Our Celtic ancestors knew how to throw a party. To mark the end of the harvest season and the start of winter, they celebrated with a festival known as Samhain (pronounced sah-win), which is the precursor to our modern-day Halloween.
Feasts were held during which faeries and the spirits of the dead were said to revisit their homes and cause mischief. Fast forward a few hundred years and the Christian Church decided to put a less-pagan spin on things. For Irish people it became all about venerating dead saints and getting stuck with a Holy Day of Obligation on November 1 so you couldn’t overdo it on the whiskey and candy-corn the night before.
But the Irish are a determined lot when it comes to having a hooley (party), so they hung in with the costumes and mischief thing. In the spirit (see what I did there?) of the ancient Celts, here are some suggestions for Halloween costumes that will give your celebrations an Irish spin.
1. Saint Patrick
You’ll need the triangular hat and a vestment-type poncho. Beard is optional, but extra points if you have a crooked staff and some rubber snakes that you can banish when the mood strikes.
Anyone with fifty bucks can go to Party City and buy a standard-issue leprechaun lad or lass costume. You’re going for EVIL Leprechaun – the creepier, the better. Bonus points for carrying around a (dirty) box of Lucky Charms.
3. GAA Player
The All-Ireland Championships are a distant memory, unless you’re from Kilkenny and Dublin (winners!) or Galway and Kerry (um, not winners!). Winners: wear a county jersey and carry around a dollar-store trophy. Non-winners: wear a county jersey, look sad and soak up the sympathy.
4. Irish dancer
Thanks to “Riverdance” you don’t need a fancy costume to look like you’ve won the Worlds. Just wear something black and pop one of those curly fright wigs on your head. Extra points if you can actually execute a slip jig without embarrassing yourself.
Our national treasure/top person we love to hate has had more looks than Madonna. Choose from Live at Red Rocks T-shirt Bono, Live-Aid Mullet Bono, Joshua Tree Sullen Bono, Achtung Baby MacPhisto Bono, Pop Tour Glitter Bono ... the list is endless. Bonus points if you change water into Guinness at the party.
6. Anglo-Irish Banker
This one’s easy: business suit, some fake money bulging out of your pockets, and a cassette tape on a string around your neck. Be sure to laugh disdainfully at your fellow partiers and steal any loose change hanging around.
7. Celtic Tiger
If you can find a tiger costume, make sure it’s really big on you, since the Tiger is still recovering from hard times. It might help to black out a few teeth with makeup, which will make you a toothless tiger.
8. Lord Mayor of any town
Wear a business suit (if it’s slightly ill-fitting, that’s good – you are a person of The People). Make yourself a giant necklace out of cardboard coasters or old dvds, and be sure to shake hands with every person at the party.
Put a twist on this old favorite by being one of those modern, sexy-charity-calendar farmers: go shirtless and wear loose jeans and wellies. Bonus points if you bring a toy cow to milk or a piggy bank to feed. (Watch out for the Anglo-Irish Bankers, though.)
10. Michael D. Higgins
The President of Ireland is a distinguished scholar and Irish speaker who also happens to look a lot like Barry Fitzgerald. If you can pull off an air of dignity mixed with impish humor, this is your look. Bonus points if the Saw Doctors are inspired to write a song in your honor.
11. BONUS: Molly Malone
Face it, girls, we all secretly want to wear a “Naughty” (translation: sexy) costume on Halloween at least once. The statue of Dublin’s iconic/tragic fishmonger has earned the nickname "The Tart with the Cart" for a reason. Bonus points if you bring a rubber fish or a wheelbarrow.
* Originally published October 2013.