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Garden GateFáilte
Welcome to Irish Culture and Customs, a labor of love we began several years ago. What started as a surprise milestone birthday trip to Ireland became the beginning of a journey through time. A 2,000-year voyage on a quest to learn as much as we can about everything Irish. So here's where we are so far - more than 700 pages that range from Irish poetry, superstitions , Kids Stories and recipes to specific Irish calendar celebrations such as St. Patrick's Day , Beltane, Samhain and the Feast of St. Brigid. Whether it's an Irish symbol such as the shillelagh, the Shamrock and the Book of Kells or an Irish craft like Aran Isle knitting, you'll discover a wide range of topics in our index. We hope you find the little bit of Ireland you may be looking for and we encourage you to share what you discover with your loved ones on your family website, blog, or social network.

Today's Irish headlines
We comb the newspapers and web sites to find news to start your day with a positive spin. In this section you will also find links to stories from the past two weeks as well as links to the major Irish newspapers, the current time in Ireland and a link to the weather forecast.

May - the month of mirth and merriment
by Bridget Haggerty

When I was a little girl, we collected flowers on the day before May 1st and made little posies for the neighbors. While my mother usually didn't allow us to pick her flowers, for this special occasion, she'd allow us to augment our collection of wild blossoms with a few from her garden. So, joining the buttercups, daisies, ground violets, dandelions and sprigs of pussy-willow, would be a few precious pansies, primroses or other spring blooms.

We carefully divided our collection into several small bunches and tied each one with a ribbon. Then, very early on May Day, we made our deliveries. The idea was to make it a surprise. So, we knocked on the door, left the flowers on the doorstep and hid. I can still see the looks of delight, especially on the faces of our elderly Irish neighbors. With this one small gesture, it was likely they would have been reminded of May mornings in Ireland, long ago.


How to prevent Mayhem...
by Bridget Haggerty

In old Ireland, it was believed that the 'good people' moved their place of residence between sundown on May Eve and dawn the next day. With supposed legions of spirit folk on the move, it was also thought that magic, both for good and evil, was at its most effective at this time of year - some even venturing to say it was even stronger than at Halloween.

Which is why there are countless superstitions and customs associated with Beltane, the second of the four major festivals in the Celtic calendar. By the way - you will never see this writer refer to the inhabitants of Ireland's spirit world as 'the little people.' The proper name is 'good people'. According to all of the old stories, they loathe the term that is so often used to describe them - and it's with a little fear and trepidation I even write it here. For, while they wish to be known as 'good people', it's a well-known fact that they love to play tricks — and this time of year is one of their favorite occasions for mischief-making. So, how to prevent mayhem wrought by the fairy folk?


Marry in May and Rue the Day
by Bridget Haggerty

When I told our daughter about this old Irish verse, she changed her wedding date from May to April: Marry in April if you can, joy for maiden and for man.

I am convinced that if couples make the effort, they can have a totally Irish celebration from beginning to end - even to the pre-wedding parties. There's one quaint custom where the groom was invited to the bride's house right before the wedding and they cooked a goose in his honor. It was called Aitin' the gander and it has to be where we get the expression "his goose is cooked!" We threw one of these dinner parties for our daughter and everyone had a great time. (The apple-potato stuffing has become a family favorite!).


A Tribute to Jimmy Kennedy
by Bridget Haggerty

Most Irish people think he was American. Most Americans think he was American. To set the record straight, this is a brief tribute to the man from Omagh, Co. Tyrone who wrote Red Sails in The Sunset and many other favorite standards. One of the most successful songwriters of all time, he had more hits in the USA than anyone until Lennon and McCartney.

Just about everyone is familiar with Jimmy Kennedy's lyrics, but very few people have ever heard of him and even fewer know that Red Sails in the Sunset was inspired by a beautiful summer evening in Portstewart, which is located on Northern Ireland's famous Causeway Coast. As for South of the Border - another of his popular songs - that one came about when he either received or sent a holiday picture postcard from Tijuana, Mexico - we're not sure which.


