The Top Irish Halloween Traditions

top irish halloween traditions
top irish halloween traditions

Halloween is a festival celebrated worldwide with much fervor and excitement.  It originated from the Samhain festival in Ireland, a few centuries ago. Samhain was an important festival in Ireland which marked the onset of winter or the dark half of the year, giving way to summer or the bright half of the year.

It was believed that on the eve of Halloween, dead spirits visited the mortal world and hence Samhain was also an important festival in Ireland as it honored the dead and gods using pagan rituals.

With the passage of time, even though the pagan rituals of Samhain festival died, Halloween became the main festival celebrated in its place, retaining some of the Samhain rituals and traditions.

To celebrate Halloween, the Irish community gets together, dressed in disguise, to keep evil spirits and bad fortune at bay.

Here are a few top Irish Halloween traditions:

1) Bonfire

The most famous tradition followed by the Irish as part of Halloween celebrations is a bonfire. It encourages dreams of who your future spouse will be. It is believed that if a strand of your hair is dropped in the burning embers, then the identity of your future husband or wife is revealed.


2) Halloween costumes

The main idea behind Halloween costumes was to dress in disguise in case people encountered evil spirits at night. Hence, to ward off evil spirits, adults and children dress up as spirits and devils. The most popular costume choices remain that of witches, ghosts, animal heads goblins. It is believed that if they disguise themselves as such, they would be able to avoid being carried away by spirits, as the spirits would think the Celts are spirits themselves.


3) The Pumpkin

The carving of the pumpkin dates back to an Irish blacksmith named Jack who conspired with the Devil during the 18th century and hence was denied entry into Heaven. He was a damned soul who was condemned to wander the face of the earth. He pleaded to the Devil for some light and hence was given a burning coal ember, which he safely placed inside a turnip. Since then, the Irish villagers have kept lantern burning, hoping it would keep the wandering soul away. It is only due to the shortage of supply of turnips, that now pumpkins are used.


4) Colcannon for Dinner

As part of the traditional Irish Halloween dinner, boiled potato, curly kale (cabbage) and a raw onion are provided. Clean, shiny coins are wrapped in baking paper and hidden in the boiled potato for children to find.

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5) The Barnbrack cake

The traditional Halloween cake has an interesting belief behind it. The Halloween cake is made of barnbrack which is fruit bread.  A piece of rag, a coin, and a ring can be found in each slice of the cake. Each family member gets a slice of the cake. If you get the piece of rag, it indicates financial crunch or a doubtful financial future. A coin is a sign of a prosperous future and a ring indicates an impending romance or a sign of continued happiness in the future. BTW check out our great Barn brack recipe..


“help the halloween party”

6) Any Apples Or Nuts

Now more commonly known as Trick or Treat, this is probably the most favorite part of Halloween celebrations for children. In Ireland, the poor would go door-to-door to rich people and ask for food or money. The collection would then be used for their Halloween celebration.



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