Halloween is thought to have originated in Ireland, so it is no surprise that it is a much loved festival there to this day. Celebrated by the Celts as Samhain (pronounced Sow-in or variants there of), it was a time of lowered boundaries between this world and the Otherworld of spirits, fairies, goblins and the dead. Traditions still celebrated in Dublin, the rest of Ireland and worldwide, find their roots in those times. The people of Ireland also remain committed to fully celebrating Halloween, making it an exciting time to visit Dublin.
Familiar Halloween traditions such as wearing fancy dress go back a long way. Costumes were worn back then to confuse malevolent spirits as to the identity of the wearer, and perhaps also to befuddle enemies who had died and returned on that night, ghosts the living would rather were not able to identify them!
Communal bonfires were lit to ward off evil spirits and encourage good luck and prophetic dreams. The blurring with the spirit world at Halloween was considered to mean it may be possible to discover news of the year to come and tell fortunes.
Bonfires remain a major part of Halloween festivities in Ireland, as do fireworks. Many people hold their own fire parties, and Dublin’s city council also hosts a whole range of local bonfires and firework festivals. Check out the council’s Halloween event page for further details.
Halloween treats, eats and future peeks
Ireland there are a number of Halloween food traditions which may be unfamiliar to those from other places. Colcannon, made with mashed potatoes, cabbage, cream and sometimes other additions such as scallions, is especially eaten at this time of year. A dish of colcannon was often traditionally left out for fairies, other spirits and the family’s ancestors.
Barmbrack cake is another Halloween food tradition in Ireland. The yeasted cakes are made with raisins and sultanas. Various items may be baked into the barmbracks in another symbolic food-based game of fortune.
What to do in Dublin over Halloween
It’s all very well finding out about the festival’s rich Irish history, if you’re headed there what is there to do in Dublin at Halloween now?
In addition to the council’s fire festivals, there are many other large events associated with the celebration across the city. Horror Expo Ireland explores all things gruesome. A real gothic adventure, this one is not for the faint-hearted!
If a family-friendly event not based around fireworks is closer to what you’re looking for head to Dublin Zoo for the Spooktacular Halloween Boo featuring creepy arts and crafts, face painting, monster music and spookily themed animal talks.
Barn Dance’s Day of the Dead with a line-up boasting Foals, Dax J and Zombie Nation and Samhain Festival headlined by Liam Gallagher of Oasis, offer a different take on Halloween celebrations near Dublin in the form of large music events.
Or visit one or several of famous Dublin’s pubs, their hospitality will not disappoint on Halloween, or perhaps even see if you can get an invite to a local house party, the way many locals celebrate.