Valentine’s Day from an Irish Perspective

Ah, Valentine’s Day. The first thing that comes to mind is a heart-shaped box of cheap chocolates that should be directly applied to one’s hips. And then there is that sweet little cupid. He’s an overweight angel 538317_10152572375170245_1591362128_naiming a bow and arrow at you to inspire you to fall blissfully in love. I mean, let’s face it. Cupid’s arrow is a weapon that literally and metaphorically could be the death of you. But all jokes aside, do you even know why we actually celebrate Valentine’s Day? I didn’t think so.

The Legend of Saint Valentine
In ancient Rome, the date February 14th was a holiday to honor the Roman Goddess of women and marriage. The next day was celebrated as the pagan Roman Feast of Lupercalia. During this time in Roman history, young adults were strictly segregated by sex. No surprise, it was 269 AD. Eventually they needed to give their hormones a chance to flourish. So it was customary on the eve of the feast of Lupercalia for young men and woman to be partnered for the feast by the men picking the girls’ names from a jar. Sometimes the pairing lasted for a year and with the young couples falling romantically in love and eventually marring. It was all very sexist in a provocative way.

Unfortunately, this didn’t last for long. This euphoric ritual of hormonal teenage partnering would come to an abrupt end during the tyrannical rule of Emperor Claudius II, also known as Claudius the cruel. Emperor Claudius had Rome fighting in many bloody and unpopular battles and was having grave difficulty recruiting soldiers to sustain his military forces. In his warped mind, Claudius believed the reason he couldn’t get soldiers was due to women. He convinced himself that the men’s love of his family, wife, or girlfriend prevented them from leaving there side and joining the military. It had nothing to do with the litsq vday 250x250tle matter that they didn’t want to die a savage death for an Emperor they despised.

Fun-loving Emperor Claudius proceeded to cancel all pending and future marriages and engagements in Rome. Claudius then made it a crime punishable by death to associate with Christians.

Legend has it, no doubt a wee bit embellished if not entirely fictional, that Valentine was stricken with the unbearable belief that many young souls would be destined to be sinners. So Valentine, a roman priest, married young lovers against Claudius’s decree in secrecy. He was of course apprehended and condemned to death for his deeds. He suffered martyrdom on the 14th day of February, in either 269 AD or 270 AD. Nobody really knows what yearly exactly, but they know the date was February 14th, now known as Valentine’s Day.

So where is St. Valentine now?
Ireland, duh! Wha1523930_10153754048730245_1993977392_ot you may not know for some unknown reason is that St. Valentine’s remains are rumored to be buried in Dublin, Ireland. How do you like that wee bit of useless knowledge?

The Carmelite Church on Whitefriar Street in Dublin City claims to hold the remains of St Valentine. The Carmelites are a small community in the monastery attached to Whitefriar Street Church. Saint Valentine’s remain were given to the Carmelites in 1835 by Pope Gregory XVI.

Oh, the Irish are wonderful folk. They just about have their hands in everything good and pleasurable. Not only did they give us spooktacular holidays like Halloween and fantastic Christmas traditions like the wreath on our on the front doors, but they also houscladdag rings NEW CATALOG 4.75x4.75_catalog_2014e the remains of St. Valentine! The romantic patron saint of lovers whose feast day has become so commercialized it actually makes Christmas seem, well, less commercial by comparison. In any event, Board Failte wouldn’t be doing their job if it didn’t see the Euro signs in the fact that Dublin, Ireland’s capital, is the last resting place of the beloved Saint of Love. It virtually makes Ireland a must-do pilgrimage for lovers. I mean, after all, the Irish did give us the claddagh ring, too. The claddagh is the one and only symbol of eternal friendship, love, and loyalty. The story of the claddagh is a story for another day or blog. Anyway, its romantic, symbolic meaning makes it a no brainer gift for men to give, especially on Valentine’s Day. Cowinkydink?

