Irish/Celtic Seasonal Celebrations
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1. Do not eat blighted blackberries and other fruit
which have been spat upon by the
2. Children should not touch the fruit.
3. The fairies were let loose to visit all the plants and blast berries with their breath.
4. Leave some fruits outside for the fairies to ensure a good crop in the next year.
5. Sprinkle the animals with holy water.
6.Give church offering for Holy Souls.
7. Light candles on the night after Nov. 1, one
for each deceased relative, at a window in
8. Place a lighted candle in the window if it faces the graveyard.
9. Place a candle in a lantern left lit all night on the grave of a loved one.
10. Meet your lost friends at the graveyard gate at night.
11.Watch out, you may meet those you have injured.
12 .Place beans and nuts in the fire and watch them jump
13. Melt lead through a key to form shapes suggestive
of destiny in the water.
14. Place your shift or shirt in front of the fire to see who turns it.
15. Throw a reel of thread into a lime kiln to find out who would wind it up again.
16. Place a snail in the hollow between two plates
and watch for the slime trail to see a
17. Eat a salt herring in three bites to see the future husband in a dream.
18. Play Snap apple: suspend a cord with a cross
stick with apple at one point and a
19. Duck for apples and coins in a tub
20. Eat cream pancakes, stampy, apple cakes, nuts and black berry pie.
21. Find a ring in your cake or champ and
you will be next married. Other things to put
22. Find a little boat and be blessed with a journey to Skellig rocks.
23. On the way to and from the gathering play tricks-
take the wheels off of carts and
24. Place a stake at the junction of two streams
upright. Look at it on Nov.1 to forecast
25. Look at the moon on the 31st also to determine the weather
26. Beware of the Fairies in their forts.
27. Put up a wood cross in the thatch or a Parshell
28. Sprinkle holy water on the door.
29. Spit on the animals to settle them down and remove the Sprite
30. Crawl through a briar rooted at both ends, making
your request for the help of evil
31. Provide a feast for the poor
32. Do not eat meat on the vigil- the 31st
33. Eat Colcannon-(potatoes and cabbage and onion).
34. Make stampy cakes from grated raw potato and
sugar caraway and
35. No Hollantide without a pudding. So….Make a pudding!
36. Give children apples and nuts.
37. Burn nutshells and foretell the future of a
couple-place a nut for the boy next to
39. Hang an apple from a rope. Place a chair or
box under it. With stick in hand
40. Store crops and livestock for the cold season.
41.Get turf and wood for fires ready, including
the bog deal or pine found when digging
42. Everyone has debts at Hallow E'en - pay workers, pay rents, settle debts.
43. Have a fair-to spend the money collected!
44. Carry a blackhandled knife and have a steel
needle stuck in the coat collar or sleeve.
45. When throwing out water on the night call out
Seachain (beware) or Chughaibh an t-
46. Listen for revelry from within ringforts.
47. Light a fire, preferably at the crossroads (include
in it tires and whatever you have
48. Put crackers on the roadside to explode under cars
49. Go door to door masked (a guiser) and ask for
funds for the Halloween party.You
50.Give the guisers white bread and butter and milk, or money
51. Have a procession led by a person in a white
sheet- the Lair Bhan "the white mare"
52. Play traditional wake games. (See O' Suilleabhain's study of Wake Amusements) .
53. Hollow out a great big turnip. Carve into it
a face. Light it with a candle and suspend
54.Consult all of the many divinations.
55. Make Barm Brack and hide a ring or other object
in it with the resultant luck being
Recipes! Take your pick:
Put into a well-oiled loaf tin and bake at 350 Deg. F. one hour and ten minutes.
Yeast Barm Brack #2
This recipe is for a traditional current bread in the shape of a round cake.
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
Back To Seasons
May day is a day for the housewife to demonstrate her skill at making the food last over the Winter and Spring. A formal meal was made with the good food which was left.
May Day was also a day for watching the weather which will help predict the end of frost and success for the summer months. One should not dig whitewash or bathe or sail on May Day.
