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The Ancient Irish Origins of Hallowe’en or Samhain

We would like to bring some Irish Halloween celebrations to Australia, so come with us on a magical journey to Connemara, where we will share with you some of the games and stories that we play and recite to celebrate Halloween.


  • Connemara and Kylemore Abbey
  • Spooky ghost stories
  • Fiendishly fabulous colouring in
  • Halloween crossword
  • Halloween word search
  • Bewitching Halloween games:
    • Apples on a string
    • Bobbing for apples
    • Saucers
  • Remembrance Tree

Connemara and Kylemore Abbey

 Kylemore Abbey

Connemara is a wild and spiritual land, located in County Galway on the wild Atlantic way, where the waves roll in from the far away coast of America and crash into the Irish coastline. Nestled amongst mountains that shine like diamonds, in a land where deer and white Connemara ponies roam, there sits a spell-binding castle, Kylemore Abbey.

Set in front of a lake, at the bottom of a hill, in the middle of a forest, the castle in Kylemore comes alive with all sorts of spooky stories and games once Halloween arrives. Our friends at Kylemore Abbey have made a video and you can see for yourself all the fun and games that take place at this time of year.

Did you see …
See if you can spot the ‘Cailleach’ in the video, she was known as the wise woman of the village who was consulted for cures for humans and livestock. At Halloween time she would be called on to make predictions about the future.


Did you spot the fortune-teller? She is using the ‘saucer game’ to tell people’s fortune. You can play it too; we have included some instructions below- just read on!

Can you spot the turnip lanterns? Do you know what these are? Well turnips are gnarly vegetables that grow in the soil like carrots. At Samhain (or Halloween) each family would carve turnips to bring to the celebratory bonfire in the village. They would use these turnips to carry the embers from the bonfire to bring them home. It was tradition that each family would use these embers to start the first fire of the Celtic year in their homes.


Other activities

Now that we have peaked your interest, why not throw a Halloween party and bring a little slice of spooky Irish fun to it? You can:

  • Be spooked by the ghost stories
  • Have fun colouring in a fiendishly fabulous picture
  • Or try beat your family and friends in one of our bewitching games!!

Spooky ghost stories

We have two spellbinding ghost stories for you to listen to, stories that will make your teeth chatter and your hair stand up on the top of your head! Make sure you turn the lights down, to make the atmosphere as spoooooky as possible.

The first one is about the Dastardly Dan Quigley and his disastrous run-in with the fairies. The second story is about a very hungry giant!! Both stories are set in the wilds of Connemara.

Kylemore Abbey History, Myth and Legend ยท History, Myth and Legend from Kylemore Abbey: A Door Into The Past

Fiendishly fabulous colouring in

Why not spend some time colouring in this witchy picture, kindly drawn by eerie Eithne who haunts the halls of Kylemore Abbey. There’s a prize for the most creative and spooky picture!!

Halloween Crossword

Halloween Word search

Bewitching Halloween Games

Are you ready to have some ghostly Halloween fun??? Let’s try out some of these bewitching Halloween games!!

Apples on a string

The ancient Celts weren’t all that difference from us, and one of their main concerns (aside from fighting off attacks from invaders!) was whether they found love or not. The Celts used apples as a way to predict their fortunes in love, as in the Celtic tradition apples were associated with love and fertility. This has now morphed into a popular Halloween game called apple on a string!

To play this game, an apple is suspended from a string from a hook/ceiling/beam or railing (given current COVID context, it might be best to hang a number of apples so that there is one for each player).
The contestant is blindfolded and their arms are tied behind their back. They are then guided over towards the apple.

The contestant will try to take a bite of the apple (it is harder than it sounds!) and the first one to successfully bite the apple will be the first to marry! Or if speedy nuptials are not on the cards, the winner usually gets a prize!
Try it! It’s fun, but be warned it is very frustrating!!

For a different variation on the same game, why not try ‘bobbing for apples’.

Bobbing for Apples

The aim of the game is the same as apples on a string, in that whomever gets a bite of the apple first, will find love! But unlike the string game, this version is a bit messier, so make sure to have a spare change of clothes and ask for permission before going ahead!!

In this game, a basin is filled with water, and some apples are placed inside the basin (they will ‘bob’ along the surface)

With their arms tied behind their backs, the participants must try to take a bite of the apple. This is a lot harder than it sounds, and you will definitely get a bit wet but it is great fun!!


A traditional game, which was quite popular in the West of Ireland, was a game called saucers. This game vividly reflects the life options that were open to people in rural Ireland especially up to the 1980s when education was scare and emigration high.

Times have changed somewhat since then, so we have a more contemporary version of the game, in addition to the traditional one, which some adults might still like to try out!
This game - like the apple on a string and apple bobbing - is a fortune telling game, and lots of fun for all the family!

Traditional version

Lay out a row of saucers and place in them the following (one saucer for each item)

  • Water
  • Soil
  • Rosary beads
  • Coin
  • Bean or matchstick
  • Button

Cover the saucers with an upside down cup or a cloth and without looking the ‘fortune teller’ gets each person to pick a saucer, whichever saucer they pick holds their fate.
Some of the fates are a bit grim and not suitable for all, but they do give an interesting insight into life at the time in rural Ireland.


New version

For a more contemporary and child friendly version, you can use some charms and toys to reflect different careers. We have suggested some here, but let you imagination go wild on this one!
Lay out a row of saucers and place in them the following (one saucer for each item)

  • Water
  • Pencil
  • Toy car
  • A magnifying glass
  • A crayon
  • A piece of lego

Cover the saucers with a upside down cup or a cloth and without looking the ‘fortune teller’ gets each person to pick a saucer, whichever saucer they pick holds their fate.


Remembrance tree

The day after Halloween is November 1st, which is also known as All Hallows day or All Souls day. Traditionally, this is a day where many people like to remember those loved ones who are no longer with us. Nowadays some people like to use this day to think about their family and friends in far away lands who cannot be with them. Over the past year, we have all had times where we could not see our friends and our family as much as we would have liked. There is a way, however, through which we can send a magical hug and hello to our loved ones. It doesn’t matter where in the world they may be, as these wishes are magical and can zip around the globe in a jiffy!! You can do this by making a tree of remembrance.

All you need is a little tree or a bush (even a house plan will do!) and have an adult print off the little remembrance tags. Once you have your tags, write down the name of the person you want to think of, and maybe even write a little message for them. Hang it onto your tree of remembrance, and during the night, when everyone is in bed, the love that you put into the message will turn the message magical, and it will find its way to its recipient, no matter where they are (we even heard that these messages have reached the North Pole!!)

Remembrance Tags