Poetry Corner: Seamus Heaney(b. April 13, 1939 - d. August 30, 2013)

...was born at Mossbawn, about thirty miles northwest of Belfast, in Northern Ireland.
Sadly, he just left us August 30,2013 RIP.
To read a tribute by Paul Simon, please click Tribute
He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995; no surprise to us.
Reading his poetry for the first time, we were ...well - stunned. His poems are so very well crafted they deserve enough respect for that alone. It is much more than skill that draws the reader. It is the natural eye of the natural poet.
The rare ability to make our lives stop - long enough to consider a small part of the world; a part we would have passed, as we always do, running through the distractions of the day.
We have faith you will not be able to read just one (or even just a few).


Gregory Peck's Irish Connections
by Bridget Haggerty

"I expect that every Irish-American coming to Ireland says visiting makes them feel good to be here. But I feel drawn to Dingle, I feel a sense of coming home. For me that is what it is. This is where my grandmother, Catherine Ashe, came from. And I look forward to coming back again."

On that particular trip to Killarney in the spring of 2000, he was accompanied by his wife Veronique, daughter Cecilia, her partner Daniel and their son. He described it as " emotional experience - not a sentimental one." He met his cousins at the Skellig Hotel, where he signed autographs, posed for photos for family albums and proudly introduced his one-year-old grandson. A group photo of him and his family and about 30 Dingle relatives is proudly displayed in the living room of his Beverly Hills home; in the study, lined with books by Shaw, Yeats, Wilde and all the classics, is displayed a portrait of the Kerry patriot, Thomas Ashe, who took part in the 1916 Rising and died while on hunger strike in 1917. This recently named all-time hero of American movies is also related to that long-ago hero of 1916.


The irish Kitchen: Recipes in celebration of Spring
by Hartson Dowd

Once I’ve found the first snowdrop under the Rhododendron bushes surrounding the pond, I know that spring is around the corner. The approach of spring promises new vegetables and fruits. Fresh green watercress and tender nettles and sorrel appear.

The start of the year in Ireland’s rural calendar is Imbolc - February 1 - the beginning of spring. It is the start of the first stirrings of life beneath the earth, and it was said that on St. Brigid’s day, the saint placed her foot in the water and warmed it, giving rise to the belief that from that time on, the weather should improve, spring plowing could begin and milk and butter production would increase.


Basic Irish: - Spring Cleaning

We now have a lesson with appropriate words for all those chores we love to hate. As always, we are indebted to Aideen, our native speaker, for translations and pronunciations; and also for correcting us when we make a faux pas as in the word 'immaculate'. In Ireland this is reserved for the Blessed Virgin. So, she insists that we settle for spotless!


Kids' Ireland: The Bewitched Kerry Cow
by Bridget Haggerty, edited and adapted from a story by Miss Latitia Maclintock

Not far from Rathmullen, in county Donegal lived a family called Hanlon and in a farm-house, some fields distant, people named Dogherty. Both families had good cows, but the Hanlons were fortunate in possessing a Kerry cow that gave more milk and yellower butter than the others.

Grace Dogherty, a beautiful young girl, who was more admired than loved in the neighbourhood, took much interest in the Kerry cow, and appeared one night at Mrs. Hanlon's door with the modest request:

"Will you let me milk your Kerry cow?"


Music Review: The Ultimate Guide to Irish Folk
by William Ramoutar

I can honestly say there is no way I would have been the person to compile this collection of songs or artists.  In my mind there are too many tunes that whizz around my head every week of my life that I sometimes obsess about– I would have needed 5, 6, or even 10 cd’s.  And, as for artists, well, that is another entirely different horse.  Older songs and Artists pop into my recollections without invitations or indeed reason!  Although I have to say the liner notes are so well done and really a quite comprehensive explanation of where the music came from (compiled by John O’Regan, a presenter on Limerick radio in Ireland), he also compiled the collection, and it is a clue to his own radio show's format. He is, as I say on Limerick Community Radio with a show called The Eclectic Celt. The tunes from the musicians on the cd are truly excellent.  Mind you, probably everybody would have different tunes they would have chosen for a collection named as this, but what a package to promote our heritage and the great tradition of Irish music.


