The celebration of Halloween started in Ireland around 100AD. Back then, Halloween was a pagan festival celebrated by the Celts of Ireland who called it "Samhain", an old Irish word meaning the 'end of Summer'. They believed that on the eve of Samhain (Halloween), the dead spirits would revisit the mortal world, so huge bonfires were lit to keep away any evil spirits. It is known in Gaelic as 'Oíche Shamhna' and is celebrated on the 31st of October each year, which is All Souls Day, so in Ireland it is often referred to as the Feast of the Dead.
Here are just some of the Irish Halloween traditions which are still very much alive today;
The Pumpkin at Halloween
In Ireland, the Pumpkin traditionally known as the Jack O Lantern, is a carved out pumpkin whose top and stem have been removed. The shell is then carved normally in the shape of a scary face which is then lit up by placing a candle inside.
There are many stories of how the Jack O Lantern custom came about in Ireland. One old tale says it was as a result of a blacksmith called Jack who crossed the devil. He made the devil promise he would not go to hell, but when he was denied entry to heaven, he was left to wander the earth. He told the devil he could not wander about forever in the dark and the devil tossed him an ember from the fires of hell, so Jack placed this in a hollowed out turnip. From that day, Jack roamed the earth using his Jack O Lantern to light the way so you might spot him when you visit Ireland this Halloween!
It is said that when the Irish immigrated to the States they took this Halloween tradition with them, but instead of using turnips, then began to use pumpkins as they were much more plentiful!
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