Ireland …Small Country – Big Reputation!
So what is it that makes Ireland … Ireland? Is it the “craic”, the green countryside, the friendly people, the music, St Patrick, or is it the Guinness. Well I think you would probably imagine all of the above when picturing Ireland.
Ireland can be described as having cultures within a culture. For instance, it is often called the ‘land of saints and scholars’, or ‘the emerald isle’ referring to the green landscape. You will notice it all as you travel around Ireland bumping into the different Irish language dialects and customs.
From the map below you can see that Ireland is divided into 4 Provinces and 32 counties. The Province of Ulster includes the 6 counties that make up Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK…I know confusing right!)
The Irish Flag
The above picture shows 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.
It is not until 1848 that the Irish tricolour flag was first introduced by Thomas Francis Meagher who based it on the French tricolour. However, it was not until after the Easter Rising of 1916, when it was raised above the General Post Office in Dublin, that the tricolour came to be regarded as the national flag. The flag was adopted in 1919 by the Irish Republic during its war of independence and subsequently by the Irish Free State. It was given constitutional status under the 1937 Constitution, which established the Republic of Ireland.
Ireland can be said to have culture’s within a culture! Very noticeable when travelling through the 4 Provinces of Munster, Leinster, Connacht, and Ulster. They all can be said to have their own unique interpretations of Language, music, art, literature, folklore and sport, least not forgetting going to the pub and having the “craic”.
English is the main language spoken but you are probably more familiar with the expressions tá fáilte romhat (Taw fall-cha row-at) – ‘You’re very welcome’. Or, more famously, céad míle fáilte (Kade-mee-laa-fall-cha) – a hundred thousand welcomes. Today, there are places in Ireland called the “Gaeltacht”, where Irish Gaelic is still spoken.
Irish Traditional Music or “Trad” has its roots in old Gaelic heritage when it had at least ten instruments to choose from. These were the cruit (a small harp) and clairseach (a bigger harp with typically 30 strings), the timpan (a small string instrument played with a bow or plectrum), the feadan (a fife), the buinne (an oboe or flute), the guthbuinne (a bassoon-type horn), the bennbuabhal (hornpipes), the cuislenna (bagpipes or Great Irish Warpipes), the stoc and sturgan (clarions or trumpets), and the cnamha (castanets), and the fiddle.
More recently, Trad today features the bodhrán, the fiddle, tin whistle, flute, Uilleann pipes, the button accordion and concertina, the banjo, guitar, the bouzouki, and piano.
Traditional Irish Music also involves a lot of singing. Unaccompanied vocals are called sean nós (“old style”) and are considered the truest form of traditional Irish singing.
Famous Irish musicians include Willie Clancy, the Count John McCormack, Matt Molloy, Seán Ó Riada, Tommy Mackem, James Morrison, and John McKenna, to name a few.
Famous Irish music bands include Seán Ó Riada’s The Chieftains, The Clancy Brothers, The Irish Rovers, The Dubliners, Sweeney’s Men, Planxty, The Bothy Band, Clannad, Moving Hearts formed by Dónal Lunny and Christy Moore which featured Davy Spillane on uilleann pipes.
To celebrate Irish music the Fleadh Cheoil is held every year where musicians come from all over the world to play. The Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann is the biggest traditional Irish music festival on the planet, with over 350,000 visiting for a week-long celebration of Irish music, song and dance. It officially runs for a week but can last several!!
Irish Literature and the Arts
Ireland has had its fair share of scholars over the year’s contributing to the world of literature and the arts. Particularly famous examples of such works are those of James Joyce, Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde and Ireland’s four winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature; William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney.
Famous museum collections include The Book of Kells, the Ardagh Chalice, the Tara Brooch, and the Derrynaflan Hoard, St Patrick’s Bell and its shrine and the Cross of Cong, the Broighter gold boat, and the Moylough Belt Shrine. Prehistoric pieces include the Iron Age Broighter Gold and over 50 gold lunulas.
Probably the oldest piece of huge historical significance is New Grange, which dates to around 500 years before the Pyramids, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The national holiday in the Republic of Ireland is St Patrick’s Day on the 17th March and is celebrated with wearing of the shamrock at parades and festivals in cities and towns across Ireland in remembrance of St Patrick the patron saint of Ireland.
Public Holidays and other days celebrated 2019
01 January New Years Day
25 January Robert Burns Night (Burns Night)
27 January Holocaust Memorial Day
St Brigid’s Day is celebrated on the 1st February each year
09 February Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day)
10 February Ash Wednesday
14 February St. Valentine’s Day
06 March Mothering Sunday (Mother’s Day)
17 March St Patrick’s Day
20 March Palm Sunday
24 March Maundy or Holy Thursday
25 March Good Friday
27 March Easter Sunday & Daylight Saving Begins
28 March Easter Monday
01 April April Fools Day
02 May May Day
06 June Bank Holiday
19 June Father’s Day
20 June Bonfire Night – longest day of the year
01 August Bank Holiday
30 October Irish Standard Time (IST) Ends
31 October Halloween
01 November All Saints Day
13 November Remembrance Day (Remembrance Sunday)
25 December Christmas – Merry Christmas!
26 December St. Stephen’s Day (actual)
28 December St. Stephen’s Day (observed)
31 January New Year’s Eve
The following meals are considered to be traditionally Irish:
Potatoes are the stereotypical food for Ireland but they are eaten regularly either as mash, chips, boiled potatoes or roasted potatoes
Irish stew – usually consists of meat, potatoes, onions and carrots which are cooked together or stewed
Bacon and Cabbage
A Fry – usually eaten for breakfast and consists of sausages, rashers (bacon), tomato, mushrooms, egg, black and white pudding with soda bread
Colcannon – usually consists of potatoes, cabbage and leeks/kale
Irish Smoked Salmon and Brown Bread
Irish Seafood Chowder
Traditional Irish Oysters