Halloween, Interesting Stories, Irish Traditions

IRISH HALLOWEEN TRADITION – BARMBRACK

There are many Irish Halloween traditions in Ireland. One of my favorites is barmbrack.
Barmbrack is at the very core of the Irish Halloween traditions. The Halloween Brack, much like Christmas pudding traditionally contained various objects baked into the sweet bread. These various items were used as fortune-telling. In the barmbrack items like a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a small coin (originally a silver sixpence) and a ring were traditionally used. When an item is received in the slice, had a meaning for that person. For instance if you got the pea, the person would not marry that year, the stick, you’ll have an unhappy marriage , the cloth or rag meant bad luck or you’ll be poor; the coin of course meant you’ll have good fortune or be rich and the ring, meant you would be wed within the year. Other items also added to the brack were medals, usually of the Virgin Mary to symbolize going into the priesthood or becoming a nun, although this tradition isn’t very popular today.

Recipe
INGREDIENTS

1 teaspoon dry active yeast
⅔ cup/158 milliliters lightly warmed milk
1 egg, beaten
1 ⅔ cups/214 grams all-purpose flour, plus flour for dusting
¼ teaspoon cinnamon 12002851_1068039236547381_8260594681565605031_n
¼ teaspoon clove
¼ teaspoon mace ( Mace is made from the lacy, red outer coating that covers the shell around the nutmeg kernel. )
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons/28 grams unsalted butter, softened, more for greasing pan
¼ cup/50 grams granulated sugar
½ cup/75 grams golden raisins
½ cup/75 grams black raisins
½ cup/75 grams currants
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon grated orange zest

In a small bowl, whisk the yeast and milk together. Leave it to bubble slowly in a warm spot 10 minutes, then whisk in the beaten egg.
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, put the flour, cinnamon, clove, mace, salt, butter and sugar. Mix well, incorporating butter with fingertips (or paddle, if using mixer) until absorbed.
Pour the yeast-milk-egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon (or dough hook, with mixer).
When the dough begins to come together, add the raisins, currants, lemon zest and orange zest, then mix to combine. It will be somewhat sticky dough. Dust lightly with flour, turn out onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes until the dough feels smooth. Pat dough into a rectangle.
Butter a loaf pan and lay in the dough, pushing down so dough covers bottom of pan. Stretch plastic wrap loosely over pan and put in a warm place, covered with a kitchen towel, for about an hour, until doubled in size. Uncover.
Heat oven to 350 degrees and center a rack in the oven. Bake loaf on the centered rack for 45 minutes, until well browned. Carefully tip the loaf out of the pan onto a cooling rack. To tell whether it’s done, thump the bottom of the loaf with your fingertips; it should sound hollow. Let cool to room temperature before slicing, if possible. ( NYT recipe)

 

Happy Halloween!

To wish someone a happy Halloween, you can say:

Oíche Shamhna Shona Duit (EE-hyeh HOW-nuh HUN-uh ditch*)

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Celtic Holidays, Celtic Legends, Irish Traditions

The Feast of Saint Brigid

Ireland’s very own patron saint St. Brigid’s Feast Day is February 1st also as Imbolc.  Imbolc or Imbolg, is a Gaelic festival that traditional marks the start of warmer days and the arrival of spring.  It also the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Saint Brigid of Kildare is Ireland’s most important female saints. Saint Brigid was born Brigit, and shares her name with a Celtic goddess from whom many legends and folk customs are associated.

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Celtic Legends, Halloween, Irish Traditions

The Origins of Halloween Costumes

On Halloween night children would dress up in scary costumes and go house to house. ‘Help the Halloween Party’ and ‘Trick or Treat’ were the cries to be heard at each door.

This tradition of wearing costumes also dates back to Celtic times. On the special night when the living and the dead were at their closest the Celtic Druids would dress up in elaborate costumehalloween kidss to disguise themselves as spirits and devils in case they encountered other devils and spirits during the night. By disguising they hoped that they would be able to avoid being carried away at the end of the night. This explains why witches, goblins and ghosts remain the most popular choices for the costumes.

Celtic Legends, Halloween, Irish Traditions

The Dullahan, the Irish Headless Horseman

Have you ever heard about “The Dullahan”, the Irish Headless Horseman?

