The festival of Samhain, the first day of winter, was marked on the 1 November.
As with many traditional festivals, it was the evening beforehand when most celebrating took place. The eve of this day, Oíche Shamhna, Hallowe’en, is still celebrated all over Ireland with feasting and games.
The name Hallowe’en derives from it being the evening before the Feast of All Saints (The Hallowed Ones).
Traditionally a harvest of fruit and nuts was gathered for the festive fare and also featured in children’s games on the night. Marriage divination games were also played. Hallowe’en was also known as ghost night or spirit night and the souls of the dead were expected to return to the family home. Evil spirits were also thought to be active, and people avoided travelling alone on this night.
Ghostly masks were made to frighten neighbours on Hallowe’en and bands of men or children liberated by their disguises, often went visiting and entertaining.
Special crosses were made and placed above the door to protect the home from bad luck for the coming year.