halloween ireland

Photo Courtesy of The Irish Times.

With Halloween only days away, everyone around the world is getting ready for the big celebration, including the Emerald Isle. Let’s examine the story of Halloween, according to Ireland.

Every year, the United States has children run around the streets and knocking on doors in search of delicious treats. They say the phrase that makes us fork over our candy, “Trick-or-Treat," but has anyone ever stopped to ask where this ancient phrase comes from?

It actually hails from Ireland. When the children and the poor of Ireland would go door-to-door around this time of year and sing songs or offer prayers for the dead in return of food, they would use this phrase.

Normally, they would receive a desert called, “Soul Cake”, which is flattened bread with fruit inside of it. This was the common tradition known as “Souling."  This tradition of “Souling” dates back over 2,000 years.

We all plan weeks ahead of the actual holiday and think “what do I want to be this Halloween?” This is a simple, yet also complicated question for many. For the people of Ireland, they are told to dress in a distinguished manner in order to protect themselves.

They believe that Halloween is the time where the world of the living and the dead are at their closest. They did, much like us, dress up like demons. Men would have to dress their faces in black and white to look like demons in hopes that the demonic spirits from the underworld would not visit their homes and be tempted to carry them away the following morning.

Typically, we carve Jack-O-Lanterns out of pumpkins, making funny faces or designs, something to put smiles on the faces of others. This is yet another tradition that hails from Ireland.

They normally used Turnips or Swedes (Rutabagas) for these were much easier to access than pumpkins. The story on how they began to carve Turnips and Swedes is unclear, but Ireland does have an old folk’s tale that may help clear up the answer.

It starts with a man named Stingy Jack, a lazy blacksmith who tricks the devil into a trap using his cross and wouldn’t free him until the devil agreed to not take Jack’s soul after he died. Many years later, Jack passes away and was not allowed into Heaven, for he was a very lazy man in life.

Unfortunately, the devil does keep his word and refuses to take Jack. The devil throws a flame at him straight from Hell to help him see his way through the darkness of eternity.

Jack was forced to carve a lantern out of a turnip to put the flame in and to help him light his way. To this day, he wanders the Earth for all eternity, known as Jack of the Lantern, or Jack-O-Lantern.

Today, Ireland celebrates much like America does, running around yelling, “Trick-or-Treat” and eating many sweets. In Ireland, he city of Derry was voted number 1 in the world for places to visit during Halloween.

They have parades, feasts and fireworks. There are foods to feast on: Apple Pie, Toffee Apples, Colcannon (mashed potatoes with kale), Potato Farl, Barmbrack and of course, Irish Stew.

We have plenty in common with Ireland and their traditions. This also may give a better understanding to mysteries of Halloween. The next time you are carving a pumpkin, or running around the neighborhood, or even just gorging on sweets, just remember where these traditions came from and pass these stories on, for it may just save your life.

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