Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Irish Sixpence for Her Shoe

According to the Irish wedding tradition, a bride should have something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and an Irish sixpence for her shoe.
Irish Sixpence for Her Shoe

Something old symbolizes the connection to family. Something new symbolizes optimism for the future. Something borrowed symbolizes friendship. Something blue symbolizes the beautiful color of the Irish sky. An Irish sixpence for her shoe represents wealth, both financially along with the riches of a happy marriage.

An element of superstition is also connected with this Irish wedding tradition. The sixpence acts as a lucky charm that will keep the bride safe on her wedding day.

The first Irish sixpence was minted in silver in 1544. Over the centuries the Irish coin underwent several size and composition changes. Ireland's modern day coinage was issued in 1928 after years of planning by a committee, whose chairman was W.B Yeats.

Irish Sixpence for Her Shoe - Wedding TraditionThe sixpence featured the Brian Boru harp on one side and an Irish wolf hound on the other; it was minted from copper and nickel that created a silver color coin. The coin was issued sporadically until 1969.

In 1971, Ireland abandoned the pounds -shilling - pence monetary system and introduced the decimal system.

The Irish sixpence is still affectionately held as a talisman and timeless keepsake. This coin is no longer in circulation; however, The Irish Gift House, has a limited supply that is presented with an Irish sixpence history card.

The Irish Gift House also offers a complete line of Irish wedding gifts and you may also wish to visit our Irish wedding traditions page.

Friday, August 17, 2018

W B Yeats - Horseman Pass By

W B Yeats was born June 13, 1865 and died January 28, 1939.
W B Yeats Horseman Pass By
The final resting place for the Irish poet is Drumcliff Church in Co. Sligo, located on Ireland's Atlantic coast, with Ben Bulbin mountain in the background.

Under Ben Bulbin is the title of one of his poems from which the following verse is taken:

Under bare Ben Bulbin's head is Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.
An ancestor was rector there 
Long years ago, a church stands near, 
By the road an ancient cross.
No marble, no conventional phrase;
On limestone quarried near the spot
By his command these words are cut:
"Cast a cold eye
On life on death
Horseman pass by".

William Butler Yeats, son of the painter John Butler Yeats, was born in Dublin in 1865. Considered Ireland's greatest poet, and also perhaps the best poet in the English language since Wordsworth, he began his career as "one of the last Romantic" to quote his own description.

Many of his early poems, both wistful and mysterious, are of haunting beauty. But in the early 1900's he began to direct his energy to the twin causes of the Irish literary renaissance and Irish national independence. A new style emerged in his writing, austere, but capable of sustained magnificence, dealing with a wide range of human experience including the momentous public events which occurred in Ireland during his lifetime.

He was a founder member and first president of the national Theatre Company, The Abbey, and also served as a member of the Irish Senate.

In 1923 he won the Noble prize for literature. He died in France in 1939 and was interred as he wished in Drumcliff churchyard in 1948. His gravestone bears the epitaph as he had directed.

Cast a cold eye
On life on death
Horseman pass by.

The Irish Gift House routinely posts about Irish customs and culture on our BlogSpot

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Flight of the Earls

In the 17th century, Irish Catholic Nobility fled Ireland for service in France and Spain along with other Catholic Countries. This military migration, which began with he Flight of the Earls, O'Neill and O'Connell, in 1607, three years after the battle of Kinsale, led to a situation where there was no continental European state without Irish men serving in its army, often in Irish regiments that were called Irish brigades. This was particularly so after the Williamite wars when in 1691, 14,000 Irish soldiers went to France alone.
The Flight of the Earls

Red Hugh O'Neill was the most powerful of the Irish Chieftains at the end of the 16th century. His father, Matthey, Baron of Dungannon, was loyal to Queen Elizabeth I, and in accordance with the Queen's wishes, he sent his son at an early age to England to be educated. It was hoped that the learning and training he would receive there would make him a firm supporter of the English rule in Ireland.

On his return to Ireland the Queen created him Earl of Tyrone in 1585. He appeared to be an active supporter of the English and in 1593 he took part in the battle between the English and Irish at Belleek on the River Erne.

However, O'Neill secretly planned for the overthrow of English dominance in Ireland, but he knew that this could not be achieved without unity among themselves along with aid from Spain or France. He was elected Chieftain of Tyrone in 1593. He spend much time creating unity among the Chieftains, and particularly, smoothing out difference between himself and O'Donnell of Tirchonaill (Donegal) and Maguire of Fermanagh.

