The history of Halloween is fascinating – thanks, in large part, to the Irish and our superstitions. Here are 7 of the most interesting Irish facts about Halloween!
- Halloween comes from the ancient Irish festival of Samhain, (pronounced sow-in) meaning “end of summer.” A day when the undead are thought to walk among the living, and we must ward off the evil spirits.
- One old Irish Halloween game was to blindfold a person and have them place their hand on items spread across a table. Landing in a bowl of water meant emigration, a piece of earth meant a death in the family, a ring meant a wedding was coming soon and so on.
- Black cats are definitely associated with Halloween. Some say this is because the ancient Druids in Ireland used to throw them into bonfires as part of the Samhain ceremony.
- In Celtic legend, orange and black, the colours of Halloween, are the colours of death.
- Because of number 4, meeting an orange-haired woman was considered to be a bad omen, especially for fishermen. Furthermore, legend has it that for a man to meet an orange-haired woman on Halloween was even more dire. He had to turn around and go right back home.
- The custom of Halloween was brought to America by Irish famine emigrants in the 1840s. The use of pumpkins for Jack-o’-lanterns only started in America, as they are native to the country. Turnips were usually used in Ireland.
- A common practice at Halloween, is where a ring is hidden in the “Barmbrack,” which is a bread-like fruitcake specially made for the occasion. The person who gets the ring in their slice – if they don’t swallow it – will have a happy marriage ahead. This is a popular treat with our students!
Every year, we visit the biggest Halloween party in Europe, Derry Halloween Festival, where over 30,000 people descend on the city for fancy dress, fireworks and parades. Below are some pictures from our students last year.