by Josh Davies
History and Heritage
Learn about the gruesome history of Halloween in Ireland. With banshees and phantoms on the loose, discover how to protect yourself during Halloween in Ireland.
Originating in Ireland, there are many reasons behind some of our favourite Halloween celebrations. Ghosts and vampires lurking around every corner, it is essential you know how to protect yourself from the undead at Halloween in Ireland.
Keep reading if you want to know more about Halloween in Ireland and how to ward off demons…
Halloween is the time to celebrate all things paranormal. Each year people dress up to represent their favourite ghouls, spirits and demons. Although Americans have popularised Halloween, the origins come from Ireland.
As part of the harvest rituals, Halloween in Ireland comes from Samhain. Each year on November 1st, Samhain represented the end of harvest and the end of the summer months. It also symbolised the beginning of the new year and the dark, cold winters often associated with death.
The Celts believed October 31st, the day before the new year, was when the boundaries between life and death became obscured. As the end of the year moved into the new year, the people celebrated the dead returning to their graves.
Over the years, Irish Halloween has become an integral part of culture and celebrations each year. With many new events showing up each year, it is vital to maintain the Irish Halloween traditions of old.
From bobbing for apples to trick or treating, Halloween in Ireland has become a worldwide celebration. Keep reading to find out more about some Irish Halloween traditions.
As the spooky holiday has spread around, the one thing that continues to be popular among children and adults is dressing up. Originally, Halloween in Ireland had much more gruesome costumes. Irish Halloween costumes traditionally incorporated gruesome animal skins and heads.
The reason behind the gruesome Irish Halloween costumes was to ward off any ghosts that had strayed across the boundary of life and death. If any ghosts happened to stumble across them, they were hopeful that these costumes would confuse the spirits and let them pass safely.
As the years passed, the meaning behind the Irish Halloween costumes changed. People began travelling from door to door in disguise singing songs in exchange for food or treats. It was a belief that impersonating the souls of the dead would protect them from any other ghouls and ghosts.
Going from door to door in costume quickly developed into the trick or treating we know today.
During Halloween in Ireland, as life and death blurred, priests believed they could glimpse the future. They would make predictions about the winter and how it may affect the townspeople.
At the time, this was a source of comfort and belief to get through the chilling winter ahead. As times changed, children adopted the idea of predicting the future with a spooky Irish Halloween game.
As with many paranormal games, this Irish Halloween tradition could be both fortunate and unfortunate. The game features three saucers containing clay, water and a ring.
The children would then take it in turns to be blindfolded. Once blindfolded, they would be asked to put their hands out and choose one of the saucers. The saucer chosen would represent the fortune or misfortune of the child future.
These saucers varied from region to region. Some included buttons to signify a life of poverty, while a coin would symbolise a life of riches. As divination varied from person to person, it brought families together to discover their fortune.
Dipping or bobbing for apples comes from the relation to the end of the harvest season. As the year draws to a close, families in the local communities could feast on fruits and rich foods.
The traditional feast was then turned into a Halloween tradition around the globe. Players take turns dipping their heads into a bucket of water filled with apples. The aim of the game is to grab an apple with your mouth before returning to the surface.
You may recognise Jack O’Lanterns as decorated pumpkins with scary faces. However, this tradition was actually started with the common Irish turnips.
Carving ghoulish faces into the turnips allowed the town folk to carry the fire back home without the risk of losing the flame. By taking the flame from the bonfire, families believed they would scare away the demons from their homes.
When Halloween became popular in America, the turnips made way for the easier to find pumpkins. During Halloween in Ireland, you can find pumpkin carving competitions in Galway, Belfast and many other towns.
While most traditions remain in one format, Irish Halloween has adapted. That led to new and exciting activities that are perfect for families, couples, children and adults to enjoy.
For adults looking to celebrate with a few drinks, Derry Halloween is a horrifying display of fireworks, spirits and pub crawls. You can also find many engaging activities that will keep the kids busy throughout the Derry Halloween festival.
Why not learn more about the origins in one of the Heart of Samhain events across the county. The festival is perfect for all the ghouls in the family, great or small.
There are many events across Ireland at Halloween. The cities tend to have more family-friendly activities. However, you are sure to find something almost anywhere in Ireland on your visit.
County Wexford has several gruesome Irish Halloween events perfect for the little ones. Or head over to Corkfor an event filled weekend with the family. By staying in a self-catering holiday home, you can bring your own decorations and enjoy your Halloween in Ireland how you want.
Why not learn more about Irish heritage and start planning your Christmas in Ireland this year.
Discover the history of Halloween in Ireland and learn more about the countries most haunting traditions. From ghouls to goblins, you will need to wear your scariest costumes to enjoy Irish Halloween.
Image Credits – William Murphy – (CC BY-SA 2.0); William Murphy – (CC BY-SA 2.0); Caleb Zahnd – (CC BY 2.0); Opacity – (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0); Joeykavanagh – (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Hi, I'm Josh. I joined the Sykes team in 2019 and love all things travel.
I enjoy spending my time travelling throughout the w...
Sign up to receive exclusive offers, competitions and the latest news to your inbox, and you'll be entered into our monthly prize-draw 3 times!
No matter where you are in the world, St Patrick’s day is a joyous occasion marked with celebrations and...
When it comes to the festive season, no one does it quite like the Irish. From Guinness and mince...
These libraries are a bibliophiles delight! These beautiful buildings have fascinating histories and house vast collections of books, some...