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Irish New Years Tradition

New Year’s Day in Ireland also is known as the Day of the Buttered Bread. It’s called “La na gCeapairi”, Gaelic for “Day of the Buttered Bread” or “Day of the Sandwich”.

Irish tradition says buttered bread placed outside the front door

Baked Breadsymbolizes an absence of hunger in the household, and presumably for the year to come.

Barm Brack (a fruit bread) is baked especially to be smashed against the door by the man of the house, to banish hunger from the land in the new year.

It is also said to chase the bad luck out of a house and to invite good spirits in.

 

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Claddagh Ring

The Claddagh Story….. A short history of the Claddagh ring. Long ago a young man was captured and sold into slavery from the fishing village of Claddagh. Many years passed and he wondered if his true love would wait for him. Over the years he stole tiny bits of gold from his master to make her a ring. He fashioned a heart for love, a crown for loyalty and hands as a symbol of friendship. After many years he finally returned home to Claddagh. Upon his return and to his joy he discovered his true love had waited for him. He gave her the ring as a symbol of their love, loyalty and friendship forever known now as the Claddagh.

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Trinity Knot

The Trinity knot also known as the triquetra is a continuous interweaving triple knot symbolism no beginning or ending. The Celts believe the number three was sacred such as the three stages of life, the three elements; earth, sky and sea and three stages of time  being past present and future.  Later the Christians adopted the symbol to represent the Holy Trinity. In modern times the Trinity knot is now interpreted as the Irish love knot.

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Wild Irish Rose

The Wild Irish Rose is a celebration of the sturdy, self-reliant and gorgeous Irish women past, present and future.

Like the song says….. “My Wild Irish Rose, The sweetest flower that grows. You may search everywhere, But none can compare with My Wild Irish Rose”

Excerpt from the song My Wild Irish Rose written by Chauncey Olcott.

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Tree of Life

The sacred tree or Tree of Life was a central part of early Celtic spirituality. The sacred Tree of Life represented the fruitfulness of the earth, evoking spiritual growth and rebirth. Trees provided the Celts with a source for basic sustenance. Without trees, life for the Celts would have been difficult. The Celts believed the Tree of Life was rooted in the heart of the earth and that it drank the sacred waters of life. The Tree of Life stretched its branches into the heavens bridging earthly and celestial powers. Every Celtic tribe had its own sacred tree as a symbol of sovereignty, sacred wisdom and spiritual growth.

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Celtic Cross

The Celtic Cross is viewed as a symbol of faith synonymous with the Irish culture. Legend also says St. Patrick, while preaching Christianity drew a cross through a Celtic circle symbolic of the moon Goddess. Hence the Celtic cross was born. Today the circle of the cross is viewed as a of God’s endless love.

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Shamrock

The shamrock is the traditional symbol or Ireland. The shamrock forms a triad and the Celts believed three was a mystical number. Saint Patrick used the shamrock to explain the holy Trinity to the Celts. If good things come in threes then this silver 3-leafed shamrock pendant in beautiful emerald green is definitely a good thing.

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Celtic Sisters Knot

The Celtic Sisters Knot is a symbol of sisterhood and the strong, eternal bond we share with our sisters and friends. The intricate Celtic knot heart is an unbroken line symbolic of an everlasting love. The stylized triquetra or triple spiral, woven within the Celtic knot heart symbolizes the three stages of woman. The three stages of woman are maid, mother and wise woman. Where are you and your sisters on the spiral of life? Celebrate the powerful, life long bond of friendship between women with our Sisters Knot.


Celtic Knot

A Celtic knot is a stylized representation of an endless knot used for decoration by the Celts. There are eight basic types of knots. They have no religious or philosophical meaning other then representing the endless intricacy of humanity and nature. Spirals are the earliest decorative motif of the Celts and the first to disappear. Death and rebirth is the symbolism in the ever changing directional flow of the spiral.

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Triskele

The triple spiral design of the triskele is associated with the Celts of Ireland and can be seen on the ancient site of Newgrange, in County Meath. Dating from 3200 BC, before the arrival of the Celts in Ireland, Newgrange contains carvings of the beautiful triple spiral design. Today the triskele is still used in Irish craft as a symbol with enduring meaning and beauty.

