Samhain in Éirinn

A whimsical wish declared years ago has now come true. "I want to go to Ireland for my 40th birthday." I had forgotten until this year about that wish. I have returned to the country of my mother's forebears and it is every bit as mystical and breathtaking as promised.

It is Samhain-eve and I am walking the streets of Dublin. My Irish ancestors are on my mind. This is the time of year to remember and celebrate those who have passed. It is a time of death and rebirth. My  grandmother's heritage was from people who came to America from county Clare--a very long time ago. I am a 7th generation child, a daughter of the American Revolution.

All around me pubs brim with nightlife. Millenials in costume roam in groups as if destinationless and out...just to be seen. Both traditional Irish and modern music blare from the pubs. The Halloween thrill this year has been given an extra hour's oomph from the shift off Daylight Savings time. Ireland celebrates Halloween as a national holiday. Many banks and businesses are closed and it is treated like we treat the New Year.

I watch the locals as they flit about full of life, filming each other, laughing and delighting in the pretend horror and alter-ego reality. Race, religion, sex and sexual orientation do not matter. Anyone can participate in this festival of the dead. Its offer to "make believe" there for anyone. I circumvent the creatures, superheroes and ghouls in search of medicine for my daughter. We are travelers here, attempting to continue nursing her back to health in a hotel room after spending several hours at Dublin's Children's Hospital. An Irish hospital wasn't on our list of planned destinations. A sick child is a grim reminder of how thin the veil between the worlds can be at this time of year.

As a foil to the festival of the dead, this year's 32nd annual Dublin Marathon happened today. An endurance race of this length (26.2 miles) is, for me, the ultimate celebration of life. It is also one of he many things here that puts me in a state of déjà vu. Dublin has many streets, parks and buildings that could easily be part of my hometown of Boston, which has its own marathon of the same length in January.


It is now October 31st. Samhain morning has arrived after an evening quiet with my daughter's sound recovery sleep that happened despite the wild parties all around us. I am grateful for the blessings that brought us to Ireland and for the kindness of fate that allow us to now see our daughter happily jumping up and down on the bed. It is a blessed morning. Go raibh maith agaibh, Éirinn! (Gaelic for "Thank you, Ireland.")

Notes on the spelling of Éirinn.

Lead photo:  A stone at Knowth, Ireland.
2nd photo:  Halloween turnip in the National Leprechaun Museum, Dublin, Ireland. In earlier times in Ireland, turnips were carved for Samhain instead of pumpkins.
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