Happy Hallowe’en all! Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening, wherever ye may read this. Today is Halloween, a grand old Celtic tradition that made its way to North America in the wake of An Gorta Mor. It has other names too, such as All Hallow’s Eve, or All Saint’s Eve. This makes November 1st All Saint’s Day, a global celebration of the London girl group popular in the late 90s and early 00s, and also the long running Australian medical drama that aired in the early mornings and afternoons when I was in secondary school. Ah, great times. No, in all seriousness, All Saint’s Day is a feast of the rememberance of the saints. This makes Halloween the eve of the feast of saints and was a celebration of the dead, at least in Celtic culture.
The festival of Halloween came from the Irish Celtic festival ‘Samhain’, which means ‘summer’s end’, or ‘end of harvest’. Samhain brought about the darker half of the year, probably from mid October until mid April. The border between the human world and the spiritual world was very limited during these few days, meaning that the Aos Si, or faeries, were more active in our world. Old stories of the Aos Si would have been passed down from generation to generation, meaning people knew the powers they had. Offerings of food, drink and crops were left outside people’s houses so that their family would survive the winter.
From as early as the 16th century there are records of people dressing up, or ‘guising’, while going door to door and reciting verse for food. In the 18th century costumes and pranks began to appear in records in the U.K. In all likelihood these early guises were of the Aos Si, the faeries, and other mythical Celtic creatures. You wouldn’t find a sexy witch walking around the town reciting old poems for a bit of bread!
Halloween made its way to the land of the free in the wake of mass Irish and Scottish immigration in the 19th century. This emigration from Ireland was, of course as a result of the Famine. The Celtic tradition was introduced to the Americans and over the last 250 years has been made into a humongous commercial holiday in the States. The holiday is no longer solely about the celebration of the dead and the saints. It is now a combination of entertainment for kids, partying for adults and thrill seeking for horror fans.
I loved Halloween growing up. I loved the dressing up part of it and going trick or treating with my brothers and parents. It is magical as a child. Maybe not as magical as Christmas or your birthday, but it is a special day nonetheless. Going to the community hall in Rathpeacon to bob for apples and listen to scary stories was so much fun. Everyone was so proud of their costumes. Vampires, zombies and monsters would all be beaming up, the happiest group of undead you ever did see. If I remember correctly, a friend of mine dressed up as a mini Hitler one year for a competition in school. He looked the part. He did not win.
As we got older it obviously turned more social. Trick or treating with friends turned into a few naggins down the Gaa Woods or the tower road. Dressing up didn’t happen in the back fields as we tried to give ourselves alcohol poisoning.
A few years later during college we were all dressing up again. Alcohol was still a major factor, as it should be, which probably gave me the courage to dress up as a woman in first year in collge. God, I was pretty.
I haven’t been able to do much the last few halloweens, working the night shift tonight and last year too. It doesn’t bother me that much as it saves me from a mahoosive hangover the next day but the fun of heading out with all your friends and everyone beaming when people compliment their costume is almost childlike. If it weren’t for the booze, cigarettes and riding going on all around us you could nearly be transported back to bobbing for apples and listening to scary stories with your mates.