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Samhuinn – Halloween, Scotland style!

"Samhain 2014, Edinburgh" by Graham Campbell on Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Modern Halloween is celebrated across the globe, but here in Edinburgh the Celtic roots of the festival are still celebrated today. Known as ‘Samhuinn’ or ‘Samhain’, the Gaelic festival marks the end of the Celtic year and harvest season and the beginning of winter or “darker half” of the year.

Celebrated from the beginning of Celtic day starting at sunset on 31st October and ending with sunset on 1st November, Samhuinn is a time when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld can be more easily crossed, therefore the  ‘spirits’ or the ‘fairies’ known as Aos Sí would be more likely to make an appearance.

The people needed to win the favour of the Aos Sí so that the people and their livestock could survive the harsh winters. To do this they left food and offerings outside their houses for them. Our tradition of dressing up may have been a way for either intimidating or disguising oneself from the Aos Sí. The souls of relatives passed were also more likely to visit their previous homes during this time. People offered them food and drinks and set a place at the table to welcome them back into their homes.

In the modern times in Edinburgh, we are treated to Edinburgh’s Annual Fire Festival organised by the Beltane Fire Society. The Samhuinn Fire Festival brings together Celtic tales of Summer and Winter Kings in Edinburgh’s historic Old Town through detailed costumes, mythical creatures, fires and lots and lots of drums. Goodbye Summer, Winter is coming!