In 1594 Maguire laid siege in Enniskilllen and defeated an English garrison who had held it for a number of years. In the same year O'Donnell's army moved south and captured the province of Connaught, while O'Neill defeated the English in the battles in Monaghan and Cavan.

After these encounters there was comparative peace in Ulster until 1597 when a three-pronged attack was made on the northern province from Connaght by the new Governor, Conyers Clifford. His army was defeated at Ballyshannon by O'Donnell, Maguire and O'Rourke of Leitrim. Another army advanced from the midlands and was defeated at Mullingar, while O'Neill routed the third army at Drum Fluch in Armagh.

In 1598 the English suffered their greatest defeat at the hands of the Irish at the Battle of Yellow Ford on the Blackwater in Co. Tryone.  This victory, led by O'Neill, encouraged all the Irish Chieftains supporting the English to rebel, with the result that the English retreated to within the Pale, an area around Dublin not more than 30 miles by 20.

Queen Elizabeth employed all the resources at her command to defeat this new Irish unity, and in 1599 she sent over an army of 18,000 men under the Earl of Exxes to engage O'Neill, whom she regarded as her arch enemy. Instead, Essex sent an army of 7,000 south from Dublin, which was defeated in Co. Laois. Elizabeth was enraged and again ordered him to march against O'Neill, and when their two armies finally met on the opposite banks of the River Lagan they negotiated a truce. Essex failed so badly that he was recalled to England and was later executed for raising a revolt against the Queen.

During the six years of this almost continual war O'Neill has been waiting for aid from Spain. The long promised help arrived at last in 1601 when a Spanish fleet with 3,000 men sailed into Kinsale harbor. A month later another fleet with 1,000 men arrived in Co. Cork. O'Neill was disappointed at the size of the aid and at the location where they had chose to land. He would have preferred to have them land in Ulster, where his army was strong, instead of Munster where his allies were weak.
The English marched on Kinsale and besieged the Spaniards there, while O'Neill and O'Donnell marched south. Near the end of 1601, through bad lick and treachery, the fate of Ireland was sealed for generations to come by the victory of the English at the battle of Kinsale.

O'Donnell went to Spain to seek further aid from King Philip III and while there he was poisoned by an English agent. O'Neill returned to Tyrone where he fought on, but in 1603 he submitted and was granted an amnesty and restoration of his territory by King James I.

In 1607 O'Neill and Rory O'Donnell, the new chieftain of Tirchonaill, received warning that they were about to be arrested. They took flight, and on September 14, 1607, they sailed out of Lough Swilly in Co. Donegal with their families and about 100 faithful followers for France. Both Earls eventually died in Rome, O'Donnell in 1608, and O'Neill in 1616.

Sometime during the 19th century The Flight of the Earls was later coined with a poetic name, The Flight of the Wild Geese.

The Irish Gift House is proud to offer a Celtic goblet, along with a Celtic tankard, that commemorates the The Flight of the Earls. These Mullingar Pewter gifts are lead free and are hand crafted in Ireland; these vessels represent just two of our many Irish bar-ware gifts. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

Irish Symbols

Favorite Irish Symbols
Irish Symbols - Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross

The best known icon of early Christianity in Ireland, and one of the best representations from medieval Ireland, is the Celtic cross. Early Celtic crosses were often found at churchyards and are self-contained monuments that were generally sculptured form sandstone, some standing as tall as twenty feet.

Many Celtic crosses, such as the Cross of Scriptures at Clonmacnoise and the 16th century Celtic Cross at Monasterboice, featured ornate figure carving, but the chief characteristic feature is the circle connecting the arms.

Today, you will find that Celtic wall crosses are very popular for the home and many who honor their Irish heritage wear a Celtic cross necklace.

Claddagh Rings

Early 16th century legend tells that a fishing boat, from the village of Claddagh in County Galway,
Irish Symbols - Claddagh Rings
Ireland, was captured by pirates and the crew taken as slaves. One of the crew-members, Richard Joyce, was to have been married the same week he was captured. His bride-to-be was inconsolable.

Years went by and Richard became a master of his trade as a gold-smith. His skillful hands shaped a unique ring for the girl he could never forget. The design of the Claddagh ring was born of their love. At the center a heart, symbolizing their love, on top a crown, symbolizing their loyalty, and two hands holding the heart, symbolizing the caring friendship they shared.

After eight years, Richard escaped and returned to his native village of Claddagh. He found, to his great joy, that the girl he could not forget had not forgotten him and she had never married. He gave to her the special ring he had crafted. They married soon afterwards, never to be separated again.

