Jack-o-lanterns. Trick-or-treat. Costumed children with candy-filled buckets. Most people are familiar with Halloween; but did you know that it is based on an ancient Celtic holiday? Originally, it was referred to as Samhain (pronounced sow-in), and was a holiday to celebrate the end of summer and harvest, and the beginning of winter.
The Celts believed that the veil between this world and the world of the dead was thin on Halloween, and that the ghosts of the dead returned to Earth on this day. Large bonfires were lit to ward off the spirits, sometimes with animals burned as sacrifice (the word “bonfire” is derived from the Latin “ignisossium”, or bone-fire). The Celts would also dress in costumes, typically animal skins and animal heads. Later, when the Romans occupied the Celtic lands, the worship of Pomona, goddess of trees and fruit, became infused with Halloween. Pomona was often associated with the image of apples, thus leading to the tradition of bobbing for apples.
Though much has changed over the millennia since Halloween was first celebrated, it remains a day of fun and revelry. This Halloween, impress your little werewolves, witches, and Buzz Lightyears with a few Irish words pertaining to Halloween:
-Trick or Treat: Cleas nó cóir (class noh koh-ir)
– Ghost: Púca or taibhse (pookah or tie-v-sheh)
– Costume: Culaith (cull-ah)
– Scream/shriek: scréach (shkraykh)
– Skeleton: Creatlach (krat-lukh)
– Halloween: Oíche Shamhna (ee-ha how-na)
– Vampire: Vaimpír (vam-peer)
– Blood: Fuil (fwill)