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Ireland to take 'ownership' of Halloween for new festival

The festival has funding for three years and is inspired by Irish mythology.

Image: Fergal Phillips

A NEW FESTIVAL will see Ireland taking ownership of Halloween this autumn, with events taking place across three towns under the one banner. 

Púca is the brainchild of Fáilte Ireland, which describes it as a “spectacular, fun and otherworldly new festival celebrating Ireland as the original birthplace of Halloween”. It says the festival has a “vibrant and contemporary in feel but [is] strongly rooted in tradition”.

Púca has the tagline “where Halloween’s story begins” and will see events taking place in Athboy, Drogheda and Trim. Rather than the Americanised idea of Halloween with pumpkins and trick or treating, the Púca version of Halloween will see an emphasis on Celtic traditions.

The festival has funding for the next three years, with a target of attracting 100k visitors by 2022 and making €12m for the local economy. It will run from 31 October to 2 November this year. 

Orla Carroll, director of product development in Fáilte Ireland, told TheJournal.ie that the organisation researched into what Ireland could “own” in relation to a new festival. 

“Really what we were looking for was where can we anchor the opposite side of the calendar to St Patrick’s Day, in October or November,” she said. “And Halloween seemed an opportunity.”

She said that the organisation undertook a feasibility study, which included participation by archaeologists and historians, to determine what ownership Ireland could have over Halloween. Carroll said that this showed Halloween stemmed from Ireland, and that the diaspora brought Halloween stories and traditions with them outside of the country. However, the organisers want to show that Halloween in Ireland is different to the celebration in other countries.

“This is key – that it’s not a pumpkin festival and it’s not about dressing up or trick or treating elements, it’s about the origins, it’s about the spirits, it’s about that darkness to light. It’s about what that meant, that ancient new year,” said Carroll. 

The festival will involve the three ‘hubs’ playing host to Irish musicians including Lisa O’Neill, David Keenan, DJ KORMAC and Jerry Fish. The Coming of Samhain at Athboy will kick start the festival on 31 October, recreating the symbolic lighting of the Samhain fires.

The festival has been developed by Fáilte Ireland in partnership with Meath and Louth County Councils “to claim ownership of this internationally celebrated event and to tell the story of Halloween’s origins in Irish and Celtic traditions”.  

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There will be events in historical areas, such as the The Hill of Ward (Tlachtga) in Athboy. A samhain procession will take place on Halloween night in Trim, while there will also be events in Trim castle, and a retelling of the Táin Bó Cuailgne in Drogheda. 

Carroll said that the festival could make Irish heritage more tangible and “bring it to life”. 

The research also showed Fáilte Ireland that adults wanted a Halloween event that wasn’t just aimed at children, but wasn’t necessarily alcohol-focused. “Festivals enable us to share our culture, people get to meet real Irish people, and go home with a story,” said Carroll of attracting tourists.

Tickets are on sale now at www.pucafestival.com

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