Claddagh rings along with Claddagh wedding bands are very popular as wedding rings; although, they are also often given and worn as a symbol of friendship. 

Irish Symbols - ShamrocksShamrock

In ancient times the shamrock was highly revered by the Druids of processing mystical powers. The three leaves were considered a natural sign of the sacred number three. Many believed wearing the shamrock would give them luck and keep harm away.. 

The legend of St. Patrick states that Patrick plucked a shamrock from the ground to explain the belief in the Holy Trinity. With the explanation of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all combined as one, Patrick was able to convert the Irish to Christianity.

As the shamrock blankets the ground of Ireland it has become the most notable symbol of the Emerald Island. From shamrock wall hangings to shamrock jewelry, this Irish symbol is displayed as a sense of pride.

St. Brigid's Cross

St. Brigid was born during the mid-fifth century. She was the daughter of Dubhtach, a Leinster pagan chieftain, and a slave woman. It is believed that she was a contemporary of St. Patrick, who converted her to Catholicism.  St. Brigid founded a monastery in Kildare, Ireland and is remembered for her great charity and kindness and is second only to St. Patrick, among Ireland’s heritage of
Irish Symbols - St. Brigid's Cross
Saints.  Thousands of Irish woman are named Brigid in her honor.  St. Brigid’s feast day, February 1, corresponds with Imbolc, the Celtic feast of purification and renewal.

The most enduring image of St. Brigid is the St. Brigid’s Cross. In her endeavor to explain the Passion of Christ to her father, a dying pagan, she wove a cross from the straw-like rushes strewn on the floor.  

In those early Christian times the farmers adopted the custom of making these same crosses at the beginning of spring to protect their holdings, placing the handmade St. Brigid's cross in prominent positions in their houses and barns. The tradition of making the crosses on St. Brigid's Day, February 1st, continues to the present day in Ireland and abroad.  The St. Brigid’s Cross is believed to protect homes from want and evil.

You will also find that St. Brigid's cross necklaces, along with 
St. Brigid's cross charms, are popular Christian symbols that are worn as jewelry. 

Celtic Knot

Irish Symbols - Celtic KnotCeltic knot-work embodies a richness and pureness of ancient Celtic times. It dates back as far as the 5th century and was used extensively by the medieval monks to illuminate the world famous Book of Kells manuscripts. 

The interlaced unbroken lines symbolize man's spiritual growth, external life, and never ending love - having no beginning and no end. Each twist and turn has its individual magical and mystic qualities.

In addition to illustrations you will find these intricate designs are fashionable as Celtic jewelry along with tattoos. 

Irish Symbols - LeprechaunLeprechauns

Leprechauns are a type of fairy that are derived from the Tuatha Dé Danann, a supernatural race in Irish mythology.

They are mischievous little men who are often depicted with red beards while wearing a coat and hat. Cobblers by trade, Leprechauns spend most of their time making and mending shoes. These solitary fairies are known through legend to have a pot of gold hidden at the end of the rainbow. A leprechaun will often grant three wishes in exchange for his freedom should he be caught by a human.

Irish Blessings

The Irish have a blessing or toast for every occasion and every celebration including those that hall mark the milestones in life.  From greetings to marriage and even death, a well-expressed verse in the form of a proverb or an anecdotal saying is sure to be had.

These Irish blessings often employ a bit of Irish laughter or the sentiment of days gone by, but they are almost certain to bring a smile to your face. 
Irish Symbols - Blessings

Even when addressing their adversaries the Irish put their signature touch on the subject so that even in a curse there is a blessing for someone. This artful use of the tongue is often referred to as Irish diplomacy.

Irish blessings are passed down from one generation to the next, memorized and presented in verbal fashion; however there is no shortage of Irish blessing gifts, including Irish blessing plaques, that feature these eloquent proverbs. 

The quintessential Irish blessing offers the following verse:

May the road rise to meet you. 
May the wind be always at your back. 
May the sun shine warm upon your face, 
The rains fall soft upon your fields and, 
Until, we meet again, 

May God hold you in the hallow of His hand.

Tree of Life

Irish Symbols - Tree of LifeIn the Gaelic language the Tree of Life is known as Crann Bethadh. The ancient Celts believed that trees are the foundation of life and held mystical powers which represented balance and harmony in all worlds, connecting heaven, earth and the underworld.

The tree branches reach in search of learning and knowledge.
The trunk symbolizes strength,
Its flowers and fruit renewed growth

and its deep roots represent our ancient Celtic heritage.

