Irish Culture: Customs & Traditions

Instructor: Margaret Moran
Many know the origin of St. Patrick's Day, but do you know where Halloween originated? Both of these holidays come from Irish culture. In this lesson, we'll explore the customs and traditions of that amazing country.

Birthday Wishes

Did you know that a birthday tradition in Ireland is to turn the birthday child upside down and bump their head gently on the floor? The number of bumps should match the child's age, with an additional one for good luck. This is just one of the unique traditions that form Irish culture.

Culture

The culture of Ireland is influenced by several different cultures, such as Anglo-Norman, English and Scottish. These influences helped contribute to Irish history through several different methods. Their contributions include books and manuscripts such as the Book of Kells, pieces of goldwork that date to the early medieval periods, and even etched Waterford Crystals coveted throughout the world.

St. Patrick's Day, which is celebrated on March 17, is one of the strongest traditions of this country. It's actually the national holiday of the people, and celebrates Saint Patrick, who is the patron saint of Ireland itself. Patrick is credited with the rumored banishment of snakes from the island, as well as teaching the Irish about the idea of the Trinity. He explained it to them using a shamrock, or three-leaved clover. The Trinity expresses the division in Christianity of the father, son and holy ghost of the one God.

A cathedral dedicated to Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.
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Another rarely known piece of Irish culture is the holiday known as Halloween. It follows the Gaelic festival called Samhain, which believed the border between the otherworld and our own became thin and spirits of loved ones could visit during this day. In Ireland, the traditions of the holiday include costumed children, carving hollowed-out turnips for lanterns - which the rest of the world changed to pumpkins - and even bobbing for apples.

One of the most apparent cultural habits of Ireland is the pub. Although many view pub culture as just drinking, that's far from the truth among the Irish. Pubs, or public houses, have been very important to local inhabitants as meeting places for neighbors and friends. The best known qualities of these pubs is traditional Irish music, friendly and warm staff, and memorabilia.

Traditions

Through the ages of troubles in Ireland, some practices became common among the people, and these then turned into traditions. One of the most well-known, and common, traditions is the use of the color green. This is in part due to St. Patrick and the use of the green clover to express the Trinity in religion. Originally, St. Patrick's Day used blue, but it did not take long for the country to recognize green as the symbolic color.

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