IRISH HALLOWEEN TRADITIONS and Samhain History

The Irish Jewelry Company's Blog

Samhain greeting card

The Celts celebrated Halloween as Samhain, ‘All Hallowtide’ – the ‘Feast of the Dead’, when the dead revisited the mortal world. The celebration marked the end of Summer and the start of the Winter months.

During the eighth century the Catholic Church designated the first day of November as ‘All Saints Day’ (‘All Hallows’) – a day of commemoration for those Saints that did not have a specific day of remembrance. The night before was known as ‘All Hallows Eve’ which, over time, became known as Halloween.

Here are the most notable Irish Halloween Traditions:

Colcannon for Dinner:
Boiled Potato, Curly Kale (a cabbage) and raw Onions are provided as the traditional Irish Halloween dinner. Clean coins are wrapped in baking paper and placed in the potato for children to find and keep.

The Barnbrack Cake:
The traditional Halloween cake in Ireland is the barnbrack which is a fruit bread…

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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.