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.