AUTUMN is always beautiful in Ireland. Trees covered in different shades of yellow, orange, copper, red…. really magnificent. The seasons take their time to change here on the green isle, unlike how it happens almost overnight in South Africa. And if the days are crisp with clear blue skies then it is even better.
But unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world….and in Ireland rain falls often and skies can become very grey and depressing so when there is a good spell – enjoy!
Since we have been living in Ireland every year is defined by Easter, Summer, Halloween and Christmas. Halloween is celebrated at the end of October when we go into winter time. And looking at all the decorations in the shops it is that time of the year again…
Shop windows are currently decorated in typical halloween colours – orange and black – and there are (all good old plastic) spiders, big fluffy spider webs, skulls, witches, witch noses, body pieces, nails, vampires, make-belief blood, ghosts, and many many more gory things. Some people go through extreme trouble by decorating their houses and gardens with grusome decorations! Not all too inviting …….
Originated from a Celtic pagan festival Samhain, the Roman Catholic Church Calendar calls it All Saints day. Samhain roughly means summer’s end and celebrates the end of the lighter half of the year and the beginning of the darker half. How depressing!
The ancient Celts believed that by putting a skull, that would represent the dead, in the windowsill it would avert evil spirits. That is supposedly where the idea comes from these days to carve a face in a turnip or pumpkin and put a candle in it. The idea of the pumpkin is actually from North America where pumpkins were more available as well as bigger and easier to cut than turnips.
Apparently the Irish people who immigrated to North America during the Great Famine took these traditions with them and that is why America started celebrating Halloween as well…how true is that?
But yes there is the darker side to this festival when they refer to it as the ‘festival of the dead’. Some of the older Celts believed that the border between this world and the otherworld becomes thin over this time, allowing the spirits to pass through and the family’s ancestors were then honoured and invited home, while the harmful spirits were warded off which was done by wearing costumes and masks.
During this time many horror movies are also shown on television – Frankenstein, Dracula, Rocky Horror and more… !
For children it is a great time! They dress up in whatever costume they fancy – you see ghosts and vampires, but also fairies and little-red-ridinghoods. And then it is time for trick-or-treating. From house to house they go to see who can get the most sweets and money!! Some years ago kids would also sing for their sweets. Peanuts, oranges and money would also be treats, but these days kids prefer mars bars, smarties, jellies …. money will still do though.
Halloween also means pumpkin-time with big orange pumpkins ripe for use! I absolutely adore pumpkin soup and pie and have made a good bit already. Good hearty soup for those cold winter evenings! But most just use them to decorate.