In a country with such a rich history and culture such as Ireland it is natural to have many traditions, superstitions and rituals which have been morphed through the generations. In this Blog we share with you some of the older Irish traditions as well as some of our modern ‘Irishisms’.
In olden days there were many superstitions about always visiting houses with a gift on New Year’s Eve, but you must never take anything OUT of the house, or spend any money…..!!! Likewise, on New Year’s Day, you should always take a gift to people’s houses, which of course may put your own luck in danger if you took something from your house to give as this gift……As a result, many people, fearful of bringing bad luck upon themselves, stayed home & did nothing……!!!!!
Throwing Bread at the Door
An Irish friend told me that her family does this every year. Just before midnight everybody goes outside, and when the clock strikes 12, everybody throws a piece of bread at the front door. This is to keep hunger away through the upcoming door. The pieces of bread are to be left on the porch for the birds to eat, as it was believed they were the ones to grant this request.
Centuries ago, it was tradition to clean the house from top to bottom. The clean house was to reflect a fresh start to a new year.
An Extra Place Setting
On New Year’s Eve, Irish families would remember loved ones who had passed away by setting a place at the table for them.
The First Guest
A lot of emphasis was put on the first person to come through the door on New Years’ Day. If it were a man who was tall and handsome, it was believed that the New Year would be filled with good fortune. If a redhead girl was the first to enter, it was believed the year would be filled with hardship.
Stock the Pantry
The tradition of having a full pantry, and to be fully stocked with coal is meant to symbolise bounty in the year to come.
We still have festivals on New Year’s Eve around the country – fireworks in some places, bonfires in other’s or the uniquely Irish “burning the sod (turf)” in parts of rural Ireland. This as its name suggests entails soaking dried peat (turf) in petrol or paraffin and lighting it. The peat is put on the top of a pike or fork and used like a torch in night-time parades. In times past the peat torch was used as a tool for fishing at night and was used to dazzle the salmon but in this context it represents the light which is a beacon of Homecoming at Christmas and New Year. See the video below…
Like all country’s we in Ireland have some wonderfully unique expressions of speech, Here is a small selection.
Runners – In Ireland we all wear “runners” especially when going for a run – not sneakers or sports shoes – simply runners…..”sure what else would you be doing with them”!!!!
Jumper – This is what we wear in winter when its cold – not a sweater (“sure who needs to sweat”!!) just a jumper…..!
Boot – is not something we wear – this is the trunk of a car – where we put all bulky items. So we might “throw something in the boot” before driving down the road…and please note – we never go for a
Ride – our understanding of this word is a close liaison with an attractive person – male or female….so be careful…..we go for a drive here….!!!!
Footpath – this is where we walk when going to the shops – it’s not a sidewalk – it’s a footpath here……and very often, we will walk along the footpath to go to the
Chipper – a great spot to get a late night feast of sausages & chips, fish & chips or the likes….chips being our equivalent of French fries….! At the end of this feast we very often will be
Stuffed – as in – we’ve over-eaten….nothing else is meant by this expression!! We may then try to describe something to you by using the word
Yoke – “sure you know the yoke I mean that makes the coffee” etc….and if you are still struggling to understand us – when we say we are going to put something in the
Hotpress – it’s an airing cupboard…..and in our simplistic outlook on life – since this is a cupboard usually built around the boiler – what else would it be but a hot press! To say nothing of throwing something in the
Bin – our equivalent of the trash……
To ensure you fit in with the locals when visiting try using some of these words and when you come on holidays to Ireland – we would recommend that you try your best to avoid doing any of the following:-
(Those of you that have been & done some of these…..smile on….)
Please try not to imitate our accents…..and even when we use some of the wonderful expressions as above – try not to laugh….!!!!
When talking about movies (which by the way, we call films) – try to come up with something more modern than “The Quiet Man” or Ryan’s Daughter – we have a wealth of wonderful movies & some have been awarded Oscars – such as My Left Foot, Once or In the Name of the Father.
As for leprechauns…..first of all….please ensure you can pronounce it correctly…..and secondly…..really we have none….!!! However, if you bring up the subject, they will suddenly come out in all kinds of stories….!
Our country may look small on a map and we take great pride in showing you the very best it has to offer but this takes time. So we feel somewhat “short-changed” when people try to see too much of the country in a few days. Our whole attitude here is ……get out there & explore, discover the real Ireland and take your time….please.