Hallowe’en Games

Roscommon, 31 October


Hugh James Byrne, 1907;

‘In Ireland, All Hollows Eve (October 31st), or, as it is generally called November night, is a general season for merry-making. In my native place in County Roscommon it is a favourite date for giving parties. A cake is made in nearly every house, and a ring, a coin, a sloe, and a chip of wood, are put into it which causes great excitement. The coin means riches, the one who gets the ring will be the married first, whoever gets the chip of wood (which stands for a coffin) will be the first to die, and the sloe denotes the longest liver, because the fairies are supposed to blight the sloes and haws and other berries on November night, so this will be the last eatable sloe of the year.

A favourite amusement is to get a tub full of water and put apples in it, and sometimes a sixpence or a threepenny piece; and the youngsters strip, and dip their heads in it, and try to pick up the apples or coin with their mouths. Sometimes a strip of wood is thrust through an apple, and a bit of a lighted candle stuck on each projecting end, then the apple is suspended from the ceiling by a doubled piece of string, which is twisted tightly so that in winds and unwinds itself, continually revolving, and the children compete to see who can catch it with their teeth. Needless to say, they more often grip the lighted candle, and get smeared with tallow, which of course is the best part of the fun.

The girls put nine grains of oats in their mouths, and go out without speaking, and walk about till they hear some man’s name mentioned; whatever christian name they first hear will be the name of their future husband.’

Folklore 1907.

Hallowe’en Pranks

  Roscommon –

Street scene

Hugh James Byrne;

‘The boys and young men play practical jokes. If there is a miserly man, a bad neighbour, in the place, they go into his garden and cut the cabbages and give them to some poor man. Then they knock on his door with a cabbage-head, and while he is chasing one party, the rest perhaps try to pull up the remaining cabbages. Sometimes they take the pith out of a cabbage-stalk and stuff it in with hay, and put in a lighted turf, which makes the hay smoulder, and puff the smoke through the keyhole, filling the house with a disagreeable smell. Another favourite trick is to tie all the door-knockers in a row of houses together, so that when one door is opened all the other knockers begin to rap.’

Folklore, 1907.