Documentary on Newstalk: Halloween- A Living Tradition

Exploring Halloween traditions around the world

In a sound rich radio feature that spans two continents and explores a wealth of traditional folk practice, independent radio producer, Derek O' Halloran investigates the meaning and practice of Halloween today.

Halloween - A Living Tradition will be broadcast on Newstalk 106-108fm this weekend, Saturday 29th October at 7am, and repeated at 10pm.

Titled Halloween – a living tradition, the feature focusses on the Otherworld Halloween Festival, in Dublin's Ballymun, while also travelling to New York to witness the spectacle of the annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade. At each location the programme investigates how a set of traditional beliefs, rooted in the distant past, remain relevant and popular today.  The producer finds communities where Halloween has been adapted into something new, creating a celebration that addresses contemporary needs and concerns.

Using contributions from folklorists in both Ireland and the United States the feature tells the story of Halloweens early roots and development, tracing the journey the festival made across the ocean to America with generations of immigrants and it's return to these shores with US popular media and culture.

Combining vivid local voices and otherworldly soundscapes with expert opinion the programme addresses some of the contradictions at the heart of the Halloween tradition, like the fact that a festival wildly popular with children and young people, is fundamentally about death and what lies beyond – subjects not generally considered appropriate for children.

According to folklorist Professor Jack Santino, Halloween is a time when the normal rules of society are turned upside down. “To do what's normally forbidden is a great thrill. It serves as a steam valve, people are allowed to get these things out before going back to the world turned right side up - and that’s what maintains normal society,” he said.

But temporarily setting aside society's normal rules is also what leads to the anti social behaviour associated with Halloween. In Ballymun the feature documents how the official celebration, the Otherworld Festival, is a local response to the sometimes chaotic side of the festivities. Funding from Dublin City Council pays for arts and performance workshops in the weeks leading up to October 31st and the festival has become a key opportunity for youth projects to engage with local young people.

In New York's Greenwich Village a small parade started by local artists more than 40 years ago has grown into an annual event which today attracts 60,000 elaborately costumed participants.  For many here the parade is a response to the hectic pace of city life, a chance to step outside the everyday rules - and for one evening to participate in a huge street party.

Weaving back and forth between Dublin and New York and making widespread use of suitably spooky music, including several tracks from Irish electronic producer Imploded View, the feature presents a multifaceted snapshot of a modern cultural celebration, with its feet firmly rooted in the past.


Halloween - A Living Tradition will be broadcast on Newstalk 106-108fm this weekend, Saturday 29th October at 7am, and repeated at 10pm.

The programme was originally broadcast on Newstalk in 2015.

Halloween - A Living Tradition’ can also be listened to online at:

Podcast available at:

Halloween - A Living Tradition was produced and presented by Derek O' Halloran with the help of the young people and staff of Poppintree Youth Project, Dublin City Council and the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade.

The programme was made with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland's Sound & Vision Scheme.

Music Credits: The programme includes the tracks Imminence, Fulcrum and Anomaly Domaine by Irish electronic music producer Imploded View. The programme also contains the following Creative Commons licensed music - Circus Man by Jeris / Easy Q by Assembler / Sawmill by Gurnodark / Subliminal by Creators & Looters.