Halloween in Galway

The night got grimmer as it got later - pirates vomited beside the River Corrib, ghouls with bottles stumbled in the streets, scantily dressed cats and bloody brides crowded the bars.  An awful sounding fistfight began in the early hours outside our window; accompanying it was much shouting and pleading.  In the morning, we saw spots of blood on the concrete and broken bottles in the gutter.  Bits of costume were strewn everywhere in the wet. A report was in the paper about a man whose costume caught on fire.  He'd been dressed as a sheep, in cotton balls and gauze, and had burns on eighty percent of his body.  The Galway nightclub he'd been at wasn't far from us.  Frightful stuff indeed.
We spent Halloween in Ireland, where the holiday was born, and came away a little unsettled.
It's hard to tell what to believe when it comes to pagan traditions and festivals - this is the stuff of legend and misty history after all - but most historians say that Halloween's roots can be traced back to the Celtic Irish festival of Samhain.  As far back as the first century BC, Samhain marked the changing of the seasons and a time when the dead could make their way out into the world of the living - there were bonfires and animal slaughtering, feasts in honor of ancestors and costumes to trick evil spirits.
The pagan rituals have mostly been replaced, but the frightfulness still resonates powerfully in Ireland.  This isn't a holiday for children.
We saw little trick-or-treating, which seemed odd at first but made sense later.  A few kids were in costumes, but there weren't many and there were even fewer after dark.  Parents keep their young goblins and witches inside on Halloween night, we've learned, because the streets are just too dangerous. After a fun, energetic parade, Galway began to spin out of control and tilt toward alcohol fueled revelry, fights and firecrackers.
These three girls were asking people for money in a pub before they got chased out by the bartender ("Go on!" he said, not quite angrily.  "You can't be in here without your parents!")
Dublin police and firefighters were attacked through the night by people throwing stones and bottles.  In one instance, emergency service vehicles were ambushed when they responded to a phony call for help.  The night is wild by tradition.  In Galway, firehouses and ambulances were "stretched to the limit" by the fires and drunken chaos, but nobody seemed surprised.  Luckily for us, the wickedest stuff happened after we were in bed.
Ghoulish and bloody costumes were more in vogue than ironic and humorous, but there were some laughing exceptions.  Two friends wandered the streets dressed as a beer bottle and a banana.  One girl went out as a twister board.  This young man was… something.
It sound as though we didn't have fun, but we actually did. A real excitement pervaded the early going.  The weather was fine and clear, the moon was not much less than full, the streets were crowded and the pints were flowing.
In the dead of night, we listened to a girl beg "nobody wants to fight anymore," as the sound of blows echoed in the darkness.  On the bus out of town the next day, a group of highschool boys called friends on their cellphones - "we've been in Galway.  Nope, haven't slept.  Bars were too crowded, couldn't get in anywhere.  Just drank silly inside the flat."
Halloween is such a place-specific event.  In America, it speaks most directly to childhood and dead-leaf nostalgia. Two years ago, in Krakow, the streets were quiet and somber in advance of All Saint's Day.  In Barcelona last October, around the time of La Castanyada, the few people celebrating seemed intoxicated partly by the novelty of it all.  Here in Galway, we felt that the city was on the verge of falling apart in the dark.
Here's a video of the parade, with all of its drumming and twirling.  A note: Rebecca suggested that I name this post "Hall O'Ween"
You have read this article Drinking / Festivals / Ireland with the title Halloween in Galway. You can bookmark this page URL https://africathoughts.blogspot.com/2012/11/halloween-in-galway.html. Thanks!

No comment for "Halloween in Galway"

Post a Comment