From not taking a compliment, to saying thanks to the bus driver, and observing Women’s Little Christmas which happens every January 6, the Irish people despite innovation, civilization and exposure to other cultures have kept to their traditions. Something rare but worthy of commendation.
The Irish people belong to The Republic of Ireland which is the second largest island of the British Isles. Irish is the common term of reference for the country’s citizens, its national culture, and its national language. While Irish national culture is relatively homogeneous when compared to multinational and multicultural states elsewhere, Irish people recognize both some minor and some significant cultural distinctions that are internal to the country and to the island. In 1922 Ireland, which until then had been part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, was politically divided into the Irish Free State (later the Republic of Ireland) and Northern Ireland, which continued as part of the renamed United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland occupies the remaining sixth of the island.
Irish culture is rich, diverse, and a joy to discover. It includes language, myths, music, literature, dance, art, and cuisine. Originally the culture was purely Gaelic, but became influenced by the English, Tudor English, Scots, Normans, and Vikings. Northern Ireland’s culture was heavily influenced by the Scots.
So, what are the pillars that hold the foundation of the irish culture so firmly in their roots?
Older than the great pyramids at Giza are Irish artworks sighted at a museum in Newgrange, In the Bronze Age, 3300 – 1200 BC, ornamental gold Celtic brooches give us a peek into a civilization long gone. The Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript kept at Trinity College, was created around 800 AD. The lettering is in iron gall ink and some colors were imported from exotic locales. Christian symbols are interspersed with mythological beasts and complex Celtic knots.
Celtic knots are often seen in Irish art, both ancient and present. These images have no beginning and no end, representing the eternal nature of loyalty, friendship, and faith. Now often displayed in jewelry, they are inscribed on ancient tombstones throughout the country. Irish artists today are at the cutting edge, combining the feel of a lush countryside and turbulent history in their work.
Folktales and myths:
To prove the deeply rooted pillar of folktales and myths, the Irish were said to have exported Halloween to America. It has its roots in the Gaelic festival called Samhain. During this autumn time, people felt the veil between this world and the one beyond was quite thin, making it possible for the dead to visit the living. Children dressed in costumes, asking for money or food, turnips were hollowed out, and faces were carved on them for lanterns.
Irish is the oldest language in Europe (before Brexit) after Greek and Latin. Ireland’s first poems were written in the 6th century. The country is small, but mighty. Four Nobel Prize winners are Irish, including George Bernard Shaw, Yeats, Samuel Beckett, and Seamus Heaney.
From busy corners in vibrant Dublin to small cottage towns, Ireland has a wealth of storytellers. There are numerous storytelling events that tourists enjoy even in a local pub.
Ireland’s Gaelic language, known as Gaelige, is in the group of Celtic languages, and it is one of the oldest written languages history has recorded. It was first seen inscribed in the 4th century AD, and it ranged from all of Ireland to the west coast of Great Britain. It continued to be the Irish people’s first language until the late 18th century. There are still rural pockets in western Ireland where Irish is spoken as a first language.
Today, a growing number of people in Dublin are learning and speaking Irish because knowing the language has become a matter of pride, and it’s often taught in schools. In 2016 alone, Duolingo (a language learning app) reported an increased interest in learning Irish, worldwide.
There is nothing like traditional Irish music and the country’s pub culture. It is a family/ community affair. One very good instance that proved the strength of their tradition was when there was a shift from Irish music in the 1960’s to American and British rock and roll, Ireland did what it has always done when faced with outside influences. It folded the new in with the traditional. Rockers such as U2 and Van Morrison are pure Irish, and they draw from their Celtic Roots.
History has it that the English country dancing and French quadrilles was taught by dance masters who traveled throughout Ireland in the 17th and 18th century. Dance grew until it became important in Irish culture and in nationalist movements. The music drives the dance, making the shoes pound out the rhythm. In step dancing, the dancer’s body is straight and stiff, and it is performed high on the balls of the feet. Very athletic!
In the history books, it was recorded that in 1589, Sir Walter Raleigh brought potato farming to Ireland. Before then, wheat, oats, barley, and flatbread were Irish staples. With its fine fields for cattle, dairy and beef have been mainstays for centuries.
Today, traditional dishes, such as stews and colcannon, are being reinvented by world-renowned chefs. These chefs have also created new Irish cuisine, using only locally sourced fish, shellfish, vegetables, herbs, seaweed, and beef.
A visit to the land of the Irish is a step into the distant past and an experience of the vibrant present, all revealed through her culture.
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