The Origins of Samhain and Its Traditions

Halloween originated with an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween or Sow-in). The Celtic New Year began on November 1. On the last day of the Celtic year, October 31, the Celts believed that ghosts roamed the world that night, causing harm to crops and creating mischief. So on October 31, the Celts dressed in scary costumes, parading around the village in the hopes of scaring away the mischievous spirits.

When Christianity arrived in Ireland, the church named November 1 as All Saints Day to honor saints and martyrs in an attempt replace or over shadow Samhain. Trick-or-treating originated from an All Souls Day tradition. People walked from village to village begging for “soul cakes.” In exchange for the “soul cakes,” a prayer would be said for the giver of the bread. The more bread they gave away the more people they had praying for their souls. In the 1500s, All Saint’s Day becomes All Hallows’ Day, and Samhain had become known as All Hallows’ Evening. Then eventually Hallow Evening became Halloween.

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Irish Halloween Folklore….. Have you ever heard of a pooka?

The “Pooka” or in Irish púca (Irish for spirit/ghost), is primarily a goblin like creature in traditional Irish folklore. The pooka is considered to be both a bringer of good and bad fortune. The pooka could 994613_10153357225920245_1508916101_neither help or hinder rural and mariner communities. The goblin like creatures were said to be shape shifters which could take the appearance of black horses, goats and rabbits.

Celtic Autumn Equinox

September 23rd, the Autumn Equinox. To Celts – this is the Second Harvest, when the ripe Acorns fall from the wild Irish Oaks and we plant them in fertile soil. This wonderful time is the time when day and night are equal in length. Equinox meaning “equal night”.knowth-ireland

In Ireland there is an ancient Irish equinox temple at Knowth, near Newgrange (Brú na Boinne). Knowth has a 100-foot long passage that only is light by the Sun on the morning of the Spring and Autumn Equinox.

The Irish Banshee

The Banshee,  bean-sidhe (woman of the fairy may be an ancestral spirit appointed to forewarn members of certain ancient Irish families of their time of death. According to tradition, the banshee can only cry for five major Irish families: the O’Neills, the O’Briens, the O’Connors, the O’Gradys and the Kavanaghs. Intermarriage has since extended this select list.220px-Banshee
Whatever her origins, the banshee chiefly appears in one of three guises: a young woman, a stately matron or a raddled old hag. These represent the triple aspects of the Celtic goddess of war and death, namely Badhbh, Macha and Mor-Rioghain.) She usually wears either a grey, hooded cloak or the winding sheet or grave robe of the unshriven dead. She may also appear as a washer-woman, and is seen apparently washing the blood stained clothes of those who are about to die. In this guise she is known as the bean-nighe (washing woman).
Although not always seen, her mourning call is heard, usually at night when someone is about to die.

Lambs Wool

lambs-wool

After you feast on traditional Irish foods on Halloween you will need to wash it down with an old drink called Lambswool. The name Lambswool is believed to be derivative of the Irish Gaelic, “La Mas Nbhal” meaning ‘Feast of the Apples. The Gaelic saying was pronounced “Lammas-ool”. This ultimately evolved into Lambswool. There are several of recipes for Lambswool that exist. But the drink basically consists of baked crushed apples(cored and crushed without skins), which are added to milk, and hot spiced ale, hard cider and or wine. Grate in nutmeg and some ginger. Add sugar according to taste.

About This Recipe

“This is a traditional cider drink that was made and enjoyed on Twelfth Night (January 16-17) in Elizabethan England. It is said that it gets its name from the whiteness of the roasted apples as they fluff out of their skins while they cook. I haven’t made it yet, but I cant let go of the recipe every time I go to clean out my recipe box.”

Ingredients

    • 4 pints real ale ( Newcastle or similar)
    • 2 -3 large apples
    • 1 cup hard alcoholic cider ( such as Woodchuck or Hornsby’s)
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 3 cloves
    • sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C: 350°F: Gas 4.
  2. Core the apples and bake in 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes until very soft.
  3. Squeeze all of the pulp from the apples and discard the skins then fluff the puree with a fork.
  4. Heat the ale and cider with the cinnamon stick and cloves.
  5. Add the apple puree and sugar to taste.
  6. Serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy of Food.com

Women’s Christmas in Ireland

Have you ever heard of “Women’s Christmas”?
In Ireland on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, it is when traditionally the Irish finish celebrating Christmas. It is also known as Nollaigh na mBean in Irish (Women’s Christmas).

Tradition has it that women get the day off and the men of the house get to do the housework, cooking and take down the Christmas decorations. Women meet up have a day out and treat themselves.
Are you celebrating Women’s Christmas this year?

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THE CANDLE IN THE WINDOW

The placing of a lighted candle in the window of a house on Christmas eve is still practiced today. It has a number of purposes but primarily it was an symbol of welcome to Mary and Joseph as they traveled looking for shelter.

The candle also indicchristmas-around-the-world-06ated a safe place for priests to perform mass as, during Penal Times this was not allowed.

A further element of the tradition is that the candle should be lit by the youngest member of the household and only be extinguished by a girl bearing the name ‘Mary’.