Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Shillelagh


The blackthorn tree root forms the knob on the Shillelagh that was historically used as a poor man's
Shillelagh
weapon in Ireland. The Shillelagh is a cudgel or club that was traditionally smothered with butter and hung for months in a chimney to cure.

Occasionally, the hitting end of a Shillelagh was hollowed out and filled with molten lead, thus increasing the weight and the potential damage one could inflict.

The name is derived from the Shillelagh Forest in County Wicklow, Ireland.


The Shillelagh has been romanced in stories along with songs and has evolved as part of the logo of professional sporting teams as well as an insignia of military regiments.

A Shillelagh should not be confused with its taller cousin, the Irish walking stick. The Irish walking stick is also typically sourced from blackthorn wood but it is longer and it is often carried for aesthetic appreciation as well as for mobility issues.

The Irish Gift House is happy to share this poem about the iconic Shillelagh:

Oh no! It’s not a walking stick,
It’s carried neath one’s arm,
For though it was a weapon,
It kept you free from harm.

For long ago invaders came,
To Ireland’s pleasant shore,
Those Danes were fearsome fighting men,
With sword and shield and more.

To kill or plunder was their aim,
And pretty girls to snatch,
But when they reached Shillelagh,
They found they’d met their match!

The peaceful farmers had no swords,
Their homesteads to defend,
But they knew that on the Blackthorn,
Their lives they could depend.

They cut stout sticks,
Then joined the fight,
And quickly put the Danes to flight,
Such exploits brought Shillelagh fame,
And to the stick they gave its name.


- Author Unknown

Saturday, June 9, 2018

FATHER'S DAY IN IRELAND


Father’s Day in Ireland is celebrated with great joy and enthusiasm, and takes place on the third Sunday
Father's Day in Ireland
of June, the same day when several countries including the United States.
Many Irish cultural organizations organize Father's Day programs to stress on the important role played by father in the development of the child and a determined effort to make fathers realize that they must make all efforts to fulfill with commitment and devotion their responsibility as a father. Irish children are also encouraged to pay full attention and respect to their father.

My own dear old dad was the son of an Irish lass who migrated from Ireland at the age of 17. She was soon employed as a domestic cook to help with family finances. She eventually married a young farmer and my father was born in 1903. Typical of Irish women the sun rises and shines on their sons and much to the chagrin of my mother who I believe was never considered quite good enough for grandma’s cherished son.

Growing up in the forties, Father’s Day was not a big thing I can’t even remember celebrating a special day and of course there weren’t so many cards promoting everything under the sun back in those days. 
But for me, my dad was my hero and I was daddy’s little girl. Typical of the Irish culture and so many of the Irish immigrants that came to better their lives, dad demanded my brother and I would have to get an education or else. Hard work and education was stressed and that was his legacy to us.

He didn’t live to see his eight grand kids and I still reminisce about the many outrageously funny if not hooligan type things he did and the many bits of wisdom he imparted from teaching me to drive, to being a good patriot and his always being there for me.

So have a Happy Father’s Day to all dads’ everywhere.  I can still feel those Irish eyes smiling down on me with that twinkle of mischief and Irish laughter. There is a song about an Irish dad that I play every so often by the Celtic Thunder group called The Old Man. Sure do miss him.

The Irish Gift House wishes to thank guest blogger Barbara M. for this post.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Memories of Bunratty Castle

Caisleán Bhun Raithe is Irish for Castle at the Mouth of the Ratty; at this location in County Clare, Ireland you will find Bunratty Castle. The idyllic Irish castle is set in the center of Bunratty Village, adjacent to the Bunratty Folk Part.


Bunratty Castle MemoriesThe castle is a five floor tall tower house; the large building is constructed from locally source grey stone. Bunratty Castle is the most authentically restored and complete medieval fortification in Ireland and it is complete with a collection of over 450 genuine artifacts that include medieval furniture and tapestries along with works of art.

This popular tourist attraction is operated by Shannon Heritage and boasts over 350,000 visitors per year.

Several years ago, I, along with my group, was one of those visitors. We really enjoyed the unforgettable medieval banquet eaten without utensils except for the ‘dagger’ to spear the delicious potatoes and vegetables along with delectable ribs and chicken. Customary of the period, you may also use your fingers to eat. The delightful soup was pureed and served in a wooden bowl that was consumed by drinking directly from the bowl.

