Easter in Ireland

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Easter in Ireland is celebrated with Easter Holidays, Easter Eggs and even a visit from the Easter Bunny !

Easter takes its name from the pagan goddess of spring ‘Eostre’ and many of the traditional Easter icons were originally Anglo Saxon fertility symbols .The Irish have welcomed these symbols and celebrate Easter with chocolate Easter Eggs and Easter Egg painting in similar fashion, while the streets are often decked with green and yellow.

After the cold bleak Irish winter , Easter is a sign that the summer is around the corner and the dark evenings are replaced by the bright long days. Most people observe Easter whether they are religious or not and see it as a nice juncture in the year to gather friends and family together – perhaps for the first time since the Christmas Holidays.

For most though, the religious significance of Easter is widely celebrated and Catholic tradition is more strictly adhered to than in some other countries. Irish Easter tradition stems from the Christian view of Easter as the time of Christ’s Resurrection. As with most predominantly Catholic countries this period begins with the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday, known as Lent. This time begins with Ash Wednesday, when the faithful are anointed with ashes and during Lent people are required to give something up as an act of penance for children this usually means sweets and chocolate . The Sunday before Easter is Palm Sunday, when palm leaves are hung to mark Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem and the Friday before is Good Friday.

On Good Friday, the day Christ died, you’ll find everywhere is closed in Ireland. The day is a Bank Holiday, the banks, schools, businesses and even the pubs are all closed! People don’t eat meat on Good Friday and traditionally people in Ireland would go barefoot on this day. Many ate nothing until midday, no wood was to be burned, no nails were driven and no animals were slaughtered on this day.

But come Easter Sunday, everyone is out celebrating, Christ is risen, Lent is over and the pubs are open! Many towns and villages hold processions of some sort, while out in the countryside, Easter Sunday is usually a high point of the social calendar with events such as fairs and horse races packing out the pubs. And as the following Monday is also a Bank Holiday, you don’t have to worry about work in the morning.

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Easter Bunny :

Over the years we have adopted a few traditions from other countries such as the Easter Bunny and Easter egg hunts . These have become more popular in recent years here in Ireland even though they date back hundreds of years. The Easter bunny has its origin in pre-Christian fertility lore. The Hare and the Rabbit were the most fertile animals known and they served as symbols of the new life during the Spring season. The bunny as an Easter symbol seems to have it’s origins in Germany, where it was first mentioned in German writings in the 1500s. The first edible Easter bunnies were made in Germany during the early 1800s. These were made of pastry and sugar. The Easter bunny was introduced to American folklore by the German settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country during the 1700s. The arrival of the “Oschter Haws” was considered “childhood’s greatest pleasure” next to a visit from Christ-Kindel on Christmas Eve. The children believed that if they were good the “Oschter Haws” would lay a nest of colored eggs. The children would build their nest in a secluded place in the home, the barn or the garden. Boys would use their caps and girls their bonnets to make the nests .

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Easter Bonnets:

Another popular tradition over the years was the Easter Bonnet and we have fond memories of making elaborate Easter Bonnets for competitions in school and parish halls . These were fierce competitive and people would have spent many days working on the bonnets in the hope to bring home the title. It might be unusual to wear a bonnet now, but Easter bonnets date from a time when most women wore hats of some kind. Irving Berlin wrote about a woman wearing a Easter bonnet in an Easter parade, bringing the hat into popular culture. In New York, well-off women would show off their hats at the parade, which inspired Berlin’s description.

It is a tradition to wear new clothes at Easter, and this hat ties into this idea, as women and girls could purchase a new hat to wear at church on Easter Sunday. In post Civil War America, women swapped their mourning veils for the bright hats. Nowadays, children often make such bonnets at school.

In New York City, the Easter Parade tradition dates back to the mid-1800s, when the upper crust of society would attend Easter services at various Fifth Avenue churches then stroll outside afterward, showing off their new spring outfits and hats. Average citizens started showing up along Fifth Avenue to check out the action. The tradition reached its peak by the mid-20th century, and in 1948, the popular film Easter Parade was released, starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland and featuring the music of Irving Berlin. The title song includes the lyrics: “In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it/You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.”

The Easter Parade tradition lives on in Manhattan, with Fifth Avenue from 49th Street to 57th Street being shut down during the day to traffic. Participants often sport elaborately decorated bonnets and hats. The event has no religious significance, but sources note that Easter processions have been a part of Christianity since its earliest days. Today, other cities across America also have their own parades.

