Posts tagged ‘history’


From "Tales from Old Ireland" by Malachy Doyle, illustrated by Niamh Sharkey.

You can’t help but wonder at the mystery surrounding All Hallows’ Eve. From Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to the upcoming Pride and Prejudice and Zombies film, Halloween has inspired popular culture for ages, spreading from Northern Europe to as far as Hong Kong!

But how did Halloween become the holiday we know today?

  • Halloween as we know it evolved from the ancient Celtic tradition of putting out treats for spirits who roamed the streets during a sacred festival that honored the dead, called “Samhain” in Ireland and “Nos Calan Gaeaf” in Wales.
  • Samhain festival-goers started dressing in ghost, witch and goblin costumes to escape the notice of real spirits wandering the streets. To this day, these remain revelers’ most popular Halloween costumes; just ask the spooks from our very own Barefoot Book of Giants, Ghosts and Goblins!
  • Jack o’ Lanterns originated in Ireland where people placed candles in hollowed-out turnips to keep away spirits on the Samhain holiday.

From "Tales from Celtic Lands" by Caitlin Matthews, illustrated by Olwyn Whelan

  • If you’re the last one frolicking about the bonfire on Nos Calan Gaeaf, watch out! According to Welsh legend, the spirits of a giant black sow and headless woman might carry you with them back to the spirit world!
  • According to tradition, if a person wears his or her clothes inside-out and walks backwards on Halloween, he or she will see a witch at midnight.
  • Scottish girls believed they could see images of their future husband if they hung wet sheets in front of the fire on Halloween.

Not so keen on wearing your clothes inside-out or hanging wet sheets by a fire? Celebrate instead with our monstrously fun Halloween craft, spooky recipes or scary-fun books! Befriend a not-so-scary giant (above), gallant heroes, fiendish folk and more in Tales from Old Ireland.

Wishing you and your family a safe and spooktacular Halloween!