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The Hallowed Eve

The Hallowed Eve: Dimensions of Culture in a Calendar Festival in Northern Ireland

Jack Santino
Copyright Date: 1998
Edition: 1
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    The Hallowed Eve
    Book Description:

    In Northern Ireland, Halloween is such a major celebration that it is often called the Irish Christmas. A day of family reunions, meals, and fun, Halloween brings people of all ages together with rhyming, storytelling, family fireworks, and community bonfires. Perhaps most important, it has become a day that transcends the social conflict found in this often troubled nation. Through the extensive use of interviews,The Hallowed Eveoffers a fascinating look at the various customs, both past and present, that mark the celebration of the holiday. Looking through the lenses of gender, ethnicity, and religious affiliation, Jack Santino examines how the traditions exist in a nonthreatening, celebratory way to provide a model of how life could be in Northern Ireland. Halloween, concludes Santino, is a marriage of death and life, a joining of cultural opposites: indoor and outdoor, domesticity and wildness, male and female, old and young. Although current folk and popular traditions can be divisive, Halloween in Northern Ireland is universally considered to belong to everyone, regardless of their background or political leanings. The holiday is a dramatic example of how a community comes together one day a year, and these Northern Irish traditions capture the fundamental and everyday dimensions of life in Ulster.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4994-3
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Sharon Herron sums up both the activities and the appeal of Halloween in Northern Ireland. First the gossip: when one is reunited with distant family members and friends for a Halloween evening, and one catches up on the news. Then the games: ducking for apples, burning the nuts, foretelling the future. Who will be married? Who will have long life? Then wandering out into the black night to tell ghost stories or play pranks. There is an aspect of family reunion to Halloween in Northern Ireland, and in more crowded urban areas, neighborhood ties are reinforced as doors are left...

  6. 1 The Irish Christmas
    (pp. 9-26)

    People I interviewed about Halloween invariably told me that it was a great family day, and they frequently likened it to Christmas. In fact, R.H. Buchanan calls Halloween “the Irish Christmas” in his pair of influential articles on Irish calendar customs (1962, 1963). To me, however, Christmas, with its divine child and cheerful lights, has a very different feel to it than Halloween, with its deathly images of ghosts, skeletons, and skulls. This is because I am American. Halloween in the United States, with its trick-or-treating and pranks outside at night, logically has nocturnal creatures such as cats, bats, and...

  7. 2 The Personality of the Season: Rhyming, Pranking, and Bonfires
    (pp. 27-66)

    As a day of both fun and significance, Halloween has inspired a great deal of local poetry. These poems stand as artistic works that reflect their place and time and the aesthetic of both the poets and the audiences. The poems provide firsthand accounts of Halloween customs and performances for those of us who are removed by time and distance, and they are Halloween artifacts themselves, examples of tradition. The following is by B.M. Teggart and is dated 1898:

    The wind is blowin’ from the hill

    wi’ squally gusts between.

    The night is dark and showers fill

    The sheughs [ditches],...

  8. 3 Harvest
    (pp. 67-79)

    From County Monaghan, the Irish Folklore Commission collected the following testimony from eighty-seven-year-old Edward McBride. His words are preserved for us in notebooks containing handwritten field reports dated 1943-44, and his memories extend well back into the nineteenth century.

    Halloween is sometimes called November Eve. It is called the Feast of the autumn for then all the fruits are ripe and nuts too and the crops are safely gathered in. It is the season of Thanksgiving for the blessings of harvest and man rests secure that sufficient food for both man and beast is vouchsafed for another winter.

    In 1991,...

  9. 4 The Feast of Autumn
    (pp. 80-86)

    Mrs. McKee heard from a stranger that girls stole a herring, roasted it, and ate it tail and all. Whoever brought a drink to the thirsty girl became her husband. Here, the consumption of food was part of the divination ritual. The use of foodstuffs related to harvest is intimately connected to the supernatural aspects of the season. In a sense, the harvested foods are transformed into objects of power.

    The turnip lantern, analogous to the jack-o’-lantern, is one example. Representing skulls, they are placed on walls and gravestones to frighten passersby. The carved-out insides are mashed and eaten. Turnips...

  10. 5 Oiche Shamhana, Night of the Spirits
    (pp. 87-116)

    In this chapter I will examine beliefs, stories, and customs having to do with the spiritual and the supernatural aspects of Halloween. Some of this material—not all, but a good amount—originates from the three counties of Ulster that are predominantly Roman Catholic: Done gal, Monaghan, and Leinster. Many of the customs in those counties—part of Ulster, but not part of Northern Ireland—show a strong emphasis on belief and folk religious ritual. All of these customs and beliefs have to do with death, the souls of the departed, the supernatural, the future, the devil, and the otherworld....

  11. 6 Tie the Nine Knots: Games, Divination, and Belief
    (pp. 117-137)

    Dinah McKeen of Ballycarry, speaking in 1958, mentioned that on Halloween night, “it was the custom for young ladies who were looking for husbands to go to a neighbor’s door, and the first man’s name they heard spoken was the name of their future husband.” In that same year, Mary McDowell Gilliland said, “At Halloween parties in most homes big apple pies or dumplings were made with a ring, a button, and a thimble, and the recipients were acclaimed as ‘first to be married,’ ‘going to be a bachelor,’ or ‘going to be an old maid.’ Even if there was...

  12. 7 Gender Construction and Cultural Hegemony in Northern Ireland
    (pp. 138-162)

    Halloween in Northern Ireland is, in the terminology of Clifford Geertz (1971), both a model of that society and a model for behavior within it. This is most obviously true with regard to gender roles. Men’s customary activities take them outdoors, whereas women’s activities require them to remain indoors. Moreover, the nature of those activities are significantly gendered as well. Women bake, cook, prepare, and serve meals. Although both sexes enjoy the divination games such as burning nuts, these are thought to be properly a women’s pursuit. This 1992 testimony from John Quinn is, in its vagueness, a typical male...

  13. References
    (pp. 163-164)
  14. Index
    (pp. 165-167)