Irish Halloween Games and Traditions

UL Global’s Halloween Trilogy- Part Two

As we are aware, we will be in Level 5 restrictions for Halloween this year so the celebrations will be a little different, but don’t worry you can still have a good time! Due to the ongoing pandemic, trick or treating is off limits but to make up for that we have put together a list of traditional games and activities played in Irish homes every year. You can take inspiration from this list and incorporate it into your at-home Halloween celebrations this year! We have also included a piece about the history of each game and a few other games which aren’t common anymore but were very popular in Ireland once upon a time…

Snap Apple/ Bobbin’ for Apples-

‘Snap apple’ consists of one player at a time, blindfolded, spinning around a number of times as quickly as possible and then stopping and trying to catch the apple hanging from the roof with one bite. It is a lot harder than it sounds, why not give it a try!

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‘Bobbing for apples’ is also a very popular game and is a lot of fun to take part in and to watch. To play you must fill a large basin with water and put apples in it (they will float to the surface.) Players then try to catch one using only their teeth and transport it from the basin of water to the table.

Image by Caleb Zahnd, wikepedia

Fortune Telling-

This game was particularly popular many years ago when Ireland was a highly superstitious country, but it is still a very common game choice today! Four plates containing various things were placed in front of a blindfolded person and their choice of plate indicated their fortune – the plate containing food meant prosperity, a ring foretold marriage, water meant emigration and clay predicted death.

Floury Grape-

In this game, a grape is placed onto the top of a volcanic like shape made of flour. Using a knife, players take turns removing a slice of flour from outside to inside.  As the slices get closer and closer to the grape it eventually collapses and the player who was last to take a slice must remove the grape from the floury rubble using just their teeth. Make sure you have a towel at the ready, this game gets messy!

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The Barnbrack Cake-

The barnbrack which is a fruit bread, is also known as the traditional Halloween cake in Ireland. Each member of the household gets a slice which is said to determine their fate for the year. There is a piece of rag, a coin and a ring in each cake. If you get the rag, then your financial future is not looking good, if you get the coin then you can look forward to a prosperous year, and if you get the ring it is a sure sign continued happiness and romance!

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Old Traditions:

Colcannon for Dinner:
Boiled Potato, cabbage and raw Onions are the traditional Irish Halloween dinner. Although modern day children would turn their nose up at this dinner, it was very popular with kids many moons ago! This was because clean coins were wrapped in baking paper and placed in the potato for children to find whilst they were eating. The children were also allowed to keep the coin which would have been a rare occurrence back then!

If you would like to make your own colcannon, the recipe can be found here:

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The Ivy Leaf-

This old Irish tradition had each member of the household place a perfect ivy leaf into a cup of water and leave it undisturbed overnight. If, in the morning, your leaf is still in perfect condition and has not developed any spots then the person who owned that leaf can look forward to perfect health until the following Halloween. If you returned and your leaf had developed spots or mould your life and health is in great jeopardy for the upcoming year. This game is no longer played in every Irish household and we can definitely see why… Buzzkill!

Blind Date-

An old Irish tradition where local girls would be blindfolded and brought into the fields to pull up the first cabbage they could find. If their cabbage had a large amount of earth attached to the roots, then their future spouse would have plenty of money! Eating the cabbage would also reveal the nature of their future spouse and whether they would be bitter or sweet!

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Anti-Fairy Measures-

Another hugely superstitious tradition in old Ireland which feared fairies and goblins and their task to collect as many souls as they can on Halloween night. People in Ireland believed if they met a person who threw the dust from under them at the Fairy then they would have to release any souls that they held captive immediately.

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Holy water was also sometimes anointed on farm animals to keep them safe from the fairies and goblins on Halloween night. If the animals were showing signs of ill health on Halloween, then they would be spat on to try to ward off any evil spirits.

Ghost Stories-

All kinds of ghost stories are popular on Halloween, especially in Ireland where storytelling is so popular amongst the people! Part 3 of this trilogy will include many of these urban legends and a few real life haunting and classic Irish ghost stories. Make sure you read it!

By Saoirse Hammond


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