Carolina Celtic Society Raises Awareness for Disappearing Culture by "Cracking the Halloween Nut"

Students and community members came together the night of October 26 in Kenan Music Hall to get a better understanding of the Gaelic tradition of Hallowe’en and its roots in North America. The event was hosted by Gaelic USA, and Dr. Tiber Falzett, a UNC visiting lecturer who's currently teaching classes such as Folklore and Fairy Tales, delivered the “Cracking the Halloween Nut" lecture about the Celtic harvest festival, which included sound bites from actual Gaelic speakers and songs about the tradition of Hallowe’en.

Falzett highlighted myths and traditions that were popular for the night of Halloween, including stealing neighbors’ cabbages to find out who you were going to marry. Gaelic communities also read signs of the future from nuts and played destructive tricks on each other, all of which were encouraged by older generations.

With the popularization of the holiday, however, came reinterpretations from outside communities. Reading from real newspaper clips from Gaelic immigrant communities in North Carolina from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Falzett argued that the traditions of Hallowe’en were becoming more policed over time. The clips compared crimes from previous years and warned against future crimes, despite the holiday’s history.

Anne Fertig, a graduate student at UNC and member of the Carolina Celtic Society, was a part of the planning committee for the Halloween lecture. According to Fertig, around 115 people attended.

The lecture’s reception provided popular Scottish-themed snacks, including Irn Bru, an orange-colored soda that tastes like bubblegum, Tunnock's Caramel Wafers and Whisky Fudge. There was also a band that played; although, they had no connection with the planning committee, according to Fertig.

“We didn't invite them; they just showed up and everyone loved them!”

Just like the original meaning of Hallowe’en, according to Falzett, the Gaelic language is disappearing, which is where the Carolina Celtic Society comes in. The Carolina Celtic Society is for UNC students who are interested in Scottish, Irish and Welsh cultures. According to Fertig, most students who join have studied abroad or are interested in Celtic mythology or languages. She emphasizes that anyone can join the society.

“You don't have to have any Scottish or Irish ancestry to join; in fact, most of us don't. We just like learning about these cultures.”

Along with a shared love for Celtic cultures, the society also typically attends Celtic festivals or organizes events such as the Hallowe’en lecture. In the past, as stated by Fertig, the organization has attended the Loch Norman Highland Games and the Irish Fest in Wake Forest. They are currently planning an Irish language night.

If you are interested or know someone who would be, you can contact the Carolina Celtic Society through Heel Life or visit their Facebook page.