Did you know to find the origin of Halloween, you must look into Ireland's ancient Celtic past? The Celt's celebrated Samhain, a festival which both marked the end of the harvest season and was the division of the "lighter" half of the year and the "darker" half (summer vs winter). During Samhain, the division of this world and the otherworld was considered at its most delicate, allowing spirits to pass more easily through to Earth. Fire played a huge role in celebrating Samhain, with bonfires lit to ward off the evil spirits. It is also believed that Celts dressed in disguises fashioned from animal remains. While this October 31st was still marked with dressing up and lighting fires, our experience was much less about warding off spirits and more about having fun.
We began our Halloween festivities in the beginning of October by decorating our house with garbage bag ghosts hanging from the tree in our yard, a large spider's web in the windows and plenty of festive decor throughout the house, including the spooky haunted village we made. We visited Scalpwood, Airfield and Wooly Wards Farms for their Halloween events and chanced a scare along the frightening Samhain Trail at Marlay Park. We made Rice Krispie pumpkins on a minimum of four occasions and roasted pumpkin seeds. We brought home pumpkins to carve into Jack-O-Lanterns, which coincidentally is another Halloween tradition with Irish roots, where turnips were originally the carving vegetable of choice.
|Carving pumpkins at Wooly Wards|
|Ghosts hang along the Scary Mary trail at Wooly Wards Farm|
|Emme has a slippery encounter with a snake at Wooly Wards|
|Coffin fittings at Marlay Park|
|Fantastical dragons along the Samhain trail at Marlay Park|
|Mask-making at Airfield Estate|
|Jack-o-lantern tower at Airfield's entrance|
|Marshmallow ghosts roam the pumpkin patch|
Then there were the parties... toddler group parties, school parties, charitable parties, adult fancy dress parties... lots of costumes to be worn and silliness to be had!
|Showing off her sequined bat wings at a friend's charity coffee morning|
|Two bats pose proudly in a handmade cardboard pirate ship that a friend built|
|A quick rummage through our play clothes for a toddler party|
|My husband & I dressed as Harry & Marv, the Wet Bandits, from Home Alone|
|Another toddler party with simple superhero costumes|
From what I observed, Halloween night in Dublin is very much like I remember from my own childhood. Knocking on doors and shouting "trick or treat". The kids were racing around, searching for the houses with the lights on, begging to visit "just one more house". The decorations are more subtle here, lanterns in a driveway, red lighting or skeleton decals in windows were the highlights for us. We trick or treated in a friend's quiet neighborhood so the houses that we did visit were quite generous when handing the kids their treats. Lucky children! The main differences between here and the US, are that in addition to receiving candy and sweets, some houses also hand out Monkey Nuts or shelled peanuts. And following the tradition of the Celt's Samhain festival, bonfires and fireworks can be seen throughout the city.
It was a fantastic month leading up to the holiday and we fully enjoyed all the celebrations. With so many activities and events on, it might seem difficult to choose a favourite memory from our October, but there's still a final memory to share.
After the trick or treating was over, after a couple (or 6!) pieces of candy were eaten, after pajamas replaced the costumes, after we said goodbye to our friends for the evening, we drove off towards our house. But we made a slight detour from the usual route to our home. We instead went up into Bracken Hill in Stillorgan, and found a perfect spot on the side of the Ticknock Park road to position the car. We pulled out a blanket from the trunk and placed it on the ground. And then we looked up. From this viewpoint, we watched the fireworks that were exploding across the city skyline. We watched as they lit up the night sky from Clondalkin to Ringsend across to Dalkey. I'd forgotten that my children aren't familiar with fireworks as much so as their American cousins who spend most of the summer months watching them light up at sporting events, summer fests, and Independence Day celebrations. Emme danced and twirled, excitedly pointing out the multiple bursts as she spotted them. It was a really special way to finish off a month of adventures and a tradition I'll look forward to in the years ahead.