HALLOWEEN may be a global affair these days, but here in Fermanagh we have been celebrating this most spooky time of the year for millennia.
From the traditions still kept each year in homes across the county, to the very names of the places where we live, this ancient Irish festival of Oiche Samhna is still very much a part of Fermanagh life.
Did you know there is even a place right here in the county called after Halloween itself? Drumsawna, between Ederney and Lack, means Droim Samhna, which translates as ‘ridge (or hill) of Samhain.’
Other spooky placenames to impress your friends with while awaiting the fireworks in Enniskillen this Thursday night include Bloody Pass, in the south of the county, named after a deadly battle in the 1600s.
Then there’s Gortnacally near Florencecourt, which literally means ‘field of the witch.’
Even Ballinamallard has a dark meaning, and it has nothing to do with ducks. Translated from the Irish ‘Beal Atha na Mallacht’, it means ‘ford mouth of the curses.’ Apparently St Columcille had cursed the town’s roosters.
Away from placenames, many of us may not realise how ancient the traditions we keep are. No doubt bonfires have been lit in Enniskillen, for example, for thousands of years in honour of Samhain, the Celtic god of the harvest. Last week we asked Herald readers what traditions you were keeping alive in your homes, and again the ancient rituals of carving lanterns and enjoying good harvest food are still going strong.
Bridget Shannon said the tradition of eating boxty is alive and well in her home, while the traditional Halloween apple tart is still a feature in Roisin Farmer’s home. Kevin Lee and his family keep things old school by carving turnips, the original version of the now ubiquitous pumpkin. On the other hand, Nor Lisa and her family have taken to the pumpkin tradition, which was imported from the New World, though they are not so keen on bobbing for apples any more.
However you plan to celebrate this evening, enjoy and stay safe!
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