Monday 18 December 2017

Halloween party set to kick off as the spooky holiday creeps up on Christmas in popularity

Halloween fun at Whitehall College of Further Education in Dublin
Halloween fun at Whitehall College of Further Education in Dublin
Lord Ghoulsley Manor in Cuskinny Court, Cork
The Brian O'Driscoll pumpkin

Jane O'Faherty

The Irish may have celebrated Halloween first, but we are quickly catching up with a more American interpretation of the festival.

The spooky holiday is catching up with Christmas in terms of popularity, with Ireland just behind the United States when it comes to spending on the festival.

Vincent Lynch, owner of the 10 Halloween HQ costume stores across the country, says that the festival is "already rivalling Christmas".

"Halloween in America is huge. They would spend three to four times more on it than we would," he said.

A survey last October of 1,500 people by Webloyalty found Irish people will spend around €41m on Halloween in total.


Liam Reilly, Supervisor of Drogheda Museum Millmount, who runs traditional Halloween tours as part of the Spirits of Meath Festival, says Halloween fever is alive and kicking.

"They learn about the Celtic origins of Samhain, and how Samhain was linked to All Hallow's Day when Christians arrived," he said.

Mr Reilly said the origins of Halloween can be traced to Co Meath, highlighting customs such as eating colcannon and barmbrack and games, like bobbing for apples, that still exist.

These ancient Celtic traditions spread globally when the Irish community in America attempted to bring over the tradition of carving faces from turnips.

"When the Irish emigrated to the States, they couldn't find any turnips - but they did find pumpkins, which were much easier to carve," said Mr Reilly.

That tradition thrives in Ireland, but pumpkin carvings don't always have to be creepy.

Last year, Cavan man Joey Burns immortalised Brian O'Driscoll in a pumpkin. Amy Huberman was so impressed with it that she bought it to light in their own home.

"Last Halloween, Amy heard me talking on the radio about the carving I did of Brian and got in touch to buy it. It was lovely knowing it was decorating their home at Halloween," Mr Burns said.

This year, he will have pumpkin carvings of Rory McIlroy, Roy Keane and Michael D Higgins.

Numerous festivals around the country are attempting to breathe new life into the festival with both Celtic and contemporary customs.

Tom Lawlor, director of this weekend's Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin, sees the event as a way "to launch Dublin into Halloween and Samhain season".

"It's such a particular time of year and everyone has their own views on it, but we see this as an opportunity to put an Irish stamp on it," he said.

"We are very conscious of celebrating the contemporary idea of Samhain."

On Sunday, families will be invited to Stokerland, a Victorian theme park in Wolfe Tone Square, with street performances on the hour. In addition, a Samhain-inspired parade by Macnas will weave its way around Dublin city centre on Monday at 5.30pm.

Meanwhile, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) has warned parents to check the labels of face paint to ensure they are safe to use. High levels of heavy metals and harmful substances have been found in some brands of children's cosmetics.

The HPRA recommends using products manufactured in the EU, which should meet required safety standards.

Irish Independent

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