In the last few years, I noticed that several people decorate their gardens and houses, but that’s pretty new in Ireland. In the cities, kids have always knocked at doors and collected sweets and chocolates. Where I grew up, that never happened. I can’t remember if we’d seen it on TV but, if so, we probably thought it was something that only happened in America.
Our only concession to Halloween was Halloween games. An apple on a rope was strung to the ceiling and we would try to take a bite whilst our hands were tied behind our backs. We played the same game with an apple in a basin of water. But these games were played in our own house. There was never any suggestion of Halloween parties.
Our variation of this was the Wren Boys. (For some reason it was pronounced the ‘Ran’ boys). They made their appearance on Stephen’s Day (December 24th).
In those days nobody locked their doors during the day. My grandmother lived on a farm, a little outside the nearest village. Like all farmhouses of the time, the kitchen ran almost the length of the house and the whole family spent most of the day there.
When I was little, we used to spend Stephen’s Day in that house. I remember one day when I was about five, the door burst open and in marched a group of older kids, dressed in fancy dress. (I can only remember one of them was wearing a ballgown). They raced around the kitchen table shouting “the wren (ran) the wren, the king of all birds. St Stephen’s day he was caught in the furze” and then disappeared. Did they get money? I’m not sure. I think they got their kick from making a sudden entrance and scaring all the younger kids.
I was fascinated and couldn’t wait to join them but, as they walked miles between the houses, my mother said I was too young. By the time I was old enough, we had moved to the city where nobody had ever heard of the Wren Boys.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the only thing we knew about pumpkins was that one was used in Cinderella’s carriage. Pumpkins only appeared in Ireland in the last few years.
So, there you go. The story of my deprived childhood.
Hope you have a great Halloween.
If you are interested in fiction set in a more modern Ireland, check out my thriller, Girl Targeted.