Halloween is also known in Ireland as Samhain, a traditional Celtic holiday that was first celebrated in Ireland around a thousand years ago. Therefore, many Halloween traditions that are now popular in North America are in fact, Irish. The Celts believed that on the eve of the holiday, dead spirits could visit our world. They dressed up in scary outfits and burned bonfires to ward off the evil spirits. Jack-o-lanterns also originate from Ireland. But, the Celts made lanterns from turnips, not pumpkins. Ancient traditions come alive in Ireland during spectacular celebrations of all things supernatural in late October.
Puca Festival (canceled in 2020)
Puca Festival is one of Ireland's premier Halloween events primarily due to its location. Held in Ireland's historic Boyne Valley, the festivities showcase Meath's and Louth's most mystical sites. Tlachtga or The Hill of Ward in Meath was the site for druid ceremonies and first Samhain celebrations. Trim Castle and Drogheda bear many legends and stories about the past. The festival inspired by Irish folklore was named Púca after a mysterious creature that can change the fortunes of anyone who meets it. During three nights Púca Halloween Festival features dazzling light shows, musical events and interactive experiences in these famous venues. On October 31st, you can witness the ancient ritual of the Coming of Samhain procession that goes from Athboy to The Hill of Ward and ends with a giant bonfire, just like thousands of years ago.
Derry Halloween (October 28–November 1, 2020, virtual event)
Derry Halloween offers a traditional Samhain celebration with a modern twist, filled with ghoulish events and frightful fun. Derry-Londonderry area is known as the River Foyle not far from Sperrin Mountains, beautiful Wild Atlantic Way and Causeway Coastal Route. Surrounded by 400-year-old walls, Derry celebrates Halloween with a vibrant carnival. If you’re not in costume, you’ll be the only one on the streets. The scares at Derry Halloween are also intense featuring many haunted houses, haunted walks, and the Awakening The Walls performances and installations. Numerous bars and clubs also host their own Halloween events and specials during the holiday.
Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin (October 30–November 2, 2020)
The Bram Stoker Festival is a famous gothic festival and a vampire gathering. It features a terrifying programme of events during four days and nights of deadly adventures. The festival is always held on the eve of Halloween, during the October Bank Holiday Weekend. The Bram Stoker Festival is dedicated to all things dark and supernatural. It features memorable spectacles on water, costume movie screenings, daring theatre performances in evocative churches and other unusual places, a pop-up Victorian fun parks, and plenty of live entertainment.
Macnas Parade (October 27, 2019)
Macnas ‘Danse Macabre’ Parade in Galway is the largest free Halloween event in Ireland, that attracts over 70,000 people every year. The ‘Danse Macabre’ parade starts at 5:30 p.m. from the NUI Galway campus and will make its way through the centre of Galway city. The parade will feature the signature Macnas giant creations and sculptural images, as well as pyrotechnics, incredible costumes and epic performances to live and original music. Every year the parade has a new theme. In 2020 Macnas presents a dramatic new version of the world’s oldest surviving story, the epic of Gilgamesh. Galway is located in about 2.5 hours from Dublin.
What can be better than Halloween at a haunted castle? Ireland has plenty of them. Malahide Castle, with over 800 years of history, has a few haunted spirits including a Court Jester, who was stabbed here after falling in love with the Lady of the House. Also, visitors can explore Stately Westport House, built atop the castle of the Grace O'Malley called Pirate Queen, Ashford Castle that transforms to a School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and Bunratty Castle and Folk Park with many Halloween-themed activities. Besides the haunted castles, a ghostbus tour is another good option to experience the thrills of the holiday. Read more on Halloween in the capital here.