Here on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, Halloween is a very special and scary time. In Ballyyahoo, it is even more special, and more scary than you can imagine.
You see, the tiny town has no street lights and so when you go trick or treating in Ballyyahoo you must do it in dark – the darkest of dark.
Ballyyahooians know that Halloween is a very special time. Halloween is when the dead are the closest to the living.
BE CAREFUL OUT THERE
Ballyahooians take extra care when they go out at night and always listen carefully to the sounds around them.
The sounds you hear on a quiet night in a small town are different from the ones you hear everywhere else.
THE FLAP OF A BAT WING
In Ballyyahoo, every scratch on a coffin lid, every flap of a bat wing, every banshee’s whisper, and every single shake of a witch’s wand can be heard for miles around. Paddy Plant knows this better than anyone…
THE SOUND OF THE GRAVE
A few years ago, on a dark Halloween night, Paddy Plant heard a terrible scratching sound when he was passing the Ballyyahoo graveyard.
Now, Paddy Plant’s a great man for telling stories and yarns, and Halloween stories are his favourite but he swears that this one is true.
As the sound got louder, he looked up into the trees.
Deep down in his old heart he knew the sound wasn’t coming from above, but still he searched through the branches with his eyes.
He hoped it was just a little group of bats, making scratchy mischief in the moonlight.
But there were no bats and so around he stared, searching for the sound of that ungodly noise. Then he realized a terrible thing.
Those awful scratching sounds were coming from one of the graves! He crept closer, as silently as he could, to avoid attracting the attention of some mystical being.
The closer he got, the louder the sound so Paddy knelt down and placed his ear on the grave. Not to this day, did Paddy tell exactly what he heard but what he did was this:
Paddy said he got such a shock it nearly put his ‘heart sideways’ with the fright.
Now, Paddy’s not easily scared, but after that night he started to cross to the opposite side of the road whenever he went past the graveyard.
The people of Ballyyahoo knew Paddy to be a sound and sensible man, so after that they did too.
EEJITS AND HALFWITS
Later, Paddy claimed he wasn’t really scared. He’d just been having the craic and that only eejits, halfwits and people from Ballyyuseless were scared of dead people.
But some people noticed he crossed his fingers when he said that. They were even more terrified after that.
Some of them were so afraid they wouldn’t even leave their house to go to the special Ballyyahoo dinner-do that night.
The Ballyyahoo Halloween dinner-do is a very special celebration.
They always have lots of curly kale cabbage, potatoes, parsley and onions all mixed together and fried into a meal they call Ballycolcannon.
SECRETS AND CAKES
After dinner they always enjoy a bit of Halloween cake. They all have their own special recipes handed down from one generation to the next and everyone keeps their recipe secret.
But one thing they all do is they always add lots of blackberries and hazel nuts, freshly picked by the kids of Ballyyahoo.
A RAG, A RING AND A COIN
Inside the cake they hide a little bit of rag, a ring and a coin, all wrapped in tin foil. Whoever gets the slice with the coin is said to have a lucky year coming up.
If you get the ring it is said you are going to have lots of happiness and if you get the rag – well let’s just say you might have to sing for your supper in the forthcoming year.
THE DEAL WITH THE DEVIL
Many Ballyyahooians place little candles inside pumpkins and leave them around their windows and doors.
This is to keep away the dreaded ghost of Jack O’Lantern, a fool and black-heart of a man who some say did a deal with the devil and was condemned to wander the roads for eternity.
The kids in Ballyyahoo love the story of Jack O’Lantern and love to dress up like him, carrying lanterns, and running around haunting anyone and everyone they come across on the dark lanes of Ballyyahoo.
At nine o’clock all the townspeople gather around in the main street and light a huge bonfire in the middle. They turn all the lights off so the only light comes from the moon above and the glow of the fire.
When the fire is hot enough, they toast chestnuts and big chunks of nutty bread and wash it down with freshly squeezed blackberry and apple juice, all freshly harvested that very day from the hedgerows and lanes of Ballyyahoo.
There’s nothing a true Ballyyahooian loves more than to hear a good Halloween story, so when everyone’s had plenty to eat, they all sit down on large logs and warm themselves in the glowing heat of the fire.
Sometimes Maggie-many-cats plays an eerie tune. But, sometimes, only on Halloween night, the eerie tune plays all on its own…
Once they’re all feeling cosy and comfortable the Halloween stories begin…
Happy Halloween from Ballyyahoo!