Evidence gathered from archaeology digs, legends, myths and Celtic history have all been examined to unearth the story of the authentic origins of Halloween in Ireland.
According to Irish folklore, Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celtic tradition of Samhain. The old Irish for ‘summer’s end’, Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the start of the New Year.
The Púca Festival town of Athboy is an important hub of Halloween tradition. Old manuscripts tell us that Tlachtga or The Hill of Ward, was a site of great Samhain gathering.
It was at Tlachtga that the ancient Irish lit a fire from which all the fires in Ireland were rekindled. Recent archaeological excavations there suggest this ancient hill was used for feasting and celebration over 2,000 years ago, and to this day the Boyne Valley remains one of the many important historical sites of Halloween tradition in Ireland. Each of these sites has its own story, one being that every Samhain a host of otherworldly beings emerge from Oweynagat (cave of the cats) at Rathcroghan in County Roscommon.
The belief in the closeness of the Otherworld and the return of the Dead was associated with Halloween. Wearing costumes and masks offered protection. The fairies couldn’t abduct you and you got to frighten your neighbours. Tricks were played on the unsuspecting, which may be the origin of the ubiquitous trick or treating.