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Irish Blessings for Thanksgiving

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Grace before a meal
May this food restore our strength,
giving new energy to tired limbs,
and new thoughts to weary minds.
May this drink restore our souls,
giving new vision to dry spirits,
and new warmth to cold hearts.
And once nourished and refreshed,
May we give thanks to Him who
gives us all and makes us blest.
Adapted from an old Irish blessing

In This Irish Home
May these walls be filled with laughter,

may it reach from floor to rafter.
May the roof keep out the rain,
may sunshine warm each windowpane.
And may the door be open wide
to let the Good Lord’s love inside.

Blessing before a meal
Beannaigh sinne, a Dhia.
Beannaigh ár mbia agus ár ndeoch.
ós tú a cheannaigh sinn go daor
Agus a shaor sinn ó olc,
Mar a thug tú an chuid seo dúinn
Go dtuga tú dúinn ár gcuid den ghlóir shíoraí.

Bless us, O God.
Bless our food and our drink.
Since you redeemed us so dearly
and delivered us from evil,
as you gave us a share in this food
so may you give us a share in eternal life.

 

 

Irish Christmas Traditions

irish christmas traditions

Ireland is a magical country, filled with tradition and folklore dating back many years. Christmas in Ireland is an especially magical time of year. Many Irish Christmas traditions have become part of the Christmas celebration of many nationalities and have made their way into main stream American Christmas customs.

In Ireland people say “Nollaig Shona Duit” pronounced NO-Lihg HO-nuh ghwich. This Irish Christmas greeting literally translates to Happy Christmas.

One beloved Irish Christmas tradition is that of the Christmas plum pudding. The traditional Irish Christmas plum pudding has had humble beginnings. Plum pudding was originally a porridge flavored with scraps of leftover meat or fish, thickened with bread crumbs and bound together with eggs, fruit and spices. During the Tudor and Stuart period in England, dried prunes were added to the pudding mixture which became known as a plum porridge. Eventually becoming called plum pudding and often eaten with Brandy Butter Sauce.

Another very common Christmas custom in Ireland is the candle window. The placing of a lighted candle in the window of a house on Christmas Eve is still practiced today and has become an American Christmas tradition as well. The candle in the window has a number of purposes. One of its primary meanings is as a welcoming symbol to Mary and Joseph as they traveled looking for shelter. The candle also indicated a safe place for Catholic priests to perform mass during the penal times when Catholic masses were not allowed. Another part of the tradition is the candle should be lit by the youngest member of the family and should only be extinguished by a girl bearing the name Mary.

In Ireland celebrating the Feast Day of St. Stephen’s is usually accompanied with the Wren Boy Procession. Saint Stephen’s Day celebrated on December 26th, also know as the Day of the Wren is a national holiday in Ireland.

During Penal times there was a plot in a village against the local soldiers. The soldiers were surrounded and about to be ambushed when a flock of wrens pecked on their drums and awakened them in time to defend themselves. The plot failed and the wren became known as the “Devil’s Bird”.

On Saint Stephen’s Day a procession takes place where pole with a holly bush is carried from house to house and families dress up in old clothes with blackened faces. In olden days an actual wren bird was killed and placed on the pole. This custom has largely disappeared but the tradition of visiting from house to house on St. Stephen’s has survived and is a large part of the Irish Christmas celebration today.

Last but not least a fabulous Irish Christmas tradition that hasn’t made its way to the states is called “Women’s Christmas”. In Ireland on January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany, is when traditionally the Irish finish celebrating Christmas. It is also known as “Nollaigh na mBean” in Irish or “Women’s Christmas”. Tradition has it that women get the day off and the men of the house get to do the housework, cooking and take down the Christmas decorations. Women meet up to go have a day out and treat themselves. Have you ever celebrated “Women’s Christmas”?

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via Irish Christmas Traditions and Customs.