Did you know the Irish invented Halloween?
Halloween has its roots in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. During Samhain, people would dress up in costumes and light big bonfires to ward off evil spirits.
Nowadays, Halloween is celebrated around the world with candy, costumes, and carving pumpkins.
Today I will share exactly how the Irish invented Halloween!
What is Samhain, and what does it have to do with Halloween?
Around 2,000 years ago, the Celts, who lived in Ireland, the UK and Northern France, celebrated the new year on the eve of November 1st.
November 1st marked the end of the summer and harvest time and typically the start of winter. Winter was often associated with death, and the Celts believed that on new year’s eve, October 31st, the boundary between the living and dead worlds blurred.
So, on this date, the Celts celebrated Samhain when the ghosts of the dead returned to the living world.
The Celts welcomed the ghosts of loved ones and family members. There was also the belief that the ghosts helped the Druids (mediators between humans and gods and the dead) predict the future.
So what did they do to fight off these ghosts?
The Druids lit huge bonfires to keep the evil spirits at bay. At these bonfires, the Celts would burn crops and the bones of slaughtered animals(em lovely image…).
This later transformed into Halloween when Christianity swept across Ireland, and they merged together to form all saints day, later known as all hallows day or, as you know it now, Halloween! Fascinating!
Okay, so that’s just lovely, but did you know that the Irish invented trick-or-treating?
From as early as the 15th century, people in Ireland would go out mumming (also known as guising)
This is the tradition of putting on costumes and walking from door to door, singing songs for the dead. As a thank you, the singers would be given cakes. And no, I am not making this up. During the 19th century in Ireland, there was a tradition for a man to dress up on a white sheet and carry the decorated skull of a horse. He would lead a group of young people from farm to farm. Those in the group would blow cow horns.
Nowadays, we still dress up in costumes and roam from house to house. We may no longer blow cow horns or sing to the dead, but we still expect the treats.
Phillip my bag with Halloween candy, please!
Okay, but surely Irish people didn’t invent carving pumpkins on Halloween?
Well, firstly, what do you call a fat pumpkin? A plumpkin.
Sticking with the evil spirits theme, Irish people would carve out turnips and other root vegetables and place a lit candle inside. It was believed that this would ward off any evil spirits and ghosts and keep Stingy Jack away.
Stingy Jack? Are you making all of this up?
No, haha. Stingy Jack was the real thing! Well, at least according to legend.
Stingy Jack was a mean old drunk who wasn’t very nice to people. Once, he even played a trick on the Devil. He tricked the Devil into climbing an apple tree, and when he did, he placed crosses at the bottom of the tree.
The Devil was unable to get down from the tree as the Devil could not touch crosses. Stingy Jack made the Devil promise that he would not take his soul when he died. The Devil agreed, Stingy Jack removed the cross, and the Devil fled. However, when Stingy Jack died, he was banished from heaven by St. Peter, who said that he was too mean and cruel to be allowed into heaven.
So Stingy Jack ended up in the dark Netherworld between heaven and hell. He asked the Devil to escape the Netherworld, as there was no light to see his way out. The Devil gave him an ember from the flames of hell.
Stingy Jack, who always carried a turnip with him because it was his favourite food, hallowed out the vegetable and placed the ember inside. From that day forward, Stingy Jack walked the earth without a resting place.
And now you know the story of Stingy Jack!
So how did the Irish invent pumpkin carving?
When the Irish emigrated to the United States, they took the tradition of carving out turnips with them. However, they discovered that pumpkins, which were not as readily available back in Ireland, were bigger and much easier to carve. From then on, they carved pumpkins and not turnips.
Amazing, I know!
How do you fix a damaged jack-o-lantern? You use a pumpkin patch!
But don’t just take my word for it. Watch this video from the national Irish television explaining how the Irish invented Halloween:
There you have it, some incredible facts about how Irish people not only invented Halloween but also trick-or-treating and pumpkin carving.
Have a fantastic Halloween!