealth. Others filled their socks with colcannon and hung them from the handle of the front door in belief that the first man through the door would become their future husband.
Halloween has different meanings to everyone and as the years go by from generation to generation alot has seemed to change. Costumes were typically made by a childs parent and consisted of old rags and coal stained faces or a witches hat and a black bag now childrens costumes are shop bought and not necessarily even spooky. Bon fire nights have gone from literally a “fire of bones”, the unused remains of slaughtered animals were hygienically disposed of to lighting tyres and planks of wood gathered for weeks by the kids in the area. One thing is for sure that whether you are an adult or a child on Halloween night, Ireland is the best place to be.