Halloween, which will be celebrated Tuesday, is our second Irish holiday of the year. The celebration is believed to have originated 2,000 years ago with a Celtic harvest festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-in). During the eighth century, the Catholic Church Christianized the celebration as “All Hallows’ Eve,” hallows being a word for saints. The name “Halloween” is a contraction of “all hallows eve” because it falls on the night before All Saints’ Day.

Halloween is the night that the dead supposedly return, which accounts for all the ghosts and goblins on the street. 

My fiancée Lynn buying a pumpkin this week at Nicasio’s popular pumpkin patch.

The Celts inhabited Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales, along with Brittany in France. This helps explain why many Halloween traditions are basically Irish: the costumes (to scare off and confuse ghosts of the dead), the games (e.g. bobbing for apples), and especially the jack-o’-lanterns. When it came to carving jack-o’-lanterns, however, the Irish used large turnips, not pumpkins.

Immigrants to the US brought the jack-o’-lantern tradition with them and found that American pumpkins were far better than turnips when carving jack-o’-lanterns. Thus the Halloween tradition took another interesting turn.

Because Halloween falls during the harvest season, a traditional cornucopia (horn of plenty) is assembled annually at Mitchell cabin.

Also marking the fall are ants. As nature dries out, battalions of ants annually invade our kitchen in search of water. We place saucers under our houseplants to catch any seepage, and the ants head straight for the saucers. I often wipe them away with a damp sponge; if they’re on plants, I spray them with Windex, which doesn’t seem to bother the plants.

“The evening rabbit show,” as we call it, provides predictable entertainment daily at Mitchell cabin.

It’s in the same tradition as our “evening bird show.” Here a couple of sparrows take their daily shower in our birdbath.

So as we head into Halloween night, let’s be sure to remember Ireland’s role in shaping it. “Halloween” may not sound like a Celtic rite, but it’s as Irish as St. Patrick’s Day and even more Irish than the constellation O’Ryan over our heads.