As we enter the dark half of the year, in Ireland tonight we are celebrating Halloween or, more properly, Samhain. Our ancient feast of Samhain was partially replaced by the Christian feast of All Saints or All Hallows on 1st November. This feast pushed the ancient pre-Christian observances of Samhain to the evening of 31st October – the Eve of All Hallows or Halloween. The Feasts of All Hallows and All Souls (2nd November) both commemorate the dead, and Samhain was a liminal festival which marked a time when the division between the world of the living and the world of spirits and the dead is very faint and it is possible to pass from one to the other. It also marked the end of the old year and the start of the new year in the ancient Irish calendar. Sadly, Halloween has become a celebration of b-movie fright nights rather than a time to reflect on the dead. The blog Irish Archaeology has highlighted the folk traditions that were recorded by the Irish Folklore Commission in the 1930s. The Commission asked schoolchildren to interview elderly people about their memories and local traditions. These recollections were written out in school copy books and are now preserved in the Department of Folklore in University College Dublin.
The website Dúchas has published examples of these Halloween recollections:
For the blog Irish Archaeology: http://irisharchaeology.ie.