Irish studies celebrates ancient holiday

Erica Dolson

This year University students were given the chance to participate in a variety of festivities honoring a Celtic tradition.

Samhain, pronounced sow-in, is a Celtic holiday commemorating the end of the year in the early Celtic calendar. In Celtic tradition, spring begins on Feb. 1, summer on May 1, autumn on Aug. 1 and winter on Nov. 1. The end of the harvest marked the end of the calendar year.

“[The festival of Samhain] is an end-of-the-year harvest festival,” Dr. James Murphy, head of the Irish Studies program at Villanova, said. “[It is] a very, very ancient tradition which became Christianized with the coming of Christianity.”

The origins of Halloween have their roots in the ancient festival of Samhain. The Irish celebrate Halloween much in the same way as Americans, with costumes, mischief-making and legends of ghosts and fairies.

“Halloween is one of the biggest celebrations we have around the world today which goes back to Celtic origins,” Murphy said.

The University has always had some sort of commemoration of Samhain, but this is the first year there has been a consolidated series of events.

The celebration was put together by the Irish Studies Program and the Irish Cultural Society to bring activities to campus that would focus on Irish-American life from different perspectives.

The events offered this year included “a little bit of everything,” according to Murphy, including drama, music, a poetry reading and an academic talk.

Mick Moloney and Friends, a popular Irish music group, performed “An Evening of Irish Traditional Music and Dance” last Saturday evening in the St. Mary’s Chapel.

Also, earlier this week Irish poet Moya Cannon from Galway read her poetry in the Connelly Center.

The Irish Studies program also welcomed Professor Nicholas Greene who gave a lecture entitled “Pigs and Pastoral: The Butcher Boy.”

The Samhain festivities will conclude this evening with a one-man performance of “Peacefire: No Freedom without Justice” in the St. Mary’s Chapel.

“Peacefire,” written by and starring Macdara Mac Uibh Aille, tells the story of a young man in Northern Ireland. The play explores the consequences of the ceasefire in place in Northern Ireland and discusses young working class people and the politics that directly affect them. This off-Broadway play received excellent reviews in the New York Press.

The performance will be held tonight in Saint Mary’s Chapel at 7:30 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door for $10.