Let’s talk about…Celebrating Halloween

Hail Halloween…a seasonal silver lining!

 We’ve reached the last stretch of October, and with the familiar return of Ireland’s miserable autumn rain comes a silver lining; Halloween is just around the corner. The pumpkins are carved, the costumes organised, and the scene is set for a wonderfully spooky bank holiday weekend.

Indeed, there does seem to be a lot of Halloween events planned to take place this weekend, from the Púca Festival to Farmaphobia, pumpkin patches to haunted houses. Perhaps it’s due to Halloween falling at the end of the weekend this year, allowing for more events to take place, or perhaps it’s simply due to how much further we are now from the pandemic than we were at this time last year.

After all, it was October 2021 when we saw nightclubs reopen for the first time after the pandemic forced their closure in March 2020. A year on, and looking back, the progress made since is undeniable. While we were indeed beginning to see things open up then, there were still a host of restrictions and Covid etiquette to abide by, the likes of which don’t apply today – those heading on a night out to celebrate Halloween this weekend don’t need to show proof of vaccination, face masks are no longer mandatory in public settings, etc.

Post-Covid, people are more inclined to get excited for stuff like Halloween, more inclined to appreciate the social aspects of these big calendar events after missing out on so many. And considering how comparatively restricted we were last year, this is, in effect, our first ‘normal’ Halloween since the pandemic hit, which gives us all the more reason to celebrate it right.

For many, Halloween is an enjoyable but largely nostalgic holiday, reminiscent of childhood trick-or-treating and bobbing for apples, and not much beyond that. It’s sometimes relegated to being a ‘children’s holiday’. However, we have a unique link to Halloween in Ireland, given that it originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Samhain (or Oíche Shamhna) marked the end of the Celtic year and was believed to be a time when the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. The Celts celebrated it by lighting bonfires and wearing costumes to ward off evil spirits.

I think it’s unfortunate that despite originating here, over the years Halloween became quite Americanised, leading to it not being widely known abroad as a holiday with Irish roots. It’s another reason why it was so great to see so many Irish Halloween events planned to take place around the country over this weekend, events that put an emphasis on celebrating our link to the holiday.

After all, many of these traditions around Halloween originated here; from dressing in costume to finding the ring in the bairín breac, carving lanterns to bobbing for apples. Given all that it offers, Halloween can be such an enjoyable holiday at any age, and its Irish roots are all the more incentive for us to celebrate it – this year especially, considering the absence of restrictions.

In any case, whatever your plans for the bank holiday weekend are – whether you plan on doing nothing, whether you go for a night out, stay in to hand out sweets, go to a scary movie screening, etc. – here’s hoping it’ll distract you from the miserable autumn rain for a while and do a bit to help lift your ‘spirits’!

Oíche Shamhna shona duit!