3,000 years ago, in pagan Ireland, the ancient Celts celebrated ‘Samhain’ (sow-win), a harvest festival to mark the start of winter, when the veil between this world and the next was at its weakest and spirits – the Púcaí (Puca) – and fairies walked the earth. Traditions began that last to this day. Large communal bonfires were lit to ward off demons, and embers were carried home in a hollow turnip (the original Jack O’Lantern), masks were worn as disguises against evil spirits (the first Halloween costumes) and soul cakes were offered to children and the poor (today’s trick or treating). A barmbrack cake was baked to forecast the future and this fruit loaf is still eaten today. Emigrants brought these customs to North America, then it spread around the world as Halloween. But its spiritual home will always be Samhain in Ireland. Get stuck in to our Halloween quiz and test your knowledge of Ireland during the spookiest time of the year, to access click here.
Check out some of the festivals that make Halloween in Ireland so special, such as the Púca Festival and the Derry Halloween Festival.
Regarded as the finest Halloween festival in Europe, a scare-fest like no other awaits in the Walled City of Derry~Londonderry in Northern Ireland, where plans are afoot to create an enchanting world of illusion and wonder. The festival will take place from Friday 29 October to Sunday 31 October, creating a series of ‘spirit worlds’ in locations across the city.
Centred in Ireland’s Ancient East, in counties Meath and Louth, Púca Festival (29 – 31 October), remembers the traditions and the spirit of Samhain by reopening the pathways of reflection and celebration carved by travellers at Halloween over 2,000 years ago. Púca is a spectacular, fun and otherworldly festival, offering three nights of music, fire, feasting and mischief.
Ireland's favourite Halloween recipes, such as barmbrack (fruit cake) and colcannon can be found here. These foods often contain items that can foretell your future. such as a ring (married in a year) or a coin (wealth) so chew with caution!
The Halloween Barmbrack traditionally contained various objects baked into the bread and was used as a sort of fortune-telling game. In the barmbrack were: a pea (you won't marry over the next year), a stick (an unhappy marriage), a piece of cloth (a small piece of cloth foretells poverty), a small coin (represents great wealth) and a ring (one would be wed within the year).
Colcannon which is mashed potato, cabbage, and lashings of butter was made in Ireland around Halloween. Like barmbrack it was also believed whatever “trinket” you found in your potatoes predicted your future.
Tourism Ireland have produced custom content focused on the history, traditions and fun facts surrounding the celebrations on October 31st. These assets are available for rights-free usage on your owned channels, should you wish to add them to your content calendars.