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Samhain, the ancient Celtic celebration that commemorates the end of summer and its harvests.  Depositphoto
Samhain, the ancient Celtic celebration that commemorates the end of summer and its harvests.  Depositphoto

The Great Famine, the real terror of Halloween | OP-ED

These are the terrible events that brought Halloween to the United States.

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This is a story of terror. The main characters were poor peasants who, although they worked in different crops, were poorly fed only with potatoes. This tuber, brought two centuries ago from America, was winter resistant and gave up to four harvests a year.

The miracle of the potato had saved their lives, Irish lives, but of all Europeans too. With the famine also came mistreatment, humiliation for being Catholic, the prohibition of their language and ancient traditions. On paper they had been part of the United Kingdom for 40 years, but in reality they were occupied territory.

They worked the land owned by British aristocrats, who could evict them through intermediaries, those bloodsucking vampires, rent collectors, who did not even leave money to buy a loaf of bread.

The fungus arrived in some ship from Philadelphia, Baltimore or New York and rotted potato after potato, crop after crop.  

Starvation hit the children hardest, as their bodies began to waste away, their hair lost its luster, their muscles disappeared and they showed symptoms of kwashiorkor.

Pregnant women suffered miscarriages, and the men had swollen feet and legs, terrible edema, fever and uncontrollable diarrhea.

They were dying like flies, before the blasé eyes of the British government. In 1845  Adam Smith doctrines were the law.... Let the market regulate itself, no aid, no soup kitchens.

Struggling not to starve led the peasants to despair, they could not believe that in the same year - 1847 - when 400,000 men, women and children of their own were dying, some 4,000 ships were carrying food from Ireland to Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool and London.

They were not short of food, God was their witness. Cereals, butter, milk were produced by them as never before; the calves that the English loved so much, ham and bacon found their way into other bellies... and to escape to towns was to face epidemics of typhoid fever, cholera and dysentery.

The famine lasted five years. More than a million died and another million traveled to America in “coffin ships”, and with them their traditions.

One of them, Samhain, the ancient Celtic celebration that commemorates the end of summer and its harvests. In the USA, the Irish soon popularized it and adapted it to what we know today as Halloween.

A story of terror behind the night of terror. 

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