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Hot cross buns:

For the uninitiated, hot cross buns are sweet, raisin-filled yeasty buns which are marked with a cross on top. The pastry cross on top of the buns symbolises the cross which Jesus was killed on. The buns were traditionally eaten at breakfast time on Good Friday, hot from the oven.

Here are some old Easter traditions :

Before Easter

The house had to be cleaned and white-washed – usually in preparation for the inevitable visiting of friends and family but also for when the priest came to bless the home.

Good Friday

No alcohol could be sold on this day and this is still true today . On this day all pubs remain closed, while restaurants do open up – alcohol is off the menu.
Baked bread would be marked with a cross.
Some people would remain silent all or part of the day.
Fasting was common on this day too.
It was thought that Good Friday was a lucky day to plant crops.
People would visit graves or holy wells.

Easter Saturday
Eggs were usually painted on this day in preparation for the following day.
Get water blessed by the priest and then take 3 sips and sprinkle around your home and processions for good luck for the year ahead. Some families asked for ashes for the fire to be blessed instead of water – with the blessed ashes sprinkled around the house for luck.
Easter Sunday
Easter Sunday in many homes is very similar to any other Sunday or religious day in Ireland. Families get together dressed in their new clothes and would attend mass together in their local church.
After attending mass on Easter Sunday everyone would make their way back home to start the Easter feast which is usually made up of servings of potatoes, vegetables, meat, stuffing, bread and anything else that makes up a good proper Irish feast.
The Easter Eggs are always presented to the Children after their traditional Irish Easter dinner and can only be given to a child that has not broken the Lent fast and who has also finished eating a full Easter Dinner but from part experience parents usually bend the rules for the children as the fasting is somewhat of a difficult task for a child.

                                    Cáisc shona duit !


St Patricks day March 17th 2015 – Beannacht Lá Fhéile Pádraig 2015

March 17th 2015 is the day we Irish celebrate the life and work of the patron Saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick

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Saint Patrick is the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland. St Patrick is credited with bringing christianity to Ireland. Most of what is known about him comes from his two works; the Confessio, a spiritual autobiography, and his Epistola, a denunciation of British mistreatment of Irish christians. Saint Patrick described himself as a “most humble-minded man, pouring forth a continuous paean of thanks to his Maker for having chosen him as the instrument whereby multitudes who had worshipped idols and unclean things had become the people of God.”

Many folk ask the question ‘Why is the Shamrock the National Flower of Ireland ?’ The reason is that St. Patrick used it to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagans. Saint Patrick is believed to have been born in the late fourth century, and is often confused with Palladius, a bishop who was sent by Pope Celestine in 431 to be the first bishop to the Irish believers in Christ.

Saint Patrick is most known for driving the snakes from Ireland. It is true there are no snakes in Ireland, but there probably never have been – the island was separated from the rest of the continent at the end of the Ice Age. As in many old pagan religions, serpent symbols were common and often worshipped. Driving the snakes from Ireland was probably symbolic of putting an end to that pagan practice. While not the first to bring christianity to Ireland, it is Patrick who is said to have encountered the Druids at Tara and abolished their pagan rites. The story holds that he converted the warrior chiefs and princes, baptizing them and thousands of their subjects in the “Holy Wells” that still bear this name.

There are several accounts of Saint Patrick’s death. One says that Patrick died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, on March 17, 460 A.D. His jawbone was preserved in a silver shrine and was often requested in times of childbirth, epileptic fits, and as a preservative against the “evil eye.” Another account says that St. Patrick ended his days at Glastonbury, England and was buried there. The Chapel of St. Patrick still exists as part of Glastonbury Abbey. Today, many Catholic places of worship all around the world are named after St. Patrick, including cathedrals in New York and Dublin city

Why do we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day?

Saint Patrick’s Day has come to be associated with everything Irish: anything green and gold, shamrocks and luck. Most importantly, to those who celebrate its intended meaning, St. Patrick’s Day is a traditional day for spiritual renewal and offering prayers for missionaries worldwide.

So, why is it celebrated on March 17th? One theory is that that is the day that St. Patrick died. Since the holiday began in Ireland, it is believed that as the Irish spread out around the world, they took with them their history and celebrations. The biggest observance of all is, of course, in Ireland. With the exception of restaurants and pubs, almost all businesses close on March 17th. Being a religious holiday as well, many Irish attend mass, where March 17th is the traditional day for offering prayers for missionaries worldwide before the serious celebrating begins.

