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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.

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?


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!).

There are so many other traditions, customs and just an incredible amount of folklore to draw upon, that it would be remiss to be of Irish descent and not take advantage of all the possibilities. Here are just a few ideas culled from what eventually became a 200-plus page book called "The Traditional Irish Wedding."


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.


Mothering Sunday in Old Ireland
by Bridget Haggerty
In Ireland and the UK, Mothering Sunday or Mother's Day is always on the fourth Sunday of Lent. In the USA and other countries, it is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. Whenever you honor the matriarch of your family, the origins and customs of her special day are fascinating.

The earliest Mother's Day celebrations can be traced back to the spring festivities of ancient Greece, in honor of Rhea, the Mother of the Gods. In Rome, the most significant Mother's Day festival was dedicated to the worship of Cybele, another mother goddess. Ceremonies in her honor began some 250 years before Christ was born. This Roman religious celebration, known as Hilaria, lasted for three days - from March 15 to 18.


The irish Kitchen: Traditional Irish Nettle Soup
Edited & adapted by Bridget Haggerty

"Eat Nettle Soup three times in May,
And For a year keep rheumatics away."

According to the old folklore, just three bowls of Nettle Soup eaten within the month of May would prevent the aches and pains of rheumatism for an entire year. This would have been of great interest to Irish monks as this nourishing dish was a part of their diet as far back as the 6th century. Did they know that it would help ease the stiffness in the knees when bent in prayer? Or soothe a back made to ache by hours in the garden wielding the rake?


Basic Irish: Mothering Sunday
According to our native speaker, Aideen, a special day for mothers has become just as commercialized in Ireland as it has in other countries - whether you celebrate it in Ireland on the third Sunday before Easter, or elsewhere on the second Sunday in May. It's also a relatively new holiday, and while the history books do show that mothers were honored in special ways at a certain time of year, the concept of saying "Happy Mother's Day" is a contemporary custom. For that reason, Aideen cautions us that the following Mother's Day phrases have been translated into literal Irish; they aren't in common usage among native Irish speakers. So, while this isn't exactly an "authentic" Irish lesson, the value lies more in seeing how Irish words and phrases are put together and in learning how they are pronounced.


Kids' Ireland: Leary's New House
by Grainne Rowland

Leary was wild with excitement! He had just married the most beautiful wife, Aine. Better yet, he had bought six acres of the best land in the county. He would build the prettiest house for Aine.
Leary, his wife, and some friends walked over the six acres searching for the best spot on which to build the home. Leary looked at a spot in the middle of a large field. It had a ring of mushrooms and many wild flowers growing in it. It was a well-favored spot!


Music Review: Mother: Songs Celebrating Mothers & Motherhood
by Bridget Haggerty

This recording is a collaboration of gifted Celtic singers and musicians. Drawing from their own experiences, they have created a tender tribute that chronicles the joys, as well as the heartaches, of being a mother.

In making the album, the artists described it as a journey they shared, but which meant different things to each of them. Their goal was to produce a work which is reflective of the wide range of experiences associated with motherhood. The liner notes are full of photos from the three women's childhoods (with their mothers), and the lyrics as well as the backgrounds of the pieces are included. They have also dedicated the recording to their own mothers, Mary Ryan, Honey Spielberg, and to the memory of Jeanne McKeown Ryan.


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.

Authentic Irish clothing from Aran Sweaters Direct

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Wed, Apr 27, 2016

The 'Harp' Flag

This was the unofficial national flag of Ireland from 1798 until the early years of the 20th century. Since the 16th century, the gold harp had been on a blue field, but the United Irishmen changed the colour to green.
The Green Flag was widely carried during the rebellion of 1798 - often with the motto of the United Irishmen, 'Éire go Brágh' - Ireland Forever - included below the harp.
The banner quickly won popular acceptance and it was used by the followers of Daniel O'Connell, by most of the Fenians, and by the supporters of Home Rule from the time of Parnell until the collapse of the Irish Parliamentary Party in 1918.

Click for More Culture Corner.

Sunday Blessing

God made a wonderful mother,
A mother who never grows old;
He made her smile of the sunshine,
And He moulded her heart of pure gold;
In her eyes He placed bright shining stars,
In her cheeks fair roses you see;
God made a wonderful mother,
And He gave that dear mother to me.
Please god, He will bless her and keep her
though far from me now she is gone
And God willing I’ll once again feel her
loving arms around me once more.
Edited and adpated from the poem
Wonderful Mother by Pat O'Reilly

Weekly Quote

"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

Mrs Brown's Boys
12-disc box set

This new set is USA & Canada playable and includes a bonus 4-disc stand up collection. Includes all 7 parts and bonus material. These are specially formatted discs and are compatible for "All Regions". Free shipping! For more details, please click Mrs Brown's Boys

Carolan's Receipt
by Derek Bell

Derek Bell recorded Carolan's Receipt in 1975, the same year he joined the Chieftains. The selections include "Sídh Beag agus Sídh Mór," the first melody O'Carolan composed, as well "Carolan's Farewell to Music," which was his last. There have been dozens of settings of O'Carolan's compositions released since these, but none have surpassed the beauty of Bell's.
Michael Simmons
Click here for Carolan's Receipt.


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March 4, 2011
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