Irish Halloween Traditions: The items hidden inside the Báirín Breac and what they mean
Life & Style

Irish Halloween Traditions: The items hidden inside the Báirín Breac and what they mean

BÁIRÍN BREAC, also known as Barmbrack, is a type of tea cake usually baked specially in the lead up to Halloween.

It's an ancient custom which, despite having undergone a few minor changes over the years, remains a part of Irish Halloween tradition today.

In Ireland, in amongst the apple bobbing and trick or treating, the cutting of the Barmbrack could be as exciting and nerve-wracking as the telling of spooky stories-- because according to superstition, finding one of the items hidden within the bread could tell you your future.

Nowadays the tea cake comes pre-packaged with only a ring hidden inside, but the lore prevails that whoever bites into the bread and finds the ring will soon get married (Although for that to be true there would be a terrible influx of weddings every November, and many of them between children, because it's another unspoken tradition to let the younger family members 'find' the ring).

But many years ago, when all Báirín Breac was handmade, there were several other items hidden in the mixture-- and here's what they represented.

1. The pea

The pea was generally considered to be an unfortunate item, as it was supposed to predict that the finder would not be getting married anytime soon, if ever, but in modern society there are more than a few people who would be happy enough with this!

2. The matchstick:

The matchstick could be even worse than the pea-- you would be married, but the marriage would be an unhappy one. It could also represent a major argument which would soon appear in your life.

3. The thimble:

Okay, Old Ireland was a tad obsessed with the idea of women getting married-- a woman who found the thimble within the barmbrack was said to be doomed to a life of spinsterhood.

4. The cloth:

Moving away from the marriage aspect but not getting much more optimistic, finding the cloth in your slice of breac indicated that your life would be marred with bad luck and poverty-- but it was a good excuse to eat your feelings by devouring another piece.

5. The coin:

It's not all doom and gloom! The person who bit into the bread and discovered a coin would be blessed with wealth and good luck-- hopefully the good luck started with the finder not breaking their tooth on the coin.

6. The ring:

We all know what this one means! The finder would hear jokes and hints about 'hearing wedding bells' for the next 12 months, until Halloween rolled around again and the next person found the ring.

7. The religious medal:

This was a rarer find, as not every family would have had a religious medal to bake into the mixture of a fruit cake, but it's said that if someone found the medal they were destined to become a priest or a nun. A big life decision to make based on eating a slice of bread, but tradition is tradition!