Halloween – an Irish Tradition

Halloween is arguably most celebrated in the United States every year but did you know Halloween is said to come from an Irish tradition?

Although, the origin of the word ‘Halloween’ is Christian, it is said to have pagan roots and linked to the Celtic festival known as ‘Samhain’ which was normally held around October 31st. The festival is based on the old Irish for “summer’s end” and marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. This is where the preparations for the harsh winter ahead began as cattle were brought back down from the unsheltered fields and livestock were slaughtered for some well needed Winter supplies.  

Bonfires were often lit and it has been said that human sacrifices were offered. To this day bonfires play a part in Halloween celebrations (minus the human sacrifices!). Samhain was seen as a time where the door to the ‘other world’ was open for the dead and other creatures such as fairies to come into our world. They also believed that the souls of the dead revisited their homes. However, evil spirits were said to be active at Samhain and people took steps to scare off these harmful spirits. It has been said that these customs influenced modern day Halloween traditions.

Costumes were worn at Samhain to disguise oneself from the evil as early as before the 20th century, in parts of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In Ireland people went out just before nightfall in their costumes collecting for Samhain feasts, as young children do today, under the practice known as ‘trick-or-treating’.

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