The Irish legend of the Dullahan, or English translation “dark man” is unnerving. The AdobeStock_56147609.jpegHeadless Horseman or Dullahan is the Irish foreteller of death. The Dullahan rides a jet black horse with flames shooting from its eyes, carrying his head under one arm. Irish folklore says that when he stops riding, a human dies.
There are many versions of this scary tale. Some say that the Dullahan throws buckets of blood at people he passes, while other say he simply calls out the name of the mortal that will soon die.


But as with most evil entities the Dullahan has a weakness. The Dullahan can not stand the sight of GOLD. So you would be wise when traveling on this Halloween to carry a wee bit of in case you have a run-in with this headless horror!
Celtic Holidays, Celtic Legends, Halloween, Interesting Stories, Irish Traditions

The Pooka In Irish Folklore

The púca (Irish for spirit/ghost), pooka, phouka, phooka, phooca, puca or púka is primarily a creature of Celtic folklore. Considered to be bringers both of good and bad fortune, they could either help or hinder rural and marine communities.The Púca can have dark or staunch white fur or hair. The creatures were said to be shape changers which could take the appearance of horses, goats, cats, dogs, and hares. They may also take a human form, which includes various animal features, such as ears or a tail.

The Phooka
Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee

 

Celtic Legends, Halloween, Irish Traditions

Irish Halloween Traditions

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Samhain (pronounced /ˈsɑːwɪn/ SAH-win or /ˈsaʊ.ɪn/ SOW-in, Irish pronunciation: [sˠəuɪnʲ]) is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year. Traditionally, it is celebrated from 31 October to 1 November, as the Celtic day began and ended at sunset.
Colcannon for Dinner:
Boiled Potato, Curly Kale (a cabbage) and raw Onions are provided as the traditional Irish Halloween dinner. Clean coins are wrapped in baking paper and placed in the potato for children to find and keep.
The Barnbrack Cake:
The traditional Halloween cake in Ireland is the barnbrack which is a fruit bread. Each member of the family gets a slice. Great interest is taken in the outcome as there is a piece of rag, a coin and a ring in each cake. If you get the rag then your financial future is doubtful. If you get the coin then you can look forward to a prosperous year. Getting the ring is a sure sign of impending romance or continued happiness.
The Ivy Leaf:
Each member of the family places a perfect ivy leaf into a cup of water and it is then left undisturbed overnight. If, in the morning, a leaf is still perfect and has not developed any spots then the person who placed the leaf in the cup can be sure of 12 months health until the following Halloween. If not…..
The Pumpkin:
Carving Pumpkins dates back to the eighteenth century and to an Irish blacksmith named Jack who colluded with the Devil and was denied entry to Heaven. He was condemned to wander the earth but asked the Devil for some light. He was given a burning coal ember which he placed inside a turnip that he had gouged out.Thus, the tradition of Jack O’ Lanterns was born – the bearer being the wandering blacksmith – a damned soul. Villagers in Ireland hoped that the lantern in their window would keep the wanderer away. When the Irish emigrated in their millions to America there was not a great supply of turnips so pumpkins were used instead.
Halloween Costumes:
On Halloween night children would dress up in scary costumes and go house to house. ‘Help the Halloween Party’ and ‘Trick or Treat’ were the cries to be heard at each door. This tradition of wearing costumes also dates back to Celtic times. On the special night when the living and the dead were at their closest the Celtic Druids would dress up in elaborate costumes to disguise themselves as spirits and devils in case they encountered other devils and spirits during the night. By disguising they hoped that they would be able to avoid being carried away at the end of the night. This explains why witches, goblins and ghosts remain the most popular choices for the costumes.
Snap Apple:
After the visits to the neighbours the Halloween games begin, the most popular of which is Snap Apple. An apple is suspended from a string and children are blindfolded. The first child to get a decent bite of the apple gets to keep their prize. The same game can be played by placing apples in a basin of water and trying to get a grip on the apple without too much mess!
The Bonfire:
The Halloween bonfire is a tradition to encourage dreams of who your future husband or wife is going to be. The idea was to drop a cutting of your hair into the burning embers and then dream of you future loved one. Halloween was one of the Celt ‘fire’ celebrations.
Blind Date:
Blindfolded local girls would go out into the fields and pull up the first cabbage they could find. If their cabbage had a substantial amount of earth attached to the roots then their future loved one would have money. Eating the cabbage would reveal the nature of their future husband – bitter or sweet!

Another way of finding your future spouse is to peel an apple in one go. If done successfully the single apple peel could be dropped on the floor to reveal the initials of the future-intended.

