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Halloween Unveiled: A Journey through Time and Tradition

Dublin: As the world celebrates Halloween today, the historical roots of this captivating and enchanting holiday come to light. The captivating history of Halloween reveals its origins in the ancient Irish festival of Samhain, a time when it was believed that the spirits of the departed walked among the living. To ward off malevolent entities, rituals and traditions were observed.

Halloween marked the conclusion of the lengthy days of summer and the arrival of winter, a transition akin to the Celtic festival of Lughnasa. Samhain, however, was primarily a harvest festival. Among the intriguing customs of early Halloween was a popular blindfolded fortune-telling game. In this game, the blindfolded individual would reach out and touch various items on a table, with the future determined by their choice.

Touching the container of water foretold migration; contact with soil signified an impending death in the family; while a fortuitous encounter with a ring promised good luck. This traditional game served as the inspiration for James Joyce’s renowned short story, “Clay,” where the protagonist, Maria, yearned to touch a ring but encountered the chilling clay of death.

Another game involved Barmbrack, a fruitcake-like dessert that concealed a ring. Slicing it and the recipient not swallowing the ring were believed to foretell a forthcoming happy marriage. Halloween also featured the symbolism of apple seeds, signifying fertility. Apples were carved in a pentagram pattern, shaken together, and the belief held that the one who found a seed would soon bear a child.

The classic Halloween colours, orange and black, have Celtic origins tied to death. Legend had it that encountering a woman with orange hair on Halloween, especially for a fisherman, foretold bad omens. Meeting such a woman was seen as a sign to abstain from fishing and return home safely.

In ancient Celtic mythology, the prophets known as Druids held significant sway during Halloween. The boundaries between life and the spirit world blurred, and their visions and prophecies were revered.

Halloween found its way to America in the 1840s, brought by Irish immigrants fleeing poverty. It was in America that the tradition of using pumpkins, or Jack-o’-lanterns, took root, as opposed to the turnips commonly employed in Ireland. The pumpkin has since become an iconic symbol of Halloween, and the holiday has spread worldwide, embracing its rich history and traditions.

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