If you are past the appropriate age for trick-or-treat, consider giving yourself a treat this Halloween by traveling to the place where Halloween began: the Emerald Isle of Ireland.
Beginning in the fifth or sixth century, the Celtic harvest festival of Samhain marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter in what is now Ireland. As the seasons changed, the Celts believed that the dead were able to briefly return to the mortal world. They lit bonfires to ward off the cold and the darkness of the long nights, as well as the ghosts.
In the eighth century, Christians declared All Saints’ Day/All Hallows’ Day to be November 1 and the Celts began to celebrate Samhain each October 31. The festival became known as All Hallows’ Eve, a name that evolved to Halloween.
As in the U.S., modern Halloween in Ireland is celebrated with costumes, decorations, parties and trick-or-treating. Some parties are city-wide events: the Northern Ireland city of Derry is noted for its Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival. As many as 30,000 people congregate inside the historic district’s medieval walls for a grand carnival with live music and fireworks.
Dublin hosts a huge Halloween parade along O’Connell Street. After the parade, travel a few miles north of the city to tour Malahide Castle. The castle was recently refurbished, but according to legend, it is still “home” to five ghosts said to have haunted the historic structure for centuries.
In Dublin or the city of Belfast, you can take a Halloween Ghost Bus Tour, a very comfortable yet awesomely scary ride. You’ll hear gruesomely fascinating tales of jilted brides, prisoners, executioners, plague victims and other unsettled spirits believed to occupy haunted places in the city.
If you’re offered a slice of Bambrack Cake, look at it carefully before you take a bite. According to custom, there is a piece of rag, a coin and a ring in each of these traditional fruitcakes. If your piece has the rag, you might worry a little bit about your financial future. The coin is a sign of a prosperous year to come, and the ring signals a new romance, or continued happiness in your current romance.
Many other cities and towns throughout Ireland hold special Halloween events. To find out more about how you can be part of the fun, talk with your travel professional.