To answer the question of the week, yes, Halloween is very much celebrated in Ireland! In fact, it originated here! Jack-o’-lanterns began as an Irish story about a man named Jack who was made to wander the Earth after his death. He carried a burning piece of coal for light, which he placed into a hollowed-out turnip. Villagers put a carved turnip or potato in their window in an effort to scare Jack away. Pumpkins only entered the jack-o’-lantern scene when Irish immigrants came to the US and had more access to pumpkins than turnips.
The Halloween celebrations here look a lot like they do in the states: there were fun costumes, parties, decorations, and candy. I happened to be riding the city bus right when schools got out the Friday before Halloween and was treated to parades of kids in their Halloween costumes, which brought back many fond grade school memories for me. Halloween fireworks are quite common (even though they are illegal here), and I could see some beautiful shows from my window. Another Irish Halloween tradition that I saw heavily observed is eating barmbrack, commonly referred to as brack, a dense tea bread with raisins and other dried fruits. In the brack is a ring, and if you find the ring, you will have good luck. I also heard descriptions of brack with other items in it such as a piece of cloth that symbolizes poverty or a coin for good financial fortune in the year ahead.
For the Halloween weekend, I went on a trip to Rathgormack with the UCD Mountaineering Club. We left Friday night and returned on Sunday. Rathgormack is to the south and a bit to the west of Dublin and is surrounded by beautiful scenery.
When we arrived at the center, we realized that the area we had rented out was double-booked, and an Irish dancing group was using it for another hour. So, what else were we to do but join in! A couple of women very kindly taught us the steps as we went along. It was just a blast. (If you want to find me in the video, I am wearing my purple sweater :-)
The next two days were filled with rock climbing at a quarry that is rigged for top rope climbing. Since I’ve only ever climbed at Vertical Endeavors indoor climbing gyms in Minnesota, having the chance to climb outside was such a thrill! While it was also quite challenging, I loved being able to work on a route for a more extended period of time, and at the end of the first day, I conquered a part on one of the climbs that I had initially struggled with.
I looked down to cheer, and my friend captured the moment at just the right time (see photo to the right). Thanks, Krzysztof!
In general, I am feeling much more settled. I feel like I turned a big corner about three weeks ago. I’ve had a few “oh, I’m really living in Ireland!” moments, like when I automatically wrote “centre” instead of “center” for the first time, or I realized I had memorized my Irish phone number. I am so grateful that I get to live here.