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Samhain (Beltaine for the Southern Hemisphere), Halloween, Allantide, All Hallows Eve, All Saint's Eve, Feast Day, Reformation Day, whatever you celebrate, I offer a happy holiday to all.
There are four traditional Gaelic seasonal festivals involving great feasts, bonfires, and dancing: Samhain (Feast of the Dead), Imbolc (Day of Cailleach), Beltane (Fertility Festival), and Lughnasadh (Feast of Lugh). Samhain is a Celtic Pagan Fire Festival of the Dead signifying the last harvest of the year before winter and is the time when twin bonfires are lit, and animals and people pass between them in a cleansing ritual and the bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into the flames, as well as the day when the last livestock to be taken is killed and prepared, the last foods from the fields are brought in, and a feast is held, leaving a place set for the ancestors to join the living. In addition, all the hearth fires are put out and a flame is taken from a central bonfire to light the hearth fires as a symbol of renewal and casting away the old. Many traditions are observed on this day, from the carving of small squashes and turnips into scary lanterns, to wearing of ghoulish masks and costumes in the hopes that the malevolent spirits will pass them by unharmed, to the practice of Guising where children would go door to door in costume playing or singing songs, reciting poems or stories, or performing tricks in exchange for sweet treats as a reward, as well as the tradition of going door to door collecting food for the community feast and fuel for the bonfires for that evening. It is said that the doors to the lands of the Sidhe and the underworld are open on this day and divination rituals are often performed on this day.
In modern times and particularly in North America, Halloween has kept many Celtic traditions alive, some heavily modified, others only slightly changed. It is most often a favourite holiday of children because of the costumes and going around to various houses to ask for treats. The addition of threatening a trick if treats are not given is a modern adaptation, hence the phrase "Trick or Treat". Also the traditional turnip lantern has become the modern Jack-o-Lantern, carving pumpkins which grow much larger in North America. Many agricultural areas still bring in the last foods from the fields and choose which livestock to slaughter for winter food stores. It is a long held belief that any food left in the fields after Samhain has been claimed by the Fae folk and to take it invites their wrath and ill luck upon the household.
For those seeking traditional Irish dishes for this day, you can try these time honored foods:
Colcannon, Wheaten Bread, Boxty, Soul Cakes, Champ, and Barmbrack.
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