In American cities with a large Irish population, St. Patrick’s Day is a very big deal. Big cities and small towns alike celebrate with parades, “wearing of the green,” music and songs, Irish food and drink, and activities for kids such as crafts, coloring and games. Some communities even go so far as to dye rivers or streams green!

Relevant Historical sites

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Sanctuary of St Patrick, Lough Derg | Co. Donegal

St Patrick’s Purgatory | Lough Derg is a unique island of deep prayer and a living part of Irish Christian Heritage. St Patrick himself was called to the island. Pilgrims have been travelling to the sacred site on Station Island, County Donegal for centuries. The small island is set in calm lake waters where there are no distractions or interruptions making it a conducive place to go into deep prayer and to get closer to the authentic self.

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Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin

A place of worship, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral was built in honour of Ireland’s patron saint. The Dublin cathedral stands adjacent to the famous well where tradition has it Saint Patrick baptised converts to the faith on his visit to Dublin.

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The Rock of Cashel

Steeped in legend surrounding St Patrick is the Rock of Cashel, Co Tipperary. It’s said that St Patrick visited Cashel to meet and baptise the powerful King of Munster, Aonghus.

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Saint Patrick’s Well, Clonmel

Little is really known about the Irish stone cross but it’s thought that Saint Patrick passed through here and may have used this place baptise pilgrims into Chrisitanity. The stone statue of Saint Patrick was erected by the Saint Patrick’s Day Society in 1958

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Down Cathedral – St Patricks  Stone

County Down Cathedral stands on the site of a Benedictine Monastery built in 1183. St. A stone in the graveyard in 1900 commemorates Saint Patrick’s burial place is on the hill. The memorial stone is a slab of granite from the nearby Mourne Mountains. Crosses from the 9th, 10th and 12th Centuries are also preserved in the Cathedral grounds. The tradition of the hill being the burial place of Saints Brigid and Columcille gives rise to the well-known couplet: In Down, three saints one grave do fill, Patrick, Brigid and Columcille. Tradition has it that in year 5th century Patrick arrived in Ireland bringing the Faith. He was brought to Ireland as a slave, and during his years of captivity he spent much time in prayer. After six years of slavery and hardship Patrick tells of a dream in which a man named Victoricus brings him a letter headed ‘The Cry of the Irish.’ We are told that Patrick was given a barn in Saul as his first church by the local chieftain, Dichu. The present Church of Ireland church at Saul, 2 miles distant from Down Cathedral was built in 1932 to commemorate the fifteen hundredth anniversary of Patrick’s arrival.

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Croagh Patrick

Croagh Patrick aka Patrick’s Mountain. In Irish it’s spelt Cruach Phádraig. The 2000ft mountain is an important site of pilgrimage in County Mayo. It’s been a site of serious pilgrimage for years and years. It is a challenging, unique and the magnificent landscape to climb. A site of early Pagan pilgrimages, summer solstice gatherings and now Christian Buddhist and Catholic pilgrimages. Thousands of people climb the mountain every Reek Sunday, the last Sunday in July. Croagh Patrick is associated with St Patrick, the Aposlte of Ireland. He is reputedly to have fasted on the summit for forty days in the 5th century A.D. From St. Patrick’s own time there had been some sort of a little chapel on the summit called “Teampall Phadraig”. Remains of a foundation have been found, and in 1905 a small chapel was built on the summit. The little church is open every day during the summer, and mass is celebrated in the church on Reek Sunday and on 15 August. It takes about 3 hours, depending on fitness!, to climb to the summit where the breeze, the Spiritual vibrations and views are magical. Magical unspoilt scenery, dramatic valleys, forests and harbours make an incredible setting for a Spiritual pilgrimage, the Gaelforce adventure race, mountain biking or hill walking for a more gentle style!

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Máméan Pilmigrage in Connemara

Thirty miles away from Croagh Patrick the lesser known Mámean pilgrim site dates back to the 5th century. At the summit of the Maum Turk Mountains in Connemara there is a natural rugged passage way known as Máméan – an ancient pilgrim site dedicated to St. Patrick. Legend tells of how St. Patrick on his travels through Joyce Country climbed Mámean and gave Connemara his blessing. Pre-dating this time it is also associated with the Lughnasa Solstice festivals. Like many pagan sites it was Christianised, evolving into Reek Sunday – the last Sunday in July or the first Sunday in August. The site is marked by a holy well, St. Patrick’s Bed – a cleft in the rock and a circle of stone crosses represent the Stations of the Cross. Completing the shrine is a Mass Rock – used during the eighteenth century penal times when Catholicism was outlawed. A small chapel was built beside St. Patrick’s bed, and a statue of St. Patrick depicted as a shepherd with a sheep at his feet. Today a pilgrimage takes place three times a year on St. Patrick’s Day, Good Friday and the first Sunday in August. A variety of objects are left behind as offerings.