For libation we enjoyed limitless pitchers of red and white wine, along with honey mead.
I asked our server, "Where in Ireland is the wine produced?" She smiled as she replied, "California. Ireland is the land of Jameson and Guinness, not wine."

The food was served by a cast dressed in the period costume of the 15th century with the servers providing entertainment as you partake of the authentic and enjoyable Irish feast. It was a truly enchanting evening from the moment we arrived.

These enjoyable medieval banquets have been an almost nightly event since 1963, but they do not represent Bunratty Castle's turbulent past which included civil war, occupation and bloodshed along with the building's destruction, three times over.

The present structure was vacated when the roof of the great hall collapsed in the latter part of the 19th century. The castle fell into great despair until it was purchased in 1954 by Viscount Lord Gort, who, with the help of the Irish Tourist Board and Government, restored the stone stronghold. In 1960 Bunratty Castle was opened to the public as a national monument.

It was a special treat for this writer to be in County Clare where my grandmother, Mary Hocking, was born and who, at the tender age of 17, departed for America.

The Irish Gift House wishes to thank guest blogger Barbara M. for this post.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Irish Blessings and Humor for Mother's Day

Best Irish Blessings and Humor for Mother's DayThe Irish have long been known for their eloquence and mirth which many would simply call blarney. They are also associated with the love of family, and with that in mind, The Irish Gift House offers this collection of Irish blessings for mother along with some Irish witticisms for Mother's Day.


Irish Blessings for Mother

There is but one and only one,
Whose love will fail you never.
One who lives from sun to sun,
With constant fond endeavor.
There is but one and only one,
On earth there is no other.
In heaven a noble work was done,
When God gave us a Mother.



Gods most precious work of art is the warmth and love of a mothers heart.



Irish Jokes and Humor for Mother's Day

A Mother’s LetterDear Son,
Just a few lines to let you know that I am still alive. I am writing this slowly because I know that you can’t read fast. Your won’t know the house when you come home we’ve moved. About your father, he has got a lovely new job. He has 500 men under him, he cuts grass at the cemetery. Your sister Mary had a baby this morning I haven’t found out yet whether it’s a boy or a girl so I don’t know if you’re an aunt or an uncle. I went to the doctors on Thursday and your father came with me. The doctor put a small tube in my mouth and told me not to talk for 10 minutes. Your father offered to buy it from him. Your Uncle Patrick drowned last week in a vat of Irish whiskey at the Dublin brewery. Some of his workmates tried to save him but he fought them off bravely. They cremated him and it took 3 days to put the fire out. It only rained twice this week, first for 3 days then for 4 days. We had a letter from the undertaker. He said if the last payment on your grandmother’s plot wasn’t paid in 7 days, up she comes.
Your loving mother.
P.S. I was going to send you 5 pounds but I have already sealed the envelope.

Irish Jokes and Humor for Mother's Day
For two solid hours, Mrs. Casey told the man sitting next to her on the plane about her grandchildren. She had even produced a plastic-foldout photo album of all twelve of the children. Mrs. Casey finally realized that she had dominated the entire conversation with her grandchildren."Oh, I've done all the talking, and I'm so sorry. I know you certainly must have something to say. Please tell me, what do you think of my grandchildren?"

For Mother's Day, Murphy decided to splurge and took his wife and their four young sons to an upscale restaurant. Murphy ordered a bottle of wine which the waiter brought it over and began the ritual uncorking, and poured a small amount for mom Murphy to taste. Paddy, their six-year-old, exclaimed to the waiter, "Mister, you better fill up that glass, mom drinks a lot more than that."
Mrs. O’Malley said, "I'm always worrying about the safety of my children...especially the little dear who's rolling her eyes and answering me back right now!”