Anti-Fairy Measures:
Fairies and goblins try to collect as many souls as they can at Halloween but if they met a person who threw the dust from under their feet at the Fairy then they would be obliged to release any souls that they held captive.Holy Water:

Holy water was sometimes anointed on farm animals to keep them safe during the night. If the animals were showing signs of ill health on All Hallows Eve then they would be spat on to try to ward off any evil spirits.

Celtic Legends, Irish Traditions, St. Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day from an Irish Perspective

Ah, Valentine’s Day. The first thing that comes to mind is a heart-shaped box of cheap chocolates that should be directly applied to one’s hips. And then there is that sweet little cupid. He’s an overweight angel 538317_10152572375170245_1591362128_naiming a bow and arrow at you to inspire you to fall blissfully in love. I mean, let’s face it. Cupid’s arrow is a weapon that literally and metaphorically could be the death of you. But all jokes aside, do you even know why we actually celebrate Valentine’s Day? I didn’t think so.

The Legend of Saint Valentine
In ancient Rome, the date February 14th was a holiday to honor the Roman Goddess of women and marriage. The next day was celebrated as the pagan Roman Feast of Lupercalia. During this time in Roman history, young adults were strictly segregated by sex. No surprise, it was 269 AD. Eventually they needed to give their hormones a chance to flourish. So it was customary on the eve of the feast of Lupercalia for young men and woman to be partnered for the feast by the men picking the girls’ names from a jar. Sometimes the pairing lasted for a year and with the young couples falling romantically in love and eventually marring. It was all very sexist in a provocative way.

Unfortunately, this didn’t last for long. This euphoric ritual of hormonal teenage partnering would come to an abrupt end during the tyrannical rule of Emperor Claudius II, also known as Claudius the cruel. Emperor Claudius had Rome fighting in many bloody and unpopular battles and was having grave difficulty recruiting soldiers to sustain his military forces. In his warped mind, Claudius believed the reason he couldn’t get soldiers was due to women. He convinced himself that the men’s love of his family, wife, or girlfriend prevented them from leaving there side and joining the military. It had nothing to do with the litsq vday 250x250tle matter that they didn’t want to die a savage death for an Emperor they despised.

Fun-loving Emperor Claudius proceeded to cancel all pending and future marriages and engagements in Rome. Claudius then made it a crime punishable by death to associate with Christians.

Legend has it, no doubt a wee bit embellished if not entirely fictional, that Valentine was stricken with the unbearable belief that many young souls would be destined to be sinners. So Valentine, a roman priest, married young lovers against Claudius’s decree in secrecy. He was of course apprehended and condemned to death for his deeds. He suffered martyrdom on the 14th day of February, in either 269 AD or 270 AD. Nobody really knows what yearly exactly, but they know the date was February 14th, now known as Valentine’s Day.

So where is St. Valentine now?
Ireland, duh! Wha1523930_10153754048730245_1993977392_ot you may not know for some unknown reason is that St. Valentine’s remains are rumored to be buried in Dublin, Ireland. How do you like that wee bit of useless knowledge?

The Carmelite Church on Whitefriar Street in Dublin City claims to hold the remains of St Valentine. The Carmelites are a small community in the monastery attached to Whitefriar Street Church. Saint Valentine’s remain were given to the Carmelites in 1835 by Pope Gregory XVI.

Oh, the Irish are wonderful folk. They just about have their hands in everything good and pleasurable. Not only did they give us spooktacular holidays like Halloween and fantastic Christmas traditions like the wreath on our on the front doors, but they also houscladdag rings NEW CATALOG 4.75x4.75_catalog_2014e the remains of St. Valentine! The romantic patron saint of lovers whose feast day has become so commercialized it actually makes Christmas seem, well, less commercial by comparison. In any event, Board Failte wouldn’t be doing their job if it didn’t see the Euro signs in the fact that Dublin, Ireland’s capital, is the last resting place of the beloved Saint of Love. It virtually makes Ireland a must-do pilgrimage for lovers. I mean, after all, the Irish did give us the claddagh ring, too. The claddagh is the one and only symbol of eternal friendship, love, and loyalty. The story of the claddagh is a story for another day or blog. Anyway, its romantic, symbolic meaning makes it a no brainer gift for men to give, especially on Valentine’s Day. Cowinkydink?

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Irish New Year Traditions, Irish Traditions

Irish New Years Tradition

New Year’s Day in Ireland also is known as the Day of the Buttered Bread. It’s called “La na gCeapairi”, Gaelic for “Day of the Buttered Bread” or “Day of the Sandwich”.