Summer was welcomed in many ways: A May bush ws set up,flowers (especially yellow ones) were gathered into small bouquets which were hung up in the house-these must be picked before dawn of May Day. Horses bridles were also decorated with flowers. Generally flowers were tied to everything-cows, churns etc... as protective elements. In some areas branches of newly leafed trees were collected. The Sycamore being a favorite "May bough" in Cork. While the flowers were beautiful the main reason for their cutting and distribution was to ward off evil and bring good. The May Bush was extremely important in this regard in many parts. It was set up by the family on May Eve in front of the house door and was decorated carefuly with flowers and the colored egg shells carefully saved since Easter. Ribbons were also aded together with bits of candles. These candles were lit and a dance was held in honor of the Blessed Virgin Maryat dusk at May day eve.Children going door to door would chant:
"Long life and a pretty wife, and a candle for the May bush"
-of course they were looking for money as well!
Bonfires were also lit and sports competitions lead to the worst fighting of the year. May bushes became in some areas May poles. Stealing the bushes also was a source of great fighting and led to some famous rhymes:
"We'll wallab a mosey down Meadstreet in tune
The custom of young newly married couples giving new and decorated hurling balls:"May Balls" to the young men of the town also lead to great festivities and often violence as drink money was also given out with the balls.
Of many charms and omens for May Day the collection of May dew was the most well known. This was carefully decanted and collected to use as a medicine and for beauty. The man who washed his hands in the May dew would be good with knots and nets. There are many things you should not do on May day one of which is to pick up anything left in the roadway.Back to Seasons To go to my British Jack in the Green and May Day Celebration Page click here
Irish Easter Customs
1.Clean house thoroughly Inside and out-whitewash applied.
2.Obtain New clothes.
3.Good Friday-do no work on the land just in the house.
4.Fast More than is Required on Good Friday.
5.Good Friday- Plant a small amount of crop seed to bring blessing on it all.
6.Shed no blood on Good Friday,work no wood,hammer no nail .
7.Maintain quiet on good Friday from Noon till three P.M.
8.Visit church-take off shoes-good Friday.Visit holy wells and graveyards.
9.Do not fish with nets or lines on Good Friday no fishing boat puts out to sea alternatively gather bia tragha-shore food-seaweed and shellfish for the Main meal.
10.Cut your hair on good Friday to prevent headaches
in the year to come-trim finger and toe nails.
11.Water from the holy well will have curative properties on Good Friday.
12.A child born on Good Friday and baptized on Easter Sunday had gift of healing. (if a boy he should go into the ministry) die on good Friday go right the heaven.
13.Eggs laid on Good Friday-Mark with cross and each eat one on Easter Sunday.Eggs Hatching on that day will produce healthy chicks.
1.Have Holy water blessed.
2.Drink three sips of holy water each for health.Sprinkle on everything for good luck.
3.Bring cinders from the Paschal fire to be blessed.
1.Butchers have mock funeral for a herring symbolizing end to abstinence.-whip the herring,have a procession involving the herring-
2.Go to church and then herring procession.
3.Go up at sunrise to view the sun dancing with joy.
4,View the reflection of the sun in a pail of water and move it so the sun appears to dance.
5.Do something with eggs.Give them,color them
6.Have a Cludog or cluideog ritual-children collect and cook eggs and other food in a structure which they make on the edge of the farm-roasted eggs.
7.Brightly dressed Tobies go from place to place to demand the eggs of Easter Singing, dancing dressed in bright colored rags.
8.Keep shells of Easter eggs for the May bush. 9.Roll eggs to race them.-may be Presbyterian custom.
10.Have feast on Easter-Kill a cow if you can-
11.Take down the Spoilin meith na hlnide-little piece of meat pinned up at lent and burn it giving house a rich smell
12.Have a a Cake Dance. Cake being the prize for best dancer.Easter cake dance-a pruthog
13.Go to a "Sunday's" well-have a bonfire.
