Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Now that I live in the U.S, I think that I must have been deprived as a child ! Costume stores are prolific ! To think that geography deprived me of the ability to be Wonder Woman ! No, I had none of these luxuries. I did my best with the black plastic rubbish bag (garbage)cutting slits in the top for my arms and to think that we were not as inventive as kids today to use pillow cases, to carry a larger loot ! A "Quinnsworth" plastic bag had to suffice (for those of you Corkonians, at the time ,my mum didn't shop at Dunnes Stores!) Although, had we used the pillow cases, I'm pretty sure they would have been pretty empty! Lots of dark houses, where no one was home......

Halloween for me was completely different to the Halloween my kids experience. The history and tradition behind it will explain why. The attitude will be more easily understood.

Samhain, (pronounced Sow-In) was in fact for the Celts the beginning of a new year. November marked , the start of a cold and dark winter. October 31st saw the abundance of bonfires, where the druids or celtic priests wore animal heads and skins as costumes. They believed that October 31st was the eve where the spirits from another world crossed over. They burned crops and often sacrificed animals. On this eve they used this to tell fortunes and try to predict the future.

As time went by eventually the Romans invaded. For those of you who have seen Monty Pythons 'Life of Brian' there is a scene where John Cleese is asking "what have the Romans done for us"? Well, besides education,aquaducts,sanitation etc the Romans celebrated Pomona. She was the goddess of fruit and trees, hence they used apples............Following? Bobbing for Apples ??!!

On Halloween night, Trick or Treating was pretty much shunned, my mother saw it as begging! You see how deprived I was.....
I thought this was absurd as a child, but tradition is a strong thing ! This belief ,in actual fact had merit. Long ago there was a thing called 'Souling' . Generally children and the poor would go from house to house singing a song in exchange for a cake. For every cake received it was believed that a soul was freed from purgatory. The cake was made with raisins , currants, nutmeg and ginger.

As I got older, I could put all the pieces of this puzzle together. We ate "BARM BRACK" and "BOBBED FOR APPLES" but were not permitted to Trick or Treat.
"BARM BRACK" was and still is a wonderful tea loaf. It is made by soaking the fruits overnight in tea. The really special thing about this BARM BRACK or as it is called in Irish "Bairin Brack" (Bairin meaning loaf & Brack meaning speckled) were the surprises inside.

When you had a slice, there was a surprise baked into the loaf. A Pea,Stick,Coin,Ring,Piece of Cloth and sometimes a medallion with the Virgin Mary on it.
They all had a meaning.

Pea- You would not marry
Stick- To Beat Your wife with (indicating strife)
Coin- Rich
Ring- you would marry or find your partner within the year
Piece Of Cloth- Poverty
Medallion- you would join the Priesthood or Convent.

Funnily enough I never got the medallion ! We all know from one of my recent blogs, even the nuns didnt want me!! We waited with baited breath to get the ring...........!

So, even though I never got the chance to be "Wonder Woman" for Halloween, I am indeed such a happy woman to understand the meanings behind "Bobbing For Apples" ,"Trick or Treating" and "Barm Brack"