A Little History of Halloween

A Little History of Halloween, Good Food Ireland

A look to times past gives a glimpse of where the tradition of celebrating Halloween comes from. Halloween, or All Hallows Eve (All Souls Eve), when things go bump in the night, is linked to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (Sa-wen) which took place at the same time of the year and probably had pagan origins. Samhain marked the end of the light half of the year and the beginning of the dark time. In other words, it was a festival which happened at the end of the plentiful harvest from the long days of summer, to mark the onset of winter. Samhain was observed with huge respect for the superstitions associated with this major festival. 

The Celts believed winter was a time for the dead and their ghosts. Probably because days were short, the sun had lost its strength and warmth, nights were long and dark and very little grew. The superstitions of this season reflect the Celtic idea of having times and spaces which ‘crossed over’ at certain places. In turn, this led to the belief that on Samhain night, the dead could walk in a mutual space with the living, as two worlds overlapped. The ghosts of long departed family members were once again welcomed into the home, often with a place set at the table for the Samhain feast. But it was also a time to ward off evil spirits which were also believed to be able to enter a home on the night of Samhain. This special time of the year for the Celts was full of magical and supernatural beliefs. These were passed down through generations, and although the meaning behind them may have become lost in modern times, Halloween still represents the night when the dead can walk among the living. Hence  the tradition of dressing up as ghoulies and ghosties, witches and wizards. 


These days, Halloween is all about dressing up in a scary outfit and following the American tradition of ‘Trick and Treating’ in the neighbourhood. Kids knock on doors in the hope of getting a treat, or play a trick on the householders if they don’t! Pumpkins are carved into scary faces and lit with tea lights so their eerie bright orange glow can be seen by all. 

Jack O Lantern, Halloween, Good Food Ireland

The tradition of this comes from the ancient tale of a naughty boy called Jack, who tricked the Devil and incurred his wrath. Jack met an untimely end, and Satan condemned his spirit to wander the earth forever, looking for a final resting place. Jack searched and searched for a place where his soul could have eternal rest, carrying with him only a lantern carved from a vegetable, lit by a little candle. We still don’t know if he ever found a place where he could rest in peace, but it is said that you can sometimes see Jack’s spirit still wandering at Halloween. We remember him at Halloween when we carve our own spooky Halloween Lanterns. 


Pumpkin carving has become a bit of an art these days. From simple scary faces which most of us can manage, to black cats, spiders, zany stars and intricate magic symbols – your Halloween Pumpkin Lantern can be as creative as you want it to be. In Co. Wexford, apples from Ballycross Apple Farm give way to Halloween Pumpkin Picking thi stime of year. Each year Chris Von Engelbrechtan and his dedicated team transform their farm into a world of spooky wonders to guarantee much family fun. 

Ballycross Apple Farm, Co. Wexford, Irish Food, Good Food Ireland

Each weekend from early October, families from all over the region come to get the genuine Halloween experience. Make sure to hitch a ride on the Pumpkin Picking tractor and trailor where you can pick your very own pumpkin right from the soil, for carving when you return home. For those who are brave enough, why not take a stroll to the neighbouring Witches Village. Brace yourselfs for great Halloween fun and enjoy the farm and café facilities after your busy afternoon! 

Share this content.

Be part of our 100,000+ Inspired Good Food Ireland® Club

Subscribe to benefit from exclusive offers, delicious updates & mouthwatering inspiration direct to your Inbox!

By subscribing you agree to Good Food Ireland Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy