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The Day After Samhain - All Soul's Day
by Bridget Haggerty
In Ireland, it was once widely believed that the souls of the faithful departed would return to their family home on All Souls Night. Great care was taken to make them feel welcome.
Rituals included sweeping the floor clean, lighting a good fire, and placing the poker and tongs in the shape of a cross on the hearth. A bowl of spring water was put on the table, along with a place setting for each deceased relative. In some areas, children would go soul-caking - theyd visit neighbors and beg for cakes in exchange for prayers to be said for the dead.
Families would usually retire early, but before they did, many of them went to the cemetery where their loved ones were buried. They would say prayers for each departed family member, make sure the gravesites were neat and tidy, and then they would leave a candle burning on each grave.
During evening prayers, the family would again light a candle for each of their departed relatives . Often, a candle would be placed in the window of a room where a relative had died. Or, it might be placed in a window that faced in the direction of the cemetery. Then, when evening prayers were over, the candles would either be extinguished or left to burn out.
The door was always left unlatched.
Historically, the Celtic nations have always had a great respect for their ancestors and they believed that at certain times of year, the boundaries between mortals and the souls of the dead cease to exist. This is especially true of the Three Nights of the End of Summer - Halloween, Samhain and All Souls Day. The ancients also believed that the dead were the repositories of wisdom and lore and that one of the reasons they return is to speak to their descendants.
Its from these visits by a beloved ancestor that the more fortunate among us are given two very special gifts: the ability to remember old days and old ways, and a deeper understanding of how we are forever linked by blood to the past - and to the future.
Image: Photo of an Irish cemetary reprinted here with the kind permission of Mr. Kevin Atkins. You can see more of his great photos by clicking here: Irish Photos
See our other articles on Samhain and Halloween below:
An Irish Hallowe'en - Part 1
An Irish Hallowe'en - Part 2
How the Irish Invented Halloween
A Triple Treat For Hallowe'en
The Churchyard Bride
Creepy Irish Castles and Houses
Creepy Irish Creatures
Something Wicked this way comes - Irish Ghosts by Region
Protect your property and yourself - Make a Parshell Cross for Hallowe'en
Samhain - The Irish New Year
The Day after Samhain - All Souls Day
Thu, Dec 7, 2017
Holly and Ivy hanging up and
something wet in every cup*
Not so long ago, Irish Christmas decorations were much simpler than they are now. The children gathered holly and ivy for adorning, windows, doorways, mantles and pictures, and the father would carve out a turnip in which would be placed a large red candle. This would go in the window to light the way for the Holy Family on Christmas Eve. Only in relatively recent times did an Irish family have a Nativity scene and a decorated tree in the house. As for Mistletoe, it's quite rare in ireland and is generally associated with ancient Celtic and Druidic fertility celebrations; this is most likely where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from.
*Old Irish Christmas toast
Image: Pashley Manor Gardens.
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March 4, 2011
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