Samhain- The Roots of the Spooks.

Alice Higgins Dublin Center


October 20, 2017

Did you know that Halloween sprouted from an Irish Celtic tradition known as Samhain? Nope, didn't think so! Well about 2,000 years ago, Samhain was the name given to the mid-point of the calendar where the ‘light’ of summer and the ‘dark’ of winter met. Spirits were most likely to rear their ghoulish heads during Samhain as it was at this time that the division between our world and the underworld was thought to be at its thinnest.

The tradition of dressing up also started with Samhain. During this time the spirits of old family and friends that had passed on were invited back to people’s homes. This was all well and good once the other evil, unwanted spirits could be warded off.  And how you ask, can one ward off evil spirits? With masks and costumes of course! Family’s dressed up specifically to get rid of any unwelcome guests. They felt that their costumes would terrify even the dead. (They have obviously changed over the years ‘’I’m a mouse, duh’’ isn’t going to scare anyone away!!)

Another precaution (because we can never be too careful) was to extinguish all household fires on the night of the 31st. Then, a communal fire that included the bones of slaughtered animals was lit. This was what we now know as a bonfire. Each household re-lit their home fires from the bonfire. These fires were also used to prepare huge amounts of food for both the living and the dead. (Not sure how that worked- but who am I to question ancient traditions!)

I’m not sure where fireworks or trick-or-treating fitted in with the ancient Celts, but it’s definitely a cool history to back up an exciting holiday.