You may express your own ancient Celtic heritage with a Tree of Life gift or by wearing Tree of Life jewelry.


Irish Symbols - GuinnessSt. James’ Gate in Dublin, Ireland, became the home of Guinness in 1759 when Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease for £45 per year. By 1838 St. James’ Gate became the largest brewery in Ireland and by 1914 the Dublin brewery was the largest in the world. 

To this day Guinness remains the largest brewer of stout in the world. The black porter is omnipresent in Irish culture and it is universally related to Ireland. Every pub, Irish or not, that is worth its salt serves Guinness. 

Those who imbibe in this dark brew have given the brand a loyal following and often wear or display Guinness merchandise.
This collection of Irish symbols is far from complete, but it includes many of the favorites of The Irish Gift House.   

Friday, July 20, 2018

Irish Flat Caps

The flat cap is the ubiquitous head-wear for an Irishman; it is a rounded woolen cap with a small stiff
Irish Flat Caps
brim in the front. The flat cap is very comfortable to wear and it is able to take a beating while providing many years of use. The cap is woven of Irish wool in various tweeds along with solid colors and even patches to create a patch cap.

The flat cap had been considered the typical Irish cap for those in various trades; however, it is now stylish for those of any stature. The Irish flat cap has gone from working class to mainstream.

The Irish flat cap is also commonplace on the golf course. The popularity increasing with golfing greats, such as Ben Hogan and Walter Hagen, wearing these Irish wool caps on the links. Could wearing this iconic cap improve your game?

Over the years the Irish flat cap has taken on many nicknames such as scully cap along with driving cap and newsboy cap.   

The woolen flat cap has been fashionable for centuries but there is an ironic twist as to how it gained popularity in Ireland. In 1571, the English Parliament, in an endeavor to force an increase in domestic wool consumption, and its subsequent increased tax collection, enacted a law that decreed all males over the age of 6 to wear woolen head-wear on Sundays and holidays. Those in violation received a fine of 3 farthings per day. Ireland was under English rule and domination during this period of time, so the edict was also imposed upon the Irish.  

The Act was repealed in 1597, but by then the flat cap had become resolutely ingrained in Irish society.

The Irish Gift House is proud to offer a collection of Irish made flat caps that are available in 7 different colors and styles.    

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


The blackthorn tree root forms the knob on the Shillelagh that was historically used as a poor man's
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 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

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

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 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.

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.

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.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Claddagh Ring - Perfect Valentine's Day Gift

St. Valentine's Day is rapidly approaching so we will let you in on a little secret. More Claddagh rings are given on February 14th than on any other day of the year. The reason is because those in love, along with those hopeful of love, know that a Claddagh ring is the perfect Valentine's Day gift.
A Claddagh ring is the perfect Valentine's Day gift.

This iconic Irish ring made its first appearance in 16th century Ireland when a fisherman by the name of Richard Joyce was captured and enslaved. During his captivity he fashioned a unique ring for the girl he left behind in their beloved town of Claddagh in the west of Galway. Eventually Joyce escaped and returned to his love; he gave her the ring and they lived happily ever after.
The Claddagh ring history alone qualifies the design as a gift of affection, but there is so much more to our story. There are three elements to a Claddagh ring; the heart in the center that symbolizes love, the crown above the heart that symbolizes loyalty and the hands cradling the heart that symbolizes friendship. These three ingredients are combined in a recipe for romance.
Another focal point of a Claddagh ring is known as the Galway Folklore which relates to how the ring is worn.  Sure it is worn on a finger, but the location along with the direction of the ring, indicates if your heart is taken or not.

When a Claddagh ring is worn on the right hand with the heart closest to your heart a special comment to someone is indicated; however, when worn on the right hand with the heart outward it is an indication that your heart is yet unoccupied.
A Claddagh worn on the ring finger of the left  hand with its heart closest to your heart is worn as a Claddagh wedding ring; however, it should be considered a Claddagh engagement ring when worn on the same finger with the heart away from your heart.
According to the legend, the first design was a gold Claddagh ring, but sterling silver Claddagh rings are also extremely popular and any would make an exceptional St. Valentine's Day gift.
Ladies may also give one of these unique Irish designs to the special guy in their life as there is a abundant selection of men'sCladdagh rings that includes several masculine styles that feature Celtic knot-work.

One last thought to make your Valentine's Day gift truly special; make sure that your ring is crafted in Ireland. Every Claddagh ring from The Irish Gift House is made in Ireland and has been hallmarked by the Irish Assay Office that is located at Dublin Castle.