Halloween Traditions in Ireland – Especially for our friends in Room 5, Melville Intermediate School, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand.

We got this message from our good friends

in Melville Intermediate School, Hamilton, New Zealand.

Message from Hamilton 1

This is our reply:


Hi there,

Most certainly we celebrate Halloween:D

In many ways the more recent additions to our traditions are influenced by the USA,

for example, as you say in your message, dressing up in costumes and going ‘trick or treating’.

Waning Gibbous Moon
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Biscuit in Pursuit via Compfight

However a celebration at this time of year

goes way back into the ‘mists of time’.

Here in the Northern Hemisphere

we needed something to cheer us up

as the cold, dark nights arrive,

so the Celts marked the end of Summer

and the start of the Winter months, 

with a celebration called Samhain; ‘All Souls’.

Playing With Fire
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: cobalt123 via Compfight

It was said that the souls of those who had passed

into the next world came to visit at this time. 

The celebration marked the end of Summer

and the start of the Winter months.

The time of the Celts in Ireland was 2000BC – 400AD.


Here are some Irish Halloween Traditions:

Traditionally for dinner there was ‘Colcannon’;

a plate of mashed potato, cabbage and onion.

Pennies were wrapped up in baking paper

and placed in the mash for children to find and keep!

Slow-Cooker Corned Beef & Cabbage with Colcannon: Colcannon with Butter
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: I Believe I Can Fry via Compfight

The traditional Halloween cake is barmbrack which is a fruit cake.

Once again you would have to be careful eating this

or you would break your teeth

because there were ‘tokens’ hidden in it.


If you got the rag then the next year would be a poor one.

If you got the coin then you could look forward to a year of riches.

Finding the ring was said to predict an engagement.

Irish fruit brack
Photo Credit: sylvar via Compfight

If you wanted to find out who your future partner might be

you were advised to peel an apple in one go.

The single apple peel was then dropped on the floor

to show the initials of this mystery person.

Jack O'Lanterns
Photo Credit: Joe Shlabotnik via Compfight

The tradition of Jack O’Lanterns travelled from Ireland to the USA.

But originally the Irish carved out turnips.

When the Irish emigrated to America there was not a great supply of turnips

so pumpkins were used instead. Pumpkins are easier to carve than turnips too!


Though the tradition of wearing costumes and ‘trick or treating’

seems to have been imported from the USA,

a tradition of wearing disguise also dates back to Celtic times.

By disguising themselves people superstitiously believed

that the souls who were visiting would leave them alone.


Halloween Games include ‘Snap Apple’.

An apple is suspended from a string and children are blindfolded.

The first child to get a decent bite of the apple gets to keep their prize.

A variation of this game involves hanging a bar of soap with the apple.

The risk was then that one would get a mouthful of soap instead of apple.

‘Bobbing for Apples’ can be played by placing apples in a basin of water

and trying to get a grip on the fruit!

halloween party 030
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Ted via Compfight

The Halloween bonfire is another tradition

and a more modern addition is the use of fireworks,

though they are illegal in Ireland.

It is important to be safe on Halloween.

halloween's harvest

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: pipnstuff via Compfight


It may well be that Halloween is a Celtic Tradition from Europe

that travelled with the emigrants to the USA.

In the ‘New World’ these traditions took on a new lease of life

and were re-exported back to Ireland

repackaged perhaps in a more commercial way.


Thanking you for your continuing comments and interest in our blog

all the way from New Zealand 🙂


We wonder does New Zealand have a Halloween Tradition?


With every good wish …

‘If Only The Best Birds Sang’.


UPDATE1: If you click on the ‘KEEP READING’ button below, you can see Mr. Webb’s reply 🙂

UPDATE2: Thank you to Mr Webb who put a link about our blog

on Room 5 Melville’s page HERE.

Halloween in Ireland

2 thoughts on “Halloween Traditions in Ireland – Especially for our friends in Room 5, Melville Intermediate School, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand.

  1. Thank you so much for your wonderful post detailing all that information – we are going to include a link to it on our class page. The short answer is that we don’t have a tradition of Halloween here in New Zealand, the single biggest influence would be the USA and we do copy from that. We have some trick or treating but not a whole lot. We have a lot of American influence in our culture. Last year we had students who were doing inquiry research about Halloween and this would have been a perfect resource about it! Thank you so much for your detailed answer and the photos that you provided about it. Very much appreciated.
    Mr Webb and Room Five, Melville Intermediate School, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand

  2. Thank you Mr. Webb for your reply. That is interesting about not having a Halloween tradition. Like ourselves in Ireland, we see that the USA has a strong influence. I believe it is your ‘end of term’. Enjoy a well earned break 🙂
    With every good wish

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