Ever-popular world-wide, where does Halloween actually originate? Ireland! Even the tradition of pumpkin carving comes from Ireland…
Though the festival has changed a lot, the origins of Halloween are quite old. Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve, comes from an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain, which predates Christianity by a long shot.
Traditionally celebrated from 31 October to 1 November, the festival of Samhain is meant to celebrate the end of the annual harvest season and the coming of winter. Samhain marks the time of year when livestock were brought in from their summer grazing grounds. Celebrated with great feasts, the ancient Celtic people also traditionally lit enormous bonfires to keep away the spirits of the dead thought to ‘awaken’ during Samhain.
According to Celtic culture, during Samhain the boundary between our world and the world of the dead dissolved; spirits and fairies could easily cross into our world. To keep the spirits at bay, the people left out offerings, mostly food and drink (not unlike the ‘offerings’ given out during Halloween festivities), as well as a seat at the feast table, to appease these stowaway fairies.
Inside the dark and eerie Owneygat Cave – sometimes called the Gateway to Hell (or the ‘other world’) when the doorway to the fairy world is open. Dare to come here at Halloween?!
The practice of disguising oneself is likely a countermeasure to hide from the spirits and fairies. Though pumpkins are from North America, the practice of carving vegetables comes from Ireland. In the past during Samhain, the Irish would have carved turnips (far more creepy than pumpkins!) in order to ward off the spirits.
Encounter ancient Celtic culture in the monument-heavy northwest on our multi-activity adventure, Intro to Hiking and Sea Kayaking in Sligo.