Halloween's Irish Origins

Posted by Irish Whiskey USA on

The celebration of Halloween can trace its origins back to Ireland. Today in the USA, the holiday is known for candy, costumes, pumpkin carving, and horror movies. Many of these activities began as rituals during the Celtic festival known as Samhain. Arguably the most prominent of the four fire festivals, the ancient celebration of Samhain ushered in the end of Harvest season and summer. Samhain is still celebrated today in Ireland and was recently commemorated with its own Irish Whiskey from Dingle Distillery.

All Hallows Eve: The name for the holiday we know today started as All Hallows Eve. Similar to many holidays today, Halloween is a combination of pagan and Christian traditions that were brought together when the Roman Catholic church rose to prominence. The Pope declared November 1st  All Saint's Day (or All Hallows Day) which coincided with the timing of the Samhain festival. All Hallows Eve (Hallow-een) evolved on October 31st. 


Bonfire: At the end of October as summer ended and Harvest began, the changing of the seasons was seen as a time when spirits and monsters could roam the Earth. To ward off the threat, the Celts lit large bonfires.

Costumes: In addition to fires, ancient Celts also sought protection from the Spirits by disguising themselves with animal skins and heads. The tradition of dressing up in costumes was born.

Jack O' Lantern:  The Celts believed that lighting a fire in their homes after leaving the bonfire would bring good luck. To do this, an ember from the bonfire was carried back in a hollowed out turnip. Much like the bonfire and costumes, the turnips were also used to ward off the roaming spirits by carving scary faces. When the Irish came to the USA, the tradition morphed into using the more common, native pumpkin. 

But why the name? One "ghost story" tells the tale of a man named Jack who betrayed the devil. Not being allowed in Heaven or Hell as a result, the devil banished Jack to roam the Earth upon his death. Armed with only a burning coal in a carved out turnip, the ghostly legend of "Jack of the Lantern" was born.

Trick or Treating: This tradition started when poor children would go door to door asking for food, money, or kindling to be used during the Samhain celebrations. In return for the "treat", the children would offer prayers for their patrons loved ones, sing and dance, or perform a joke. 

Bobbing for Apples: This tradition began as a game intended to identify future love interests. Choosing particular apples or the ability to bite into an apple assigned to a potential partner were rituals engaged in by early Europeans. Apples were also associated with the Harvest and Fall seasons as they were part of the Samhain offerings to the gods. Over time, the bobbing for apples activity morphed into a tradition taking place around Halloween by the Irish.

Irish Whiskey: Part of the early festival celebrations were drinking ale and mead. With the Irish Whiskey resurgence over the past 10 years, there are many outstanding brands and styles perfect for the October festival season and Halloween.

To celebrate the Harvest part of the Halloween festival, there are several new rye based Irish Whiskeys. Why not go Full Moon fever and drink the Powers 100% Irish Rye from Midleton Distillery?

If bobbing for apples ain't your thing, then gravitate to a Calvados finish Irish Whiskey. Go apple picking Calvados style by enjoying the Whistler Calvados finish from Boann Distillery. 

To honor the bonfire, why not sit back with one of the several new peated offerings? Teeling's BlackPitts fits the bill with a bottle design appropriately costumed for Halloween.

Finally, if feeling a little spooky why not enjoy a scary whiskey while you watch a horror movie. The Sexton single malt brings you to the cemetery while the Dublin Liberties Oak Devil sends you to the gates of Hell. 

Saint Patrick's Day is not the only holiday worthy of celebrating with Irish Whiskey. So remember, given all of its Irish origins, dress up your Halloween festivities with your favorite costume and Irish Whiskey. Trick or Treat!

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