top of page
  • Writer's pictureThe Mighty Ship


As today is the first day of Samhain, although festivities begin the evening prior, I thought it might be a fun idea to briefly explore its connections to our modern Halloween. Although not specifically a music-related post, it is about culture. So if you'd like a brief lesson on the Gaelic origins of this holiday and how its traditions followed immigrants across the pond, then please read below.

Photo Credit:

Samhain in Irish and Scottish Gaelic, and Sauin in Manx, is a Gaelic festival that marks the end of harvest and the beginning of the winter season's darker half of the year. It has been said that at this time, the veil between this world and the other is at its thinnest and that spirits could cross between the two more easily. These could be either dead kin seeking hospitality from living relatives or unfriendly spirits that might be appeased by offerings of food and drink. In 16th century Scotland, and later in Ireland, Wales, and on the Isle of Man, people practiced mumming/guising (dressing up in costume and going door-to-door and reciting poems/songs) in exchange for food for feasts and/or as a belief that disguising themselves would protect them from the evil spirits roaming the land. Pranks and mischief were sometimes a result of not being welcomed at someone's home. Illumination for those moving from house-to-house in the dark came in the form of grotesquely carved turnips hollowed to act as lanterns, which were also situated in windowsills to serve the dual purpose of warding off unfriendly spirits. As our Gaelic ancestors emigrated to the new world, they brought their traditions with them. The native, and more easily-carved, pumpkin replaced the turnip. Today, we still carve this type of squash into jack-o-lanterns as part of our festivities and (mostly) children dress up in costumes going door-to-door inquiring if we'd prefer a "trick or treat?", which usually results in the far preferable exchange of goodies for the promise of no mischievous tricks on person or property.



17 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page