University College Dublin, Fall 2018.
The celebrations here in Ireland are a little bit more extravagant than back home. Back home people go all out with parties, but there is more history and traditions here that I loved learning about. Traditionally, I always thought that Halloween came from the Mexican celebration of Día de Los Muertos, which means Day of the Dead. I learned about it in school when I was young, but I never really knew where the origin came from. Well being over here in Ireland, Halloween is an even bigger deal than I thought. In some of the classes I am taking here, I am learning about the Irish’s Halloween traditions as well as where Halloween actually came from. Now to answer my own question, Halloween originated here in Ireland and people just brought it to other countries. It wasn’t originally called Halloween, it was, well is, called Samhain. It is the night of October 31 leading into the morning of November 1 which marks the ending of the Harvest season and the beginning of the winter season. This particular day is apart of the “Quarter Days” and these days are pretty self explanatory. There are four marked days throughout the year, the first is Saint Brigid’s Day which is February 1, May Day which is May 1, Lunasa which is August 1 and then Samhain which is November 1. All of these days represent the ending of one season and the beginning of another, which these days are what the Irish people base their entire year and harvest off of.
In the states, people like to carve pumpkins and here in Ireland they do too, but that apparently is an American tradition that after Halloween was brought over to America, the carving of pumpkins was brought back to Ireland. Before carving pumpkins though, children would carve turnips in Ireland. Now imagine it, instead of carving a big orange jack-o’-lantern, putting a candle in it and then setting it out on your front porch, you would carve a tiny turnip instead. It’s quite different huh? Besides just the simple tradition of carving pumpkins, also the act of guising is very big in Ireland. For those of you reading who do not know what guising is, it is dressing up in different costumes and disguising yourself as someone else. The Aran Islands have a long lasting tradition where adults would completely disguise themselves as someone opposite from who they were and either cause mischief or just walk around at night confusing people. Tall people would walk with a hunch, young people would hold a cane, if someone was at a bar ordering a drink, they would just point at what they wanted so no one knew who was talking as well as they wouldn’t order a drink they would normally get so no one knew who it was. They took guising very seriously and once that was then brought to other countries, it was brought back to Ireland, but now children dress up as their favorite character, or a super hero, or a pumpkin or anything they want and go trick or treating.
Trick or treating is also something that was brought back over to Ireland. At the beginning of Samhain, it was a very mischievous night, which some Americans might associate Halloween as “Mischief Night.” Now I have heard it being called that before, but I never put two and two together. Apparently on Halloween, so many people would play pranks that when they were saying “trick or treat” they weren’t just waiting for candy, but if the person giving didn’t give them any candy, money, etc. then they would get an actual trick played on them. I don’t know about you, but when I was younger and if someone didn’t give me candy, I wouldn’t play a trick on them, but that was the tradition here in Ireland. A very real tradition that in some parts still exist today. Another interesting fact about Halloween in Ireland is they always light off fireworks and around the island, certain towns, if not all, love to light bonfires. Because of this day and age some get too out of hand so they are somewhat dying out, but they are alive enough to where it is just like home. Although specifically we do not light bonfires because of Halloween, but during the time of year Halloween is on, bonfires are still a major thing to do. Now I do wish I would have seen a bonfire, but I’m sort of glad I didn’t. If I would have, it would have really made me miss home and that is something that would make me sad, and for that particular holiday, it would take a lot to ruin it for me.
I thoroughly enjoyed Halloween this year because it is one of my absolute favorite holidays and being able to celebrate it where it originated from was so much fun. I did what any normal college student would do, I went out to a costume party, hung out with my friends and had a great Halloween night. It was so cool to hear fire works and to look out my window while getting ready and see them light up the sky. It was so enjoyable to be able to experience such a big festival in a different country and it is something I will always remember.