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.

House Cleaning

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… 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.

9 Responses

  1. Nice Happy new year to you too
    Irish expressions not so different to Australian expressions. It’s our proud Irish heritage!

  2. So, when I want to go for a ride in the trunk of a car along the sidewalk, wearing my sneakers and sweater, to get over-eaten in the fish & chips shop, I shouldn’t come to Ireland…

  3. thanks for this! I play snare drum in three different pipe bands pipe and appreciated the video. a bonfire at my home new years eve. g

  4. A friend and I enjoyed one of your trips this past summer. It was the Dingle penninsula walk and despite soggy conditions it was wonderful. We loved our guide Mary and everything was geared to customer satisfaction. The food, accommodation, transportation and catering to everyone’s needs was top notch. Your country is beautiful and the colours are a feast for the eyes. We found everyone to be friendly, welcoming and helpful in all the areas we visited. We witnessed some appalling behaviour by other tourists and as we also live in a beautiful place and are sometimes overrun with tourists, we did our very best to be sensitive to locals and respect their home. We both dream of returning for a walk in your amazing hills another time. Hope to see you all again soon. Happy New Year to all!!

  5. Interesting words brought out for our Yankee friends. I remember as a boy the saying ….”any gum chum” ….that represented American soldiers always chewing gum ?

    I find the new young American a much nicer tourist than say the 70s, 80s. More interested in European culture and traditions and bettered mannered. I think they’ve got a better all round education now and understand we all live in this world together and want to play their part with all of us.

    I meet a lot of them in Scotland near Stirling Castle and we welcome them as friends.

  6. Thanks for the lesson in speaking Irish, and much health and happiness to you all in the New Year 2016. Looking forward to seeing Sligo and Donegal with you in May.

  7. Been to Ireland many times over the last 10years best holidays ever people wonderful .with great sense of humour.

  8. Thanks for the tips on blending in!

    Happy New Year to everyone at Walk Hike Bike! I enjoyed my time this past summer on the Dingle Peninsula and hope to be back again in 2016!

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