Credit to http://www.st-patricks-day.com

Adventure 36 -Ships, Ruins, Bridges and Giants

Amazing pictures!

Awkward Crumpets

While in Dublin I took a few day trips out. This had me traversing the spiritual area of Glendalough, Kilkenny and surrounding country. I also took a trip to Belfast, where I learned about why there’s a North and South Ireland (which I did vaguely understand already but was not nearly so aware of). I also went to the Titanic museum (cue the Titanic movie sound track) on behalf of Crocco and Achmed. This museum is set at the site where the Titanic was launched just over a century ago. It is an excellent museum. Lots of interaction and use of all the space around you, rather than everything roughly at eye level. I also made it to the Giant’s Causeway. I’ll post up the photos.

There is plenty of folklore surrounding this gigantic cobbled structure. Irish have loads of great folk tales of fairies and Giants and such. Long…

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Things to do in Ireland for Valentines day – February 14th 2015

Forget the usual bunch of flowers, box of chocolates – how about  celebrating Valentines day in Ireland? ? Ireland is full of fairytale romance , with its amazing scenery , cobbled streets , cosy pub fires and castles that hold a lifetime of mythical romances in their old stone walls. Here are a few things to experience that will make your Valentines day unforgettable !

Firstly the man himself – St Valentine in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin.

Due to it’s location in the heart of Dublin and it’s history, Whitefriar Street Church has become a landmark of the city.It is home to Our Lady of Dublin and to the relics of St. Valentine.The church is run by the Irish Province of Carmelites.. This is definitely one where appearances can be deceptive as hidden behind the drab, grey exterior of the church walls lies a beautiful church which stores the remains of Valentinus, patron saint of love. As you pass through the main entrance of the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church, on the right hand side lies The Shrine to St Valentine. The statue above the casket, of St. Valentine dressed in red, was carved in the 1960s by Dublin sculptor Irene Broe (1923 – 1992).
Each year on February 14th and in the days and weeks leading up to Valentine’s day, visitor’s flock to the Carmelite Church on Whitefriar Street in Dublin to visit the shrine of St. Valentine.The shrine consists of an altar, above which stands a life-size statue of St.. Valentine. Below the altar lies a casket containing the reliquary, which includes some of the remains of the martyred saint in addition to a vessel with some of his blood. Once a year, on St. Valentine’s feast day, the reliquary is placed before the church’s main altar for special Valentine’s day sermons and a blessing of the rings for those with upcoming weddings.

Get a Claddagh Ring – THE Irish token of Love !!

Claddagh Ring

Travel west to Galway and to Thomas Dillon’s the oldest jewellers in Ireland and the original makers of the Claddagh Ring. Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Gold was established in 1750 and are situated in Ireland’s west coast capital, Galway city, the birthplace of this truly historic Irish jewelry.

The Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish ring given which represents love, loyalty, and friendship (the hands represent friendship, the heart represents love, and the crown represents loyalty) The design and customs associated with it originated in the Irish fishing village of Claddagh, located just outside the old city walls of Galway, now part of Galway City.

Take a Selfie at the Cliffs of Moher !

Couple at the cliffs
There is great competition these days to get the best selfie picture for Facebook or Twitter so silence everyone and head to the Cliffs of Moher on the West coast of Ireland! The Cliffs of Moher are some of Europe’s highest sea cliffs and as you walk along a softly winding lane there suddenly the Atlantic Ocean lies before you. Or rather beneath you, a vertical drop of around 700 feet making the difference. It is a stunning backdrop which has captured the hearts of millions and has been the backdrop for the many proposals that have happened over the years.

Take a jaunting car around the majestic Lakes of Killarney

Jaunting car
Step back in time and experience Ireland most traditional mode of transport with a jaunting car tour where you can discover the hidden delights of the Killarney National Park. All the tours operate where no motor traffic is permitted- offering you a unique tour. As you ramble along on your tour you are informed of the history, legends and folklore of the area – with some Irish wit thrown in for good measure! Retire to one of the many pubs in Killarney town and enjoy some tradional music!

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