Irish tradition says buttered bread placed outside the front door

Baked Breadsymbolizes an absence of hunger in the household, and presumably for the year to come.

Barm Brack (a fruit bread) is baked especially to be smashed against the door by the man of the house, to banish hunger from the land in the new year.

It is also said to chase the bad luck out of a house and to invite good spirits in.

 

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Celtic Holidays, Celtic Jewelry, Irish Christmas, Irish Jewelry, Irish Traditions

Carry On Celtic Tradition. Give traditional Celtic jewelry steeped in symbolism and meaning.

 give traditional Celtic symbols and their meanings

claddagh jewelry xmas 2

Claddagh Ring

The Claddagh Story….. A short history of the Claddagh ring. Long ago a young man was captured and sold into slavery from the fishing village of Claddagh. Many years passed and he wondered if his true love would wait for him. Over the years he stole tiny bits of gold from his master to make her a ring. He fashioned a heart for love, a crown for loyalty and hands as a symbol of friendship. After many years he finally returned home to Claddagh. Upon his return and to his joy he discovered his true love had waited for him. He gave her the ring as a symbol of their love, loyalty and friendship forever known now as the Claddagh.

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Trinity Knot

The Trinity knot also known as the triquetra is a continuous interweaving triple knot symbolism no beginning or ending. The Celts believe the number three was sacred such as the three stages of life, the three elements; earth, sky and sea and three stages of time  being past present and future.  Later the Christians adopted the symbol to represent the Holy Trinity. In modern times the Trinity knot is now interpreted as the Irish love knot.

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Wild Irish Rose

The Wild Irish Rose is a celebration of the sturdy, self-reliant and gorgeous Irish women past, present and future.

Like the song says….. “My Wild Irish Rose, The sweetest flower that grows. You may search everywhere, But none can compare with My Wild Irish Rose”

Excerpt from the song My Wild Irish Rose written by Chauncey Olcott.

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Tree of Life

The sacred tree or Tree of Life was a central part of early Celtic spirituality. The sacred Tree of Life represented the fruitfulness of the earth, evoking spiritual growth and rebirth. Trees provided the Celts with a source for basic sustenance. Without trees, life for the Celts would have been difficult. The Celts believed the Tree of Life was rooted in the heart of the earth and that it drank the sacred waters of life. The Tree of Life stretched its branches into the heavens bridging earthly and celestial powers. Every Celtic tribe had its own sacred tree as a symbol of sovereignty, sacred wisdom and spiritual growth.

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Celtic Cross

The Celtic Cross is viewed as a symbol of faith synonymous with the Irish culture. Legend also says St. Patrick, while preaching Christianity drew a cross through a Celtic circle symbolic of the moon Goddess. Hence the Celtic cross was born. Today the circle of the cross is viewed as a of God’s endless love.

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Shamrock

The shamrock is the traditional symbol or Ireland. The shamrock forms a triad and the Celts believed three was a mystical number. Saint Patrick used the shamrock to explain the holy Trinity to the Celts. If good things come in threes then this silver 3-leafed shamrock pendant in beautiful emerald green is definitely a good thing.

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Celtic Sisters Knot

The Celtic Sisters Knot is a symbol of sisterhood and the strong, eternal bond we share with our sisters and friends. The intricate Celtic knot heart is an unbroken line symbolic of an everlasting love. The stylized triquetra or triple spiral, woven within the Celtic knot heart symbolizes the three stages of woman. The three stages of woman are maid, mother and wise woman. Where are you and your sisters on the spiral of life? Celebrate the powerful, life long bond of friendship between women with our Sisters Knot.


Celtic Knot

A Celtic knot is a stylized representation of an endless knot used for decoration by the Celts. There are eight basic types of knots. They have no religious or philosophical meaning other then representing the endless intricacy of humanity and nature. Spirals are the earliest decorative motif of the Celts and the first to disappear. Death and rebirth is the symbolism in the ever changing directional flow of the spiral.

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Triskele

The triple spiral design of the triskele is associated with the Celts of Ireland and can be seen on the ancient site of Newgrange, in County Meath. Dating from 3200 BC, before the arrival of the Celts in Ireland, Newgrange contains carvings of the beautiful triple spiral design. Today the triskele is still used in Irish craft as a symbol with enduring meaning and beauty.

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