31 October 2023

Irish Halloween Traditions

Halloween, the spooky holiday celebrated on October 31st, is a time for costumes, candy, and eerie decorations. But the origins of this frightful festivity date back thousands of years, and its roots are deeply entwined with Celtic traditions. Halloween in Ireland finds its origins in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced “sow-in”). Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, a time when the Celts believed that the boundaries between the living and the dead blurred. This belief led to many of the eerie customs we associate with Halloween today. Let’s talk about some of those today.

Pumpkin Carving:

The tradition of carving pumpkins into Jack-o’-Lanterns is widely recognized, but few people know the story behind it. This tradition has its roots in an old Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack. Jack was a devious and miserly character who managed to trick the devil not once, but twice. When Jack died, he was neither welcomed into heaven nor hell, forcing him to wander the earth with only a lit turnip to light his way.

In Ireland, turnips were originally carved and used as lanterns. However, when Irish immigrants brought this tradition to America, they discovered that pumpkins were much easier to carve and soon adopted them as the main ingredient for their lanterns. The Jack-o’-Lantern has since become an iconic symbol of Halloween.


Barmbrack is a sweet fruitcake that often contains hidden items like a ring, a coin, a pea, a stick, or a piece of cloth. Each of these objects carries a specific meaning. For example, finding the ring means you’ll get married soon, while the pea signifies you won’t marry in the next year, and the coin brings good fortune.

The Legend Of The Pooka:

The Pooka is a mischievous and sometimes malevolent spirit from Irish folklore. It is said to take on many forms, often that of a black horse with glowing red eyes. On Halloween night, it was believed that the Pooka would roam the countryside, playing pranks and causing chaos. To appease the Pooka, the Irish would leave out offerings of food or drink. This tradition serves as a reminder of the supernatural creatures that were believed to roam the land during Samhain.

Halloween in Ireland is a time of rich traditions, mysterious legends, and enchanting rituals. From the ancient roots of Samhain to the modern customs of trick-or-treating, these traditions connect the Irish people with their history and the supernatural world.

If you want to experience the true spookiness of Halloween in Cork, head out to the Dragon of Shandon parade this evening and tag us in all your pics @CorkEnglishCollege 🙂 Happy Haloweeenn!!!