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Garden Gate
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.
Just want entertaining facts about Ireland? Please click here for Did you Know?

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.


The May Day Dew - Should you roll naked in it?
by Bridget Haggerty

The plainest girl will be beautiful if she rises early on May Day and bathes her face in morning dew at sunrise. So goes the old Irish saying...

If she was daring enough to undress and roll naked, she was given great beauty of person; the dew was also believed to bring immunity to freckles, sunburn, chapping, and wrinkles during the coming year. It cured or prevented headaches, skin ailments and sore eyes and, if applied to the eyes, it ensured that its user rose every morning clear-eyed, alert and refreshed, even after a very short sleep.


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?


Beltane Bonfires and Nettle Soup
by Bridget Haggerty

Oh, to have been in Ireland a few hundred years ago at this time. The most dramatic part of the Beltane celebration was the community bonfire. People would gather around it, often bringing chairs or stools in order to "sit out the wake of winter." The best singers and musicians in the crowd would perform and there was always joyous dancing, often until the wee hours.

The fire was usually lit on May Eve - fed by whatever a village could spare - and was kept going until sunset on May 1st. In general, most people extinguished all fires in their homes on May eve. And, it was considered incredibly unlucky to even light a cigarette or candle and take it beyond the front door. In keeping with the old ways, "new fire" had to be brought back to the house from the Beltane flames.


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!).


The Bright Flames of May
by Cormac MacConnell

It was a May Day that I remember well, a long time ago now, and I was wearing a pair of short trousers and the warm wood of the First Class desk was warm against the backs of my thighs and the Mahon twins were standing in front of the teacher, Miss Rooney. Oona was in floods of tears. Hughie was defiant, arms folded across his small gansied chest, but the tears were not too far away either. In between huge sucking kind of sobs Oona was looking deeply into her mother’s cloth shopping bag.

To me it seemed to be filled with wadded pages of the local newspaper, The Fermanagh Herald, but everybody in the class already knew what was down in there and the terrible thing that had happened ten minutes earlier at Keenan’s Cross beside the school.

"What ails you Oona at all?" asked Miss Rooney, tall, gentle, spinsterish, cardiganed, permed, and in her final year in the school as the Assistant Teacher. Oona was quite unable to answer. She looked deeply into the bag again and what she saw made her shudder all the way down to her wee sandals and the tears pattered down on the wadded newspaper.


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 - May & The Month of Mary.
Our lesson this time features words and phrases related to the festival of Bealtaine (which is the word for May in Irish) and the Month of Mary. Even though modern-day Ireland isn't as religious as it was in the old days, you will still see lovely grottos in honour of Our Lady throughout the country; also, many families still say the Rosary together every evening and May is traditionally the month when Roman Catholic children make their First Holy Communion.


Kids' Ireland: The Story of Bottle Hill
by Grainne Rowland

Mike Purcell lived with his wife Molly and their small children in Co. Cork, three miles from Mallow and thirteen miles from Cork City. They were very poor, but managed to pay the rent each year. That is, they paid the rent until the year everything went wrong.

In this particular year the pig got sick and died. The rains came and caused mold to grow on all their crops. The horse fell down the hill and broke its leg. The children were sick and what money Mick and Molly had went to pay the doctor. The roof got a hole in it and had to be fixed. All in all, it was a terrible year and the rent was nearly due!


Music Review: The Wolfe Tones: A Celtic Symphony of Unity, Still “Singing Out for Ireland”
by William Ramoutar

Well... to say the late 1950’s and early 1960’s were a hotbed for Irish folk groups and singers in Dublin has to be one of the biggest understatements of all time. In those days, young lads went away to camp and on outings to the mountains and campfire sing songs were the last thing you did before your weary head hit the sleeping bag. Many a career was started from the dreams and visions of those fledgling performers, not least of all, one of the longest running and biggest promoters of the Irish struggle, The Wolfe Tones.


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 nearly 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.


Thu, Apr 24, 2014

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Co. Antrim

This unique span links the tiny island of Carrick-a-Rede with the dramatic Giant’s Causeway coast. The name means ‘the rock in the road’ and refers to the sea route salmon use to migrate to home waters. Hundreds of years ago, while there was plenty of fish to catch, casting a net from a boat was perilous due to rough seas and rocky shores. The solution was a simple rope bridge built by local fishermen. Once a single-railed bridge with wide gaps between the slats, it is now double-railed gapless. However, crossing the bridge is not for the faint-hearted. Downwards is an 80-foot panorama of sand, sea and surf. If you can’t walk, across, there’s a special platform which also affords spectacular views.
Photo Credit : © Keewi Photography

Click for More Culture Corner.

Sunday Blessing

A Blessing for Holy Week

From Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday,
may God in His infinite mercy
grant you and yours a journey
of renewal and hope;
a time of prayer and reflection;
And joyful anticipation
of our Lord’s resurrection.

More Blessings

Quote of the Week

"All that praying you made us do," complained Maggie. "And making us go to Mass. And starving us on Good Friday...And making us feeling ashamed of our bodies and guilty about absolutely everything. No, Ma, you were the pits." Nuala glowed with pride, truly she had been the best of Catholic mothers.
Late Opening at The Last Chance Saloon by Marian Keyes
Photo Credit: Light Planet

Photo Credit: Biography

If you think cheap couldn't possibly be synonymous with places to stay in Dublin, think again and prepare to be very pleasantly surprised. For more details, please click Places to stay in Dublin.
Photo Credit: © Tourism Ireland.

Looking for real Ireland & really Irish?

Nestled in the center of Ireland, the ancient site of the Hill of Tara, located in the historical Boyne Valley provides the perfect inspiration for Tara Irish Clothing and their diverse line of Sweaters, Hats and Aran Scarves. And, every garment and accssory is still lovingly crafted and quality assured by their team of traditional Irish knitters. Please click Tara Irish Clothing.

The Book: Potion, Pope & Perfidy
Now available in both Kindle & print editions!

A depressed detective, still in mourning for his murdered wife, stumbles into a money-laundering scheme when a book is sold to him by mistake at a library book sale. Written in Latin and Greek the book is a 14th century codex. Obviously a priceless antiquity, as the story unfolds it becomes clear that the book's value is more in its contents than its age. For more details, or to buy the book, please click Amazon.


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March 4, 2011
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