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Pouring chicky flavour into my pot of Koka noodles I decided that being by yourself for Halloween is a bit scary. We’re all very sad today because after weeks of anticipation I had procured some pumpkin for my first every cutting-up-of-perfectly-good-orange-veges only to have Tiernan sent off on a tour of Ireland that will have him miss Halloween completely.
But I persevered and turned to that same place I always turn when there is no where else to go – Google. Google taught me to carve a pumpkin. It was something I had always wanted to do having grown up seeing Orange Pumpkins on TV. Here’s the result:
1. Portal Pumpkin. I’m quite proud of this guy even if half his body did get left on the other side of the portal!
2. Creeper Pumpkin. Didn’t even try because after the slight failure for the Portal-kin I’d had quite enough fun for one day. So the Creeper is still sitting on the table with his lines in pen.
In a move that hasn’t shocked anyone at all – I cannot carve Pumpkins. I’m sure it’s a practice makes perfect thing, but all I really succeeded in doing was making a mess.
Halloween in Ireland
As for Halloween in Ireland, well it’s always been a bit of a deal. It was celebrated by the Celts as Samhain, Gaelic Oíche Shamhna, which is the ‘the end of summer’. It is the time of year when the dead walk the earth and back in A.D. 100 it was customary to build a bonfire to keep the spirits away.
It was the eight century that saw Halloween get its name, the Catholic Church designated the first of November as ‘All Saint’s Day (Hallows)’ and the night before became ‘All Hallow’s Eve’ – Halloween. So the 31st of October became ‘All Souls Day’ or ‘The Feast of the Dead’.
Many of us don’t like to start looking to Christmas until Halloween is over. In New Zealand we started on Christmas in September, perhaps because no one really does Halloween. We might learn about it, some local kids (unlikely) might dress up, but we don’t trick or treat (unless it’s preorganised by parents and even then that’s rare). It’s a completely different deal here in Ireland where October 31st has been celebrated in some form for thousands of years. So around the end of August the sweeties (lollies) come out, as to the outfits, the orange and black decorations and all the paraphernalia. You can tell the homes with children because the suddenly become decked in all sorts of attempts at turning the family home into a house of horrors. I don’t know what’s more frightening, their attempts at being frightening or the plastic skeleton? 😛 Here are some traditions currently standing in Ireland:
- Pumpkin Carving: As you saw above by my feeble attempt, pumpkin carving is still very much in vogue in Ireland. A Jack O’Lantern is a hollowed out pumpkin with a candle inside to illuminate the carved designs on the outside. Normally in the shape of a scary face, to keep damned wanderer Jack from your door, it is now very much tradition to put whatever you want on the outside of a pumpkin.
Traditionally a turnip was used, but when the tradition emigrated with the Irish diaspora to America, pumpkins became more common. There are many versions of the tale of Jack, but typically Jack, a blacksmith, crossed the devil and was thus denied entry to hell. When he died he was also denied entry to heaven and was left to wander the earth using an ember of hell (a gift from the devil) inside a hollowed turnip for light.
- Trick or Treating: Children will dress up in costumes and visit the houses in their neighbourhood and fill their buckets with goodies.
This originated as a custom where on Halloween the poor would visit the houses of the rich for food or money – I’d like to see that work nowadays! For now, let’s just stick to free sweets and a very sick November 1st!
- Halloween Snacks: Aside from lollies, the Barnbrack is the tradition Halloween cuisine. It is a fruit bread with coins, thimbles and other nic-nacs baked into them. Which item you receive is supposed to be prophetic – a coin means impending wealth, for example.
- Bonfires: As I said before, bonfires were used to ward off wandering souls. It’s still very much a thing to do to hold a bonfire or go to see one. Some people spend days preparing them so there is sure to be a good blaze! Like the other traditions, this one dates back to Celtic times. It is said that if you drop a strand of your hair into the fire and then you dream of the person you love your dream will come true! Worth it?
- Theme Parties: Our party was cancelled this year, so no dressing up for me, but adults across Ireland in homes and pubs create shenanigans by dressing up creatively and having a bit of a party. Get a bunch of people together and play some silly, probably food related, Halloween games!
Find a whole bunch more interesting Irish Halloween traditions here!
Happy Halloween tomorrow, ladies and gents!