The Irish Gift House wishes all mothers a happy Mother's Day. Please visit our site if you are looking for a vast collection of free Irish jokes or Irish blessings for any occasion.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Irish Superstitions

IRISH SUPERSTITIONS
Abiding by the rules of ancient Irish life comes naturally to many who adhere to an unwritten mythical code out of pure habit, automatically reenacting behavioral patterns learned in the childhood years.
Irish Superstitions

WHY ARE THE IRISH SO SUPERSTITIOUS?
Some  believe the Irish seem to be consumed by irrational fears and belief because of their history stemming from the history of their Celtic faith. Superstitions are beliefs based on myth, magic, or illogical thoughts, that are not based upon reason and knowledge as much as many reminiscences passed from generations of old. Superstitions are intrinsically tied to traditional folklore, Ireland is a country steeped in legends and myths with a vast array of characters from faeries to changelings, to wily leprechauns.

THE ORIGINS OF SUPERSTITIONS:
The exact origins of many old superstitions do appear to be an odd mixture of paganism, Christianity, and folklore, and deeply influenced by social history. Human nature is such that we always search for a cause for things we cannot understand. That desire to figure things out is the root of all scientific progress, but in the search of answers, rationality didn’t always prevail. When searching for a reason for things beyond their comprehension, imagination, speculation or hearsay would suffice, producing answers steeped in mythical origins.

COINCIDENCE OR ANOTHER FORCE AT WORK?
Sometimes unhappy coincidences reoccurred frequently enough triggering it to be acknowledged, and to become preserved in the general belief system of a community. Irish superstitions are ultimately concerned with addressing the helplessness of the human condition. In times of trouble, and there were plenty such times for the Irish in centuries past, Irish ancestors turned to old superstitions to explain the phenomenon or at most the cause. This blind faith in haphazard cures and beliefs probably brought comfort and hope to those who felt helpless. Whether the warding off of ill luck was real or imagined, at least reassurance was in attempting to control these evils.

ENDURING LEGACY OF SUPERSTITIONS FROM THE TIME OF THE DRUIDS:
Ireland remained under the influence of Druidic teachings far longer than any other European nation. This can be attributed to the island’s remoteness on the western edge of the continent, and its freedom from Roman conquest. When early missionaries converted the Irish to Christianity they did so with minimal conflict without persecutions, adopting a creed of tolerance for the old way of life. Rather than destroying sites of ancient worship, the new church transformed them into shrines of prayer and centers of worship by associating them with a saint. This policy of tolerance for old Druidic superstitions may account for their survival. The Irish have clung to the ancient customs of their forefathers for thousands of years. An enduring belief in a fairy race may be traced back to the time of the druids.

Some Irish superstitions 

The ultimate bad luck is to spill your salt  and must be countered by throwing a pinch over your left shoulder blinding the demon behind you.  For thousands of years, salt has been an object of magic and superstition. Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper shows Judas knocking over the salt - a harbinger of his betrayal.

Superstitious or not, almost everyone takes note when it’s Friday the 13th. A common theory as to why the Irish have a fascination with this date is that there were 13 people at the Last Supper and Christ died on Good Friday, hence Friday the 13th.

If you trip and fall in a graveyard you will most likely die by the end of the year.
A black cat crossing your path is very bad luck. To counteract this make a triangle shape using your thumbs and forefingers and spit at the cat through the hole.
An expectant mother could determine a baby’s sex by tying her wedding ring to a string and holding it above her stomach.  If the ring moves in a circle it’s a boy, if it moves back and forth, it’s a girl.
If you find a horseshoe and nail it to or over the door open end up, it will bring good luck. This will not work if it is bought or a gift.
If you find a four-leafed clover you will have good luck however, you must always have it with you. You cannot pass it on to another, nor should you show it to anyone.
If your ear feels hot someone is talking about you.
If it’s your nose that's itchy you are going to have a fight with the person nearest to you.
Handing someone a knife is bad luck. Always put it on the table in front of them never in their hand. Wonder who accidently stabbed someone to start this one.
If your right palm itches, it means you will receive unexpected money. Conversely the left hand signifies you will spend or lose money.
If you break a mirror, you will have seven years bad luck.
A response to a sudden unexplained shudder or shivering. 'Someone is walking over your grave.'
If you get the wishbone on a chicken, hold one end of it and tell somebody else to hold the other end and whoever gets the right side after pulling it apart will get their wish.
If you find a penny heads up you will be lucky, pick it up but if it is tails up don’t pick it up or you’ll have bad luck.
If you take the last portion of a food, you would be an old maid or a bachelor.
A picture falling from a wall foretells a death.
If you put your clothes on inside out, you should leave them like that. It’s good luck.
If you drop a knife, it’s the sign of a gentleman visitor. If you drop a fork, you will receive a lady visitor.
Good luck housewarming gifts include bread so that you will never be hungry;  a broom so you will be able to sweep troubles and bad luck away and salt to replace tears, spice up your life and bring good luck.

