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Irish Celebrations & Feast Days - Martinmas
by Bridget Haggerty

Ready to scatter the blood of a fresh-killed animal on your threshold and in the four corners of the house? It’s what they did in old Ireland on November 10th, which is Martinmas - the eve of the feast of St. Martin.

Autumn in Ireland often brings a cold snap followed by some mild, lovely weather. Similar to Indian Summer in the United States, this brief interlude before winter sets in is called Martinmas Summer.

In the old days, as in many countries that were predominantly rural, this time of year was spent in preparation for the hard months ahead. The harvest was in, and depending on how successful the growing season had been, farm families were able to estimate how much they would have to feed themselves and their livestock. Inevitably, there were always animals that couldn’t earn their keep; these would be the fowl that didn’t lay eggs, the cattle that didn’t give milk; animals that couldn’t produce offspring, and the ones that, because of youth, age or disability, couldn’t pull their weight.

And then there were the pigs. They’d been feasting all summer and by St. Martin’s Eve, would be plump and full of flavor. In any event, the livestock that could not be wintered over would be sold, given away, or slaughtered to provide the family a supply of meat for winter. Whatever wasn’t used immediately was salted, cured and stored in oak barrels where it would last for many months.

In pre-christian Ireland, it was the custom to sacrifice an animal on St. Martin’s Eve and then sprinkle drops of its blood on the threshold, as well as in the four corners of the house. This was done to drive off any evil spirits and also to ensure prosperity for the coming year. History tells us that the animal most often selected for this ritual was a pig. Most likely, this was because it was the commonest and smallest of the domestic animals. Whatever was sacrificed, the sacrificial animal was later cooked and provided a hearty meal for the family. If it was a large animal, portions were traditionally shared with those who were less fortunate.

To this day, while the ritual of sprinkling blood may have long died out, it is still customary in Ireland to make a meal of fresh pork on St. Martin’s Eve.

Read our article: The Feast of St. Martin
Image: Family Farm by Lowell Herrero from All Posters and Prints.


Wed, Jan 3, 2018

Ilnacullen, Co. Cork - an Island Garden

Located in the sheltered harbour of Glengarriff in Bantry Bay. Ilnacullin, which means island of holly, is a small island known to horticulturists and lovers of trees and shrubs all around the world as an island garden of rare beauty.
The vivid colours of Rhododendrons and Azaleas reach their peak during May and June, whilst the hundreds of cultivars of climbing plants, herbaceous perennials and choice shrubs dominate the midsummer period from June to August.
Because of its sheltered situation and the warming oceanic influence of the Gulf Stream, the climate is favourable to the growth of ornamental plants from many parts of the world.
Even for those who aren’t particularly interested in gardens, there are many other scenic views, especially in the surrounding waters where seals frequent the rocks on the southern shore.
The cover photo on Bridget's book The Traditional Irish Wedding shows a wrought iron garden gate on Ilnaculen. I took that photo. To see it, go to the home page. It's part of the opening paragraph Failte.
Resource: Copy and Image - Cork Guide

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