5 Facts Every South African Should Know About Halloween

My Dad & I in Dublin for Halloween

Happy Halloween everyone! While many South Africans are on the fence about whether to celebrate this strange and ghoulish day, I’ve always enjoyed dressing up and having candy for dinner myself!

While sweets may be the number one motivator for many youngsters, I’ve come to learn far more about the day since visiting Ireland last year.

So if you’re not sure whether you should be joining the fun or not, here are 5 facts every South African should know about Halloween:

1. Halloween is Irish, not American

While America may have popularized the holiday, Halloween originates in Ireland. It’s an old Celtic holiday derived from Samhain, meaning “Summer’s end” and celebrates the turning of the seasons where all the harvests were completed and live stock brought it in rest for the winter. Halloween actually runs over two days, starting on the 31st of October and ending on the 1st of November.

2. People Dress Up To Scare Away Ghosts

Samhaim was seen as a time for endings and new beginnings; a time for departed souls to cross over to rest in peace, however, that could also mean bad spirits could be lurking about and easily intercept our dimension. People, therefore, dressed up and lit fires to scare off any dodgy spirits lurking about.

3. Halloween is a Public Holiday in Ireland

Yip! Strange but true! While I knew it was celebrated in the country (the dozens of strange creatures roaming the streets gave it away), I didn’t realise the level to which it was observed. The last weekend of October is always turned into a long weekend in Ireland in order to celebrate Halloween. I saw some frighting road signs while driving around the country!


4. Pumpkins Are An American Tradition

Traditionally, the Irish would hollow out turnips and put candles inside as pumpkins weren’t available in Europe way back when. Shapes we cut out and the turnips were left at the front door to keep evil spirits away. When Halloween moved to America, pumpkins became a good replacement. This gave birth to more famous Halloween characters like Jack O’Lantern. Candy is also an American alternative to a “trick” with most Irish and Scottish children asking for food and money over the centuries.

5. Trick or Treating

The end of summer and entering into winter was seen as a transitional time, which meant many spirits could also enter our world more easily. In order to appease them, treats were given out which later formed the bases of trick or treating. Kids impersonated the spirits by dressing up and demanding something nice or be tricked! Impersonating them was seen as a measure of protection.

So with that, go out and have fun! But if it’s not for you, that’s fine too. Happy Halloween everyone!




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