We receive many lovely letters from visitors to our web site and subscribers to our newsletter. As we’re fond of saying, your feedback helps to make all of the time and effort worth while. While we have a Readers Write Page where we post comments from time to time, we’ve decided to also select a Letter - one that, for whatever reason, tickled our fancy.

This past spring I went to Ireland with my son and his wife & her family. What a wonderful experience - way too short a time. I would have loved to sit and plan my days in a much more leisurely fashion but what we saw was all too wonderful This was my first time there - did a bit of checking on my grandmother's birth place: Roscommon. I would so love to return.

Thank you for this opportunity to be a part of your wonderful home page. Thank you, too, for "Irish Culture & Customs" - it gives us the chance to know more about Ireland and its people.

Bonnie Hirschler
Photo Caption: This is Bonnie and her son Michael Hirschler at the Cliffs of Moher.

ED. NOTE: When we asked Bonnie to send us a photo, she very kindly sent us two. We choose the one of her and her son at the Cliffs of Moher because it is such an iconic image of Ireland and one that is immediately recognizable. Standing more than 500 feet at the highest point and ranging for for nerly five miles over the Atlantic Ocean, on a clear day one can see the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, as well as The Twelve Pins, the Maum Turk Mountains in Connemara and Loop Head to the South. The cliffs take their name from a ruined promontory fort “Mothar” which was demolished during the Napoleonic wars to make room for a signal tower

Live Music from Mayo

A link to the internet service from Midwest Radio out of Mayo. Broadcasting from their state of the art studios; Midwest Irish Radio plays nothing but the best Irish music. No matter where you are in the world, you are never too far from Ireland when you listen in.
Click here for: Irish Midwest radio.

Shop for the best of Irish products from the comfort of your home

We combed the internet to find reliable resources for the most popular Irish products: Aran Isle sweaters, Guinness glasses, Waterford Crystal, genuine blackthorn walking sticks, the flag of the Republic and more. Some of these shops have become friends; others we trust from their reputations and some offer products that are completely unique. We hope you enjoy browsing through what's on offer and we are confident you will find gifts for any occasion or person, all with an Irish flair.


Did you get your Newsletter?

We try to send one out once or twice a month. If you aren't receiving it, something is wrong. Let us know and we'll try to solve the problem. Note: subscribers are automatically deleted from the data base if the newsletter bounces back multiple times. Full or disabled mailboxes will also cause a subscription to be cancelled. If you have any questions, please contact Bridget.


Mon, Apr 27, 2015

Irish Furze

Called whin in the north and gorse in the east, furze was once a symbol of wealth and fertility of land as is emphasized by the saying: "gold under furze, silver under rushes and famine under heather."
As indigenous to the early summer landscape as rhododendrons, it is despised by farmers because of its invasive properties; but in the past, it had many good uses.
It ignites quickly, so it was used for starting the fire: it was also used for cleaning the chimney, tilling the soil, dyeing wool and fabric, and as a flavouring for whiskey (which may have improved its rating with the farmers!). It had medicinal powers and its magical powers were undisputed in preventing the good people from stealing the butter on May day. And, at mid-summer, blazing branches were carried round the herd to bring good health to the cows for the coming year.
Resources: Doon Mayo
and Farmers Journal

Click for More Culture Corner.

Sunday Blessing

May the blessing of the rain be on you—
the soft sweet rain.
May it fall upon your spirit
so that all the little flowers may spring up,
and shed their sweetness on the air.
May the blessing of the great rains be on you,
may they beat upon your spirit
and wash it fair and clean,
and leave there many a shining pool
where the blue of heaven shines,
and sometimes a star.
Photo Credit: In Photos

Weekly Quote

Hope, like the gleaming taper's light,
Adorns and cheers our way;
And still, as darker grows the night
Emits a brighter ray.
From The Captivity (act II, sc. 1) by Oliver Goldsmith
Image Credit: David Williamson


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March 4, 2011
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This Web Site Bashed, Kicked & Glued together by Russ Haggerty.