Saint Patrick's Day March 17
In Irish Gaelic:
Visit the Ulitmate St. Patrick Page!To
Traditional customs for the proper celebration of the
day-and Yes we know that Ireland has tried its best to discard its historic
culture in favor of progress,industrialization and American commercialism-but
customs are important to give meaning to life and joy to the soul so here
2. Go to work and demand the "Patrick's Groat" take leave of your capitalistic master and go to town and spend it all.(very few of the zealous should be found sober at night account(Dinely 1681!). 3.Men should make a cross of a twig of wild sallow and pin it to the thatch inside the house or above the door.
4.You may also wear a harp shaped badge
5.Wear the "Trifolium repens"-white clover (Identified as such by Caleb Threlkeld in 1727)
6.After church go to the pub to drink the "pota Pa/draig"-St. Patricks pot. Many acts of devotion should be followed by an equal number of acts of copious libation...
7.Say this quaint line when doing so:
Ordain a Statute to be Drunk
And burn Tobacco free as Spunk
And (fat shall never be forgot"
In Usquebah,St. Patrick's Pot
8.Actually it is doubtful if anyone knows what a shamrock is(Early 20th century-Nathaniel Colgan asked around Ireland and found that it could be-Trifolium repens,(white clover), Folium minus-(leser trefoil),Trifolium pratense(purple clover),Medicagio Lupulina(Black Medick) So take your pick!
9.Give treats and gifts to friends and children.
10.Put shamrock which has been worn on the day into the last glass of drink-then toast to the health of all and pick the wet drowned shamrock out of the glass and toss it over the left shoulder.
11.Using a burnt stick make a cross on the sleeve of each member of the household
12.You have to eat meat and you do not need any special dispensation to do so. Jocelin notes that as early as 1100 AD people ate meat in Lent due to an account of St.Patrick doing so and then being forgiven the meat turning to fish in the boiling water.
17.You must begin your planting soon after St. Patrick's day-(peas are best planted on the day. (Source-Kevin Danaher- The Year in Ireland Mercier Press Cork,1972)
Saint Patrick's Breastplate
The prayer used by St. Patrick to protect his followers from
the King-He prayed and the whole group changed into deer and ran past the
warriors to the hall of the king where he successfully did a battle of
words with the Druids.
Gods hand for my cover
Christ in the left and the right
Saint Brigid a.k.a. The Mary of the Gael
Her day: February 1 First Day of Spring -New Year's day
for the Farmers
1. A day to look for weather signs-a hedgehog a good weather sign if he stays out of his burrow.
2. Do only essential work on the day and go to the local shrine to pray.
3. Take stock of the household supplies-will it last till harvest?
4. Clean the house.
5. Make a special dinner for St. Brighids Eve.
6. Make a Bairin-breac-yeast cake with fruit (aka barm brack) for the eve and invite the neighbors in.
7. Make fresh butter - Brigid is closely associated with the dairy.
8. A day for the wealthy to give food to the poor.
9. St. Brigid traveled the countryside, blessing households, with her white red-eared cow.
10. You need to show her welcome: place bread and fresh butter on the window sill outside, also put out a sheaf of corn for the cow, put out rushes for her to kneel on to bless the household, set the table in the kitchen on the eve.
11. Make the cros Bride or bogha Bride (St. Brigids Cross). These crosses are made of rushes-but vary in materials and somewhat in design from region to region (main page for cross link).
12.The cross should be hung in the thatch roof of the house or above the door, and if you dont have a roof-apartment-on the inside of the front door.
13. Cross material should be blessed.Crosses are left in place for a full year to be renewed on the day.
14. A large oat bread cake, a Strone,Strohn, or Brigid's Bread (See main page food links) in the shape of a wheat sheaf or cross is made, blessed by the priest and eaten.
15. Often a door ceremony is held with a person, usually the eldest daughter, representing the saint knocking and asking to be let in. She says - Go on your knees, open your eyes, and let Brighid in. Answered by from within: Greeting,greeting to the noble woman.
16.After perhaps Mary, Brigid is the most common name for girls in Ireland - it is shortened to Bridie (pronounced bri dee). (Bride in English however comes from the German; although many think otherwise, the linguists insist on a German root.)
