For Irish folklore expert, Billy Mag Fhloinn, Halloween is all about connecting with the ancient past and recreating an imagined sense of that experience to tell new stories. 

Billy holds a PhD in Irish Folklore and a BA in Archaeology, using his work within academic folklore to inform creativity and the reimagining of ancient stories. Working alongside the Púca Festival, an event run by Failte Ireland to encourage people to reconnect with Halloween's Irish roots, Billy worked as an advisor in creating a new approach to Halloween based on the interaction between heritage and creativity. 

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Modern day Halloween celebrations such as pumpkin carving, trick or treating and bobbing for apples can trace their origins back to the Celtic festival of Samhain, of which marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the darker part of the year. According to Billy, the evidence for what was going on in Samhain in ancient Ireland can at times be limited, meaning that events such as the Púca Festival must "look back at the evidence, see what it suggests and get creative." 

"In Ireland we’re always engaging with the past, we’re reminded of it in the landscape we live in, we feel the sense of history around us a lot if we choose to tune into it," he said. 

Festivals such as Samhain and Halloween are centered around a sense of community and coming together. Such events call for celebrations and the joyful expression of culture. 

"I think looking to how people celebrated it in the past or how we imagined that they did it in the past can be a useful way of just reiterating to us and reminding us of the strength in coming together and celebrating who we are, both historically who we are now, who we have become over the centuries," he said. 

While Halloween has become largely commercialised, its popularity allows for traditional practices and ideas to survive, said Billy. 

"Halloween is stronger than ever now, and along with the commercial, the Hollywood, the plastic version of Halloween, there are the traditional elements of Halloween which are given a context in which they can flourish." 

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"So while the commercialisation of it is troublesome in some ways," he said, "it’s important to remember the way Samhain was celebrated 2000 years ago or 1000 years ago or 100 years ago, they were all different and it's a process that's constantly changing so we invent and reinvent traditions constantly.

"That’s what every living culture that’s healthy should be doing…  engaging with the past in a positive way." 

According to Billy, one of the best ways to keep traditions alive is to speak with older members of your community. "Find out what they did for Halloween , see what their memories of Halloween are, see if any of those things spark interest in young people nowadays." he said. 

Engaging with events such as the Púca Festival is also a great way to keep the traditions of Samhain alive and while the Púca Festival won’t be taking place in-person this year, Fáilte Ireland have called on households across the country to light a Jack O’Lantern, a tradition stemming from ancient Ireland, and enjoy a moment of peace and unity. 

The Púca Festival will will recreate the ancient tradition of lighting the first fires of the Celtic new year on the Hill of Ward in Co. Meath with a pre-recorded torch-lit procession that will be streamed from 8pm on the Púca Festival Facebook page on October 31st.

For more information about the Púca Festival click here