The Irish Gift House wishes to thank guest blogger Barbara M. for this column.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Top 10 Things NEVER To Do In Ireland

Whenever you’re traveling somewhere new it’s best to become familiar with a few of the local customs to avoid offending anyone, and Ireland is no exception. For the most part, the Irish are some of the warmest and friendliest people you’ll ever meet.

Around 2 million Americans are expected to visit Ireland this year, so with your holiday enjoyment in mind, The Irish Gift House has put together a top 10 list of thing that you should NEVER do during your visit.

Top 10 things never to do in Ireland, Corned Beef1. Don't Order Corned Beef and Cabbage
Traditionally in the US, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by enjoying a hearty meal of corned beef and cabbage. Not likely you’re going to find it on any menu in Ireland. It is an American creation, and many mistakenly believe it is the national dish of Ireland. As a matter of fact the cuisine in many pubs is more continental imagine linguini and white clam sauce offered in many places. If you do find it on a menu, you can be sure it’s a restaurant that caters to tourists.

2. Don't Use a Phony Irish Accent
Some travelers think that when they’re visiting European countries, they should try to employ the local colloquialisms. Trying to emulate the Irish accent is not advised. Locals dislike it when foreigners attempt to speak like them, so please refrain from saying “Erin go bragh” when you visit. But if a local says “Top o’ the mornin’ to ya”, you might get along with the reply “and the rest of the day to yourself” or not. So please don’t greet anyone with the phrase “top of the morning...” Rarely if at all does an Irishman ever use cliché Irish movie phrases. They’re considered stereotypical and you’ll sure to be viewed unfavorably amongst the locals.

3. Don't Order an “Irish Car Bomb”
Never order an Irish Car Bomb while in Ireland (or from an Irish bartender). Though the shot-and-beer combo doesn't mean to offend (it only means to get you tipsy), its name is a rather insensitive reference to a dark era in Ireland's history. If you're craving the sweet, malty party drink, try making one when you go home...Stick with the Guinness, Jameson whiskey or Irish coffee. And don’t look for green beer that too is an American brainchild. Yes, this drink of Guinness stout, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Jameson Irish Whiskey is popular in America. This order will bring up old wounds and will most likely get you kicked out of the pub. The name originates from the many car bombings that took place during the Troubles in Ireland. It is also recommend that you don’t ask for a “Black & Tan” either. You’ll be asking for trouble.
Top 10 Things NEVER To Do In Ireland 
4. Don't Talk About Leprechauns
Tourists traveling to the Emerald Isle often find it amusing to ask the locals about leprechauns, as if these legendary little folk were real and commonplace. However, Irish citizens find it more tiresome than funny. So next time you’re traveling to Ireland, don’t crack any jokes about leprechauns, pots of gold or rainbows with the locals.

5. Don’t ‘Just’ Visit Dublin
Ireland’s capital city is great place to visit. There’s the Guinness factory, Temple Bar, Waterford Crystal factory and some beautiful shops and churches to discover. But the lush green countryside is surely Ireland’s prized possession. You’ll definitely want to explore rural areas, other cities and landmarks such as Galway, Belfast, Killarney National Park and Killarney lakes featuring graceful swans aplenty, Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher, Dingle and the famous fun loving dolphin Fungie.

6. Don't Talk About American Politics
Like many Europeans, the majority of Irish citizens would be considered either Democratic or Liberal, so don’t plan on discussing conservative politics, Trump or any hot topics with any of the locals. Likewise spouting Liberal support can land you in deep trouble with a few locals. Better to just enjoy your trip and appreciate Irish charm and friendly fun loving people.

7. Don't Compare Ireland to Home
Many visitors love to compare Ireland to their native country. This is kind of rude, and locals find it very irritating to constantly hear how things like food, culture, trends and customs compare to your America. So avoid making remarks about the things that are different and enjoy Ireland for what it is – a beautifully authentic country.