17. On the eve the Bridie Boys go out with an effigy of the saint called the Brideog - a doll dressed in white. They pick up the offerings of bread and of butter left out. (In some areas the Brideog was the most pure girl of the village.)
18. A piece of white cloth is hung outside the front door.
19.Those coming around would say something like
this: Something for poor Biddy! Her clothes are torn
or Here is Briget dressed in white
20. A silk ribbon is left out for the Saint to bless; it is used to cure illness. It is called the ribin Brighid - St.Brigids Ribbon. 21. To say over the cross:
Brighids Girdle is my girdle,
. 22.The leftover materials from the cross were used to bless the animals as bedding and feed.
23. On St Brigids day the lark was a good omen of Spring.
24. The dandelion is spoken of as Brigids Flower.
25. Hoar frost(thick frost) gathered specially on the day can be used to cure headache.
26. There are many wells dedicated to the saint from which water is drawn and used for blessings on the day.
27. Brigid is famous for brewing ale and for distributing it -so ale is a part of the celebration
28.The farm animals should be especially well taken care of on the day.
For foods of the day see the recipes section-
Irish Christmas Customs
1. Prepare spiritually. From the beginning of advent add prayers to usual devotions.
2. Children should say additional Paters and Aves and to count them (counts of 5,000 are cited)
3. Be especially sure to be "a hardy annual" and be sure to go to church.
4.Many days before the festival clean house and farmyard thoroughly.
5. Men clean outbuildings and yard entrances passageways and surroundings. White-wash all buildings inside and out.
5. Women sweep,wash and clean the house.
6. Do major laundering- include everything.
7. Clean tables and chairs with sand. Clean pots and pans.
8. Children survey the countryside for holly, ivy, bay and other evergreens for later cutting.
9.Holly with berries is especially prized. Make Ivy garlands. Whiten ivy berries with whiting or starch.
10.Cut colored paper scraps into adornment and use needle and thread to string loose holly onto linen in patterns or seasonal mottoes.
11.Purchase decorations from a peddler or traveling person.
12.Make a small cross of holly sprigs or crossed pieces of wood.
13.Where mistletoe is found you can decorate with it and the girl kissed under it receives a gift from the boy.
14.Just before Christmas go to the town to "bring home the Christmas"- go to the Christmas market for this purpose (the Margadh M/or or big market).
15.Receive a gift from a shopkeeper- a "Christmas box".
16. Country country people give produce from the farm to townspeople.
17. Town Folks give town goods to country folks.
18. Prosperous farmers give portions of a slaughtered animal and other donations of
food to their friends,poor and workpeople.
19. Make poitin. Make sure you have at least a quart available.
20. Lay in a good supply of fuel for heating.
21. Obtain a special log- bogdeal, the "bloc na Nollag".
22. Clean the Chimney using a prickly bush pulled up and down.
23. Purchase a chance on a mutton.
24.Hold a "join". Every man contributing a small sum-toward liquid refreshments and have a pleasant evening of talk,song, and storytelling.
25. Make Christmas Cake- Note - this needs to be don in advance!
Irish Christmas Cake
the citron, orange and lemon peels, dates and cherries. (Reserve a
decorating, glaze the top and sides of the cake with either apricot
3 (9 oz.) cans almond paste
2 cans of the almond paste into a ball. Place on lightly sugared or
the egg whites with the lemon juice until they are the consistency
1.Return home for Christmas.-to the parents house on Christmas eve.
2.Finish work by midday on the Eve and get home before night-fall.
3.Bring presents to father and mother and to younger brothers and sisters.
4. Send an "American Letter" to your family in Ireland containing cash.
5.Finish the last preparations- the final sweeping and cleaning and preparations from festive food.
6.Prepare the most elaborate dinner of the year for Christmas.
7.Roast of Boiled beef- the most popular dish:spiced beef.
8. Boiled Ox head was the favorite dish in Armagh,Tyrone, Monaghan and other places in the north.
9. Wealthy farmers of Leinster and Munster prepare fowl: chicken or goose, bacon and mutton,cakes, puddings, and pies.
10. Prepare puddings on Christmas Eve for final cooking on Christmas Day.
11.Make Cutlin pudding in County Wexford.- a porridge of wheaten meal and sugar dried fruits and spices are added. Make this into a ball as big or bigger than a football and wrap it for boiling.
