So, although the world has gotten a lot smaller, and Ireland has become as americanised as many other European countries, we still have our own little cultural quirks. Here are some facts about Hallowe’en in Ireland that you may or may not have been aware of:
- Halloween was invented in Ireland! It has its origins in the Celtic festival ‘Samhain’. Samhain [pronounced sow-in, where sow is pronounced like wow] is the modern Irish language word for November. It was believed that the living could talk to the dead during this time.
- The idea of carving jack-o-lanterns is also thought to have originated in Ireland! But of course, there was no such thing as pumpkins in Ireland back then so people would have traditionally carved turnips. (My Dad would remember this from his childhood, and actually I think he carved a turnip for us back in the day.)
- Our main Hallowe’en food isn’t pumpkin, but barmbrack, or just brack. It’s a delicious loaf baked with dried fruit, mixed peel, and mixed spices. A ring is usually baked inside, and whoever finds it will be next to be married! I’ll be posting a similar recipe on Monday so you can try it yourself. 🙂
- Ever heard of a banshee? This mythical Irish creature is said to be heard shrieking outside when a person dies. The word comes from the Irish, ‘bean sí’, which means fairy woman. Most people know at least one person who claims to have heard the banshee. My grandad did years ago when a neighbour died. True story.
- We sometimes call trick-or-treating ‘going out on the pooky’. This comes from the Irish word ‘púca’ [pronounced poo-kah], which means ghost.
- Pretty much every Irish child who grew up in the nineties went trick-or-treating wearing a bin bag and pound shop mask, usually with a gaggle of cousins (a hella lot of us have 20+ first cousins; I have 37).
- We have our own Hallowe’en party games (probably these are played elsewhere though). Like trying to get a coin out of a basin of water with your teeth. Or the game where different symbols are laid out in front of you (like a small bowl of water, rosary beads, a ring, etc.), you’re blindfolded, and whatever you pick foretells your future (emigration, you’ll be a priest/nun, you’ll be married, etc.).
- Not sure if this is an Irish thing, but the other traditional Hallowe’en food here is monkey nuts. They’re only sold in shops this time of year. Personally I don’t understand; I like my nuts peeled for me and preferably roasted and salted plz.
ALSO re trick-or-treating: We always had to do a party piece when we went to someone’s house. (Usually we sang a song.) But I never see kids having to do this on TV/films. Is this an Irish thing, or just a thing in my neighbourhood? Or did you too do a little party piece?
What’s Hallowe’en like in your country?