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The origin of Halloween: Samhain in Ireland

It is an exceptional festival, one of the most important festivals of the Celts. The language is from Halloween. Did you know that this festival, which is known worldwide, has its origins in the Celtic world?

Ireland as the origin of Halloween

Ireland lives the Celtic culture like no other country. As Halloween originates from the Celtic culture, Ireland is often referred to as the festival’s country of origin. Halloween symbolizes the last harvest of the year and the beginning of the “dark half-year” in the Celtic calendar. The Irish call the festival “Samhain” (although this name refers more to November 1st), derived from “Sam” for “summer” and “Fuin” for “sunset” or “end.” They call the eve of All Saints’ Day “Oíche Shamna,” meaning “evening at Samhain.”

The faith of the Celts

At Samhain, according to the Celts’ belief, the gate to another world is opened, and the dead of the past year can leave this world and move on. The village community usually gathers around a fire, which generally contained sacred cattle bones. From this community fire, each house lit an additional light to accompany the dead on their way. The sweets were also gifts to the deceased relatives. Others believe that deceased relatives return to the world on Halloween to visit their loved ones. However, some were afraid of returning from the other world and believed in their revenge on earth. As a deterrent, people dressed up in costumes resembling dead people.

Campfires and lights, costumes, and goodies – these traditions have been kept until today.

So how did Halloween come to America?

Millions of Irish once emigrated to America and continued their traditions, including the famous Halloween festival. Thus America became the leading cultural bearer of the Halloween tradition. The English “all Hallows Eve” – so it is assumed – eventually became “Halloween.”

Irish Halloween today

The Irish still celebrate Halloween extensively, with festivals lasting several days.

Spirits of Meath

The Boyne Valley in County Meath is said to have been the birthplace of Halloween over 3,000 years ago. On the mountain Tlachtga (today called “Hill of Ward”), the closeness between this world and a different world is said to be felt particularly intensely. The county celebrates almost a month with the “Spirits of Meath” festival; in 2017 from October 7th to November 5th. In addition to the fun for young and old, the festival also includes the mountain’s traditional ceremony.

Derry Halloween

Londonderry hosts the world’s largest annual Halloween festival. About 30,000 visitors celebrate the “best Halloween festival in the world,” as USA Today voted.

The creepy factor is particularly intense here. People celebrate with costume parties, scary experiences, historical ghost tours, and difficult conversations for four days.

Dublin

In the Irish capital, there is, of course, also a celebration – with numerous events and parties, from the zoo to cinemas, exhibitions, and children’s camps. If you want to get to know the city with its history and traditions, the ghostly decorated Dublin Ghost Bus will take you from one spooky place to another.

Irish Halloween Poem

This Irish Halloween poem probably sums up the eerie atmosphere of the tradition perfectly:

Spirit, spirit, you are not the spirit,
you are the little Sean Lee,
tonight is the night, Halloween night,
where you play one, two, three.
One, two, three…

Original Irish poem with decoding/translation according to the Brain-Friendly Language Learning Method (brain-friendly method for effortless learning of foreign languages):

Irish Halloween poem

Laura has been a big fan of foreign languages since her childhood. She grew up bilingual - English and German - and through international vacations, she got a taste of many other languages.

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