12.Make a Christmas pie in the shape of cradle decorated with strips of pastry to represent the manger in Donegal.
13.Light Christmas candles at night on Christmas eve. With a prayer.
14. Place large candles into sconces made from a turnip or piggin filled with bran or flour. One for house holder , one for wife and one each for the grandparents. Little colored candles for the children .
15. Decorate all candles with holly.
16. Let candles burn all night extinguishing them just before the first mass.
17.One big candle: coinneal M/or na Nollag can be displayed.
18.Candles are lighted at 6 0'clock and the angelus is said.
19.Light three candles in honor of the Holy Family-or a three branched candle.
20.Have the youngest person light the principal candle.
21.If the principal candle goes out for some reason it is a bad omen.-possibly of the death of the head of he household.
22.Candles are lighted to show the way to Joseph and Mary.
23.Leave doors open on Christmas eve.
24.Have a candle in every window.
25.Leave the table set for three persons.
26. Leave a bowl of water out to be blessed by the travellers-this water will be used for cures.
27.Put on a good fire before bed.
28.Sweep the floor.
29.Put bread on the table.
30Leave a candle for each of the family who has died since last Christmas-to welcome them in.
31.Take the children to a high place to show them all the candles.
32.Observe Christmas Eve as a fast day. If you eat it should be stockfish-hake,cod or ling with white sauce and potatoes.
33.End fast after candles are lit well before midnight.
34.Cut the Christmas cake and make tea,punch and other beverages.
35. Give sweets and apples to the children.
36.Gather the family around the fire.
37. Remind children that an angel stood on every spike of holly leaves this night and all nights.
38.No prayer will be unanswered on Christmas eve.
39. If you die on Christmas Eve you will go right into heaven.
40.Place a small wreath of holly yew or other evergreens on family graves especially on the grave of one who had just died.
41.Fire a salute from a shotgun at noon on Christmas Eve. A "grussenschuss".
42.At midnight leave the cows and donkeys to kneel in adoration of the Christ.
43. Feed animals sheaf corn or branmash.
44. Decorate byre and stable with evergreens and provide a special lantern there.
45.Children tie sprigs of holly on cow's horns.
46. The cock will crow on unusual times -to hear him crow at midnight will be a good omen.
47.Cold weather with frost or snow will indicate a mild spring with absence of illness.
48. A green Christmas makes a fat churchyard.
49. When it snowed on Christmas Eve. Geese were being plucked in heaven.
50. A new moon on Christmas Eve was very lucky.
1.Spend it at home.
2.Have a quiet Christmas.
3.Stay away from the homes of others.
4.Go to church-early mass if possible-before dawn.
5.Take a wisp of straw from the crib to bring luck and blessing.
6.Women cook Christmas dinner after church.
7.Men and boys remain outside out of the way busy with sport-hurling-a big village match. The match can be begun at the church gate -bring hurleys to church.
8.Use a specially made hurling ball with a small tin box of loose shot inside for a louder sound.
9.Hunt hares with greyhounds or harriers.
10.Have a shooting match.
11.Drink three sips of salted water before dinner for good health.
12.Sit around the fire after dinner with song and story.
13.Listen for a cricket on the hob and have a sign of good fortune.
14. In the North East of Ireland some Scottish Puritans do not celebrate Christmas.
15.Listen to the waits called "good morrow,good morrow,good morrow,past twelve o'clock;a fine frosty morning" view the performances and reward the performers.
16.Go to a hill and blow a loud salute for Christmas Morning using cows horns.
17. Sing carols.
Source: Danaher,Kevin, The Year in Ireland., The Mercier Press,Cork,1972.
Another Great Christmas Resource:
The Irish Christmas Book,John Killen ,ed. Blackstaff,Belfast,1992.
Danaher,Kevin,The Year in Ireland,The Mercier Press,Cork,1972.