Happy Halloween!

Hello everyone!

Are you ready for the spookiest night of all year? Nowadays we’re all familiar with Halloween and all its traditions such as trick-or-treating, bonfires, costume parties, visiting “haunted houses” and carving jack-o-lanterns. But, where do these festivities come from?

The Origins…

The word Halloween is a shortening of All Hallows’ Evening also known as Hallowe’en or All Hallows’ Eve and it has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced “sah-win” in English and “Samaín” in Galician).

The festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. It was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and prepare for winter. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops.

The festival would frequently involve bonfires as it was believed that the fires attracted insects to the area which attracted bats. These are additional attributes of the history of Halloween.

Masks and costumes were worn in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or appease them but, actually, the practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays goes back to the Middle Ages. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of “souling,” when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2).

But then, how come the USA is now the country which celebrates it the most?

Well, Irish and Scottish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century and it stuck. Halloween is now popular in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, and due to increased American cultural influence in recent years, imported through exposure to US television and other media, trick-or-treating has started to occur among children in many parts of Europe, and in the Saudi Aramco camps of Dhahran, Akaria compounds and Ras Tanura in Saudi Arabia.

The most significant growth and resistance is in the United Kingdom, where the police have threatened to prosecute parents who allow their children to carry out the “trick” element.


As you can see, Galician, Irish and Scottish people share a very profound bond: The Celtic culture. We share cultural background and traditions which shouldn’t be overlooked! So go ahead and enjoy Halloween or Samhain, because, at the end of the day, the name is the least important thing!

Happy and spooky Halloween and Samhain folks! Watch out for ghosts!!!

Special thank you to our teacher Eoin for contributing to this post. Cheers Eoin!

Saint Patrick's Day

Hello again everyone!

Today’s post talks about the festivity of St. Patrick’s Day (as you may have probably guessed because of the title… Otherwise, tell your teacher you desperately need to practise Reading comprenhension! 😉 ). I think we will all agree when I say that the average young Spanish adult only knows two things about this day:

  1. They get Guinness merchandise for free in (mostly) Irish pubs.
  2. Therefore, it must have something to do with the Irish

And we are not mistaken at all! Just a quick look through Wikipedia will give you some essential background info, including the fact that it is originally from Ireland.  You know that at ES we have teachers from, pretty much, all over the globe and we have asked our teacher Eoin (aka “Owen” for non-Irish speakers) to share his insights on this Irish holiday.

So here it is, enjoy!

When the excitement of Christmas and New Year begins to rapidly wane and the depressing reality of January starts to take hold, Irish men and women all over the globe reach for their fancy new calendars and desperately seek out the magic day of March 17.  Once the magic day has been found and marked out, a magic rainbow appears, stretching out from the grey plains of January and February towards the emerald green horizon of mid-March.

To a young child growing up in Ireland however, and speaking from my own experience of growing up in Ireland in the 1970s, Saint Patrick’s Day was a very religious holiday that offered very little to children when compared to Easter and Christmas. Instead of the promise of Cadbury’s chocolate eggs or the allure of Beano annuals and Matchbox cars, Saint Patrick’s Day simply meant a boring day, going to early mass followed by standing on the side of the road at a parade, for what felt like hours, staring at countless tractors and marching bands pass by. After standing outside for hours in the pouring rain, my parents would invariably make their way, with five kids in tow, into a nearby pub. Here at least we were warm and dry, and after finding a spare table, we would sit down to a wonderful feast of crisps and red lemonade. All around the pub were families like ourselves and soon we would be running around and playing with the other kids while the grown-ups sang songs and told jokes much to their own amusement.

Saint Patrick’s Day followed this pattern more or less for me and nearly every other child in Ireland until the age of around fifteen. Ireland in the 1980s was a very religious society and the celebration of our patron saint meant that early mass was still mandatory as was the blessing of the shamrock and wearing your Sunday’s best outfit. After mass however, we were now free to make our own way into town with friends to watch the parade, which by this time had moved on from tractors and marching bands to sponsored floats and professional razzamatazz marching bands from the US. After the parade we now invariably made our way, parentless, to the nearest pub were we could get a drink, and after finding a pub desperate enough to let us in we would sit down to a grand feast of crisps and Guinness. The singing of songs however, had now been sadly replaced by jukeboxes or sound systems in most pubs and to this day it is very rare to hear drinkers singing in a pub to a hushed audience.

Many traditions had changed in Ireland by the 1990s and inevitably Saint Patrick’s Day had changed too. Now it was called Paddy’s day, the day to celebrate Irishness, as opposed to honouring our patron saint and all that was holy and sacred. That meant for the majority of Irish people, early mass and blessed shamrock were now a thing of the past. The parades in Ireland had changed too, they were now more commercial and competitive, every school now had a band or some special routine, and every football team marched down the main street proudly wearing their sponsor’s logo. The tradition of going to the pub straight after the parade thankfully continued and as by this stage most of my friends and I were all working, we got to enjoy a day and night out together happy in the knowledge that we were getting paid as well.

The recent spectacular rise and fall of Ireland’s economic prowess had a limited impact on our big day, the parades are still improving year after year thanks to the fact that Ireland has become more multi-cultural, and nowadays when you stand by the side of the road dripping wet, you can find it hard to believe that you are in Ireland. Living in Spain as I do now, I see a big similarity between the carnival festival and Paddy’s day. The big difference of course is that carnival is celebrated throughout the Latin world while Paddy’s day is uniquely an Irish thing, it is a day to feel proud of where you come from, a day to be proud of who you are, but most importantly it is a day to drink plenty of Guinness!!

Thanks so much for your contribution to this new project Eoin!

And what about you, dear students? Do you dare to give us a writing about how you first learned about St. Paddy’s? Hand your writings to reception before Sunday 22nd, we will correct them for you and the best will be published in our blog! Good luck and happy St. Paddy’s day! 🙂