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IRISH TRADITIONS AT HALLOWEEN

Samhain was a pagan Celtic festival that marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It was believed to be a transitional period when the boundary between our human world and the otherworld was less secure so that the likes of púca, the banshee, fairies and other spirits could pass through freely. The Gaelic name for Halloween comes from Oiche Shamhna.

Because the boundaries were less secure, it meant that not every spirit or fairy was a good one. Evil spirits could also pass through to our word and so to ward them off huge bonfires were lit and people wore horrid masks and costumes to confuse the spirits. It was also a way to stop the dead from identifying people they hated during their own lifetime. This is where the tradition of dressing up originated and while we love dressing up and feeling spooky it should come as no surprise that our favourite tradition of Halloween is actually the food…

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Of course it’s a time when we gorge on sweets, chocolate apples and monkey nuts but our favourite food traditions are the inherently Irish ones…

Colcannon is a dish made up of mashed potato, scallions and curly kale all mixed up together with butter and another special ingredient…money! Irish mammies would cover coins and even a five euro note with tinfoil and put these into the mix. The excitement over dinner about who would get the most money was brilliant and probably the only time we all ate our vegetables.

The barmbrack is a fruit cake made up of sultanas, raisins, whiskey and tea. Very Irish altogether! It almost resembles a fruit loaf! Inside around the time of Samhain a ring would be baked into the cake. Whoever was to find the ring in their slice would be married within a year. In olden times a white piece of cloth would also be baked in and if this was in your slice it was said you would enter the Priesthood or the Convent!

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