It’s been a tough year for me and I haven’t been writing much. I’m missing my sisters so much lately and with Hallowe’en and Christmas looming it’s bringing back so many memories for me. Hallowe’en was always Annetes favourite celebration, so I’ve been thinking of her a lot this week. I’m not a big fan of Hallowe’en myself but as a child I loved it.
To get me back on the scene I thought I’d post this short memoir, published in Irelands Own last Hallowe’en.
Help the Hallowe’en party
Everyone dressed up to go around the houses to collect for the Hallowe’en party. We started knocking on doors as soon as it got dark. We never had fancy costumes like children today. We’d put on old coats from the hot press in the boxroom and put ashes on our faces from the fireplace. Whoever was first upstairs got to wear mammys wig. The rest of us just pulled on any old hat we found.
‘Help the Hallowe’en party’ we’d all shout , pushing and shoving each other to get up front to get the good stuff when the doors were opened.
We never got sweets or lollies. Just apples, oranges,nuts or bananas.No such thing as trick or treat,give me something good to eat. Sure we were lucky to get a monkey nut from some of them.
I remember knocking on one door and saying”help the hallowe’en party’ and the woman said.’Sorry love, we had our party last night’. An hour later her kids were knocking on our door.
‘Help the Hallowe’en party’ they said. ‘Ah we had our party last night too’ I said. ‘ Ma gave out to me for that. ‘God love them ‘ she said when I told her.’Their poor Mammy obviously hadn’t the money to buy a bit of fruit.’ She went out and called them back and gave them some monkey nuts and a few apples and oranges. They were delighted. I felt bad then for being mean.
When we’d collected enough goodies we’d go over to the bonfire for the ‘party’. Some of the really brave kids went down to the old graveyard at the bottom of the lane. I never went. I heard that the lost souls came back for children at Hallowe’en. This was the only day of the year that they could return from ‘the other side’. My friend said she saw the banshee sitting on the wall of the graveyard. I didn’t believe her. Sure she was afraid of her own shadow and wouldn’t come near the graveyard with us any day, never mind on Hallowe’en.
For dinner we always had colcannon. Potatoes mashed up with kale and onions.Mammy would wrap up a thruppeny bit in greaseproof paper and put it in the colcannon. Whoever found it was lucky for the rest of the year. I thought it was lucky enough just to get the thrupenny bit.
When she made the barm brack she put in an old ring and who ever found it was next to be married.
We loved to get the ring, even though we were too young to get married.
Da said if you could peel an apple in one go and threw the skin over your shoulder it would show you the initial of the person you’d marry. We believed him. He always peeled it in one go and when he threw it, he always got the letter ‘C’. Mammys’ name is Christina.
I loved the games we played after we came in from knocking on doors and watching the bonfire . Da put apples in a basin of water and we had to try to take a bite of the apple with our hands behind our back. The water always went up my nose and I thought I was drowning…in 2 inches of water! I preferred when he hung the apple from the ceiling on a piece of string. He’d swing the apple back and forth and we had to try take a bite without using our hands to steady the apple. There was an awful lot of banging of heads as we all jostled to get the apple.
Before bed, we’d gather around the fire in candle light and tell ghost stories. Shadows flickered on the wall as we told tales of the headless horseman riding up the driveway to Johnstown House or the wailing of the banshee combing her long black hair as she forewarned the impending death of some family member.
‘The headless horseman is outside waiting to bring you down to the graveyard’, Ger would shout in from the boys bedroom after we all went to bed.’No, it’s the banshee looking for her comb back’,Peter would laugh.Then they’d scratch on the door and make ‘woooooh’ noises and rattle the chains off their bikes. Da would come up and give out yards to them, but they thought it was hilarious to hear us screaming. My sister said that Hallowe’en was the Devils birthday and if you looked in the mirror at midnight you’d see him looking back at you and it meant you were going to die. We always covered the mirror in our bedroom with a blanket until morning…just in case.