8. Don't Brag That You’re All Irish
Even if both sides of your family come from Ireland, don’t plan on bragging about being 100% Irish to any locals. Because the Irish people consider themselves 100% Irish and if you’re visiting from the America, you would merely be considered an Irish-American. Don’t even debate it either, as you definitely won’t make friends. If you mention which part of Ireland your family came from, locals may be willing to discuss your heritage. And you well know what they say about braggarts… nobody like them.

9. Don't Stereotype
Don’t expect everyone to have red hair and freckles, and if you visit the Emerald Isle this St Patrick’s Day don’t expect a sea of green garb!
Many Americans wear green on St Patrick’s Day known by many as the wearing of the green’ to celebrate their Irish heritage. In Ireland people wear a small bunch of shamrocks on their right breast rather than wear green clothing to signify their Irishness and its traditional connection with St Patrick. The shamrocks are blessed at Church ceremonies all over Ireland by either the local priests or bishops, this is known as Blessing of the Shamrock.

10.  Don’t Expect Pubs to be All-nighters.
One misconception about Ireland is that people stay up all night drinking at local pubs. Most pubs in Ireland close at either midnight or 1 am. However if you make friends at the bar or pub, you may be invited home to continue drinking until the wee hours of the morning.

11. Optional Bonus Item: Don't Visit the Blarney Stone
If you’re planning on visiting Ireland you’ve no doubt heard of the Blarney Stone, but some people recommend that you skip that site. This attraction has become something like the Disneyland of Ireland, with posed pictures and exorbitant fees and expensive souvenirs. There are so many more authentic things to do and see in this country, you may file this as tourist trap under things not to do in Ireland. But who among us has not been victim to Disneyland’s outrageous costs and long waits and yet had a wonderful time. I still wear my t-shirt stating "I kissed the Blarney Stone" and have the picture to prove it. So let’s leave that it up to you.

So good luck to all the Irish and all those that wish they were.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Shamrock History

Shamrock History
What do you know about the shamrock? From the Druids to St. Patrick and British oppression the shamrock is part of Irish history.

During the Iron Age in Ireland, from 500 BC to 400 AD, the ancient Druids believed that the number 3 held mystical powers. This is evident in the stone carvings found at Newgrange in Co. Meath, along with numerous occurrences found in Celtic knot-work, such as the commonly named Trinity knot. The Druids considered the three leaves of the shamrock plant, which blankets the ground in Ireland, to be a natural sign of their scared number 3.

The Druids also believed that the shamrock held medicinal attributes along with mystical powers. One belief is that shamrock, by pointing its leaves upward, could foretell a change in the weather. Then, as it is now, the shamrock was considered lucky; however the Druids believed that it could keep you from harm by warding off evil spirits.

The word shamrock derives from seamair óg that translates to young clover in the Gaelic language and St. Patrick is credited to adding to the popularity of this Irish icon during the 5th century.

St. Patrick, who spent his early life as a slave in Ireland, followed God's command, that he had received in a dream, to escape and return to his home and family in Britain. St. Patrick, who had become very spiritual during his captivity, entered a monastery and became a Catholic Priest. 30 years later, St. Patrick, who by this time had become a bishop, felt the calling to return to Ireland as a missionary to the pagan Irish.

According to legend it was during this time that St. Patrick used the symbolism of the 3 leaf shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity; the Divinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are like the 3 leaves of the shamrock, three in one.
     
March 17th, the day of St. Patrick's death, is celebrated as both a religious holiday and as a celebratory event. In tribute to Ireland's patron saint a shamrock is traditionally worn on this day and many participate in the custom of drowning the shamrock by placing the shamrock in the last glass of whiskey or beer of the night and then when the drink is finished the shamrock would be plucked out of the glass and tossed over the left shoulder for luck.

The British infamously receive credit for endearing the status of the shamrock because during the 19th century reign of Queen Victoria wearing the Irish icon was outlawed and even punishable by death. Naturally, the shamrock became a symbol of Irish rebellion and the wearin' of the green became a point of national pride.

Today the shamrock is Ireland's most recognizable symbol and Irish throughout the world wear them with glorious pride.

The Irish Gift House is proud to offer a collection of Irish made shamrock jewelry and we would be honored if you were to browse our assortment.