The Celtic Cross

Celtic crosses are found dotted all across Ireland and are a unique piece of Irish culture that remind us of our religious and creative Irish back ground that anybody Irish has. Celtic high crosses can be found in every county in Ireland and some are more famous than others.

Saint PatrickThe Celtic cross was introduced by saint Patrick to help convert pagan Ireland to Christianity in the 1600’s which lead to the wide spread construction of hundreds of Celtic crosses in monasteries around the tiny Island of Ireland which have been left behind by the monks as a great Irish gift.

Often a Celtic cross will have many depictions on it from the bible and also the daily lives of the monks and their devotion to their religion. You will also see engraved symbols and designs form the Celtic era making them unique as monks and stone cutters would have spent months if not years working on these astounding monuments which have stood tall for hundreds of years.

Cross of the ScripturesSome of the most famous Celtic crosses are found in monasteries in Ireland such as Glendalough in county Wicklow and the Clonmacnoise cross of the sculpture in county Offaly which are all breath taking pieces of stone work considering they were made hundreds of years ago. Of course the Celtic cross is so famous it has been found in multiple locations throughout Europe and has been used in numerous movements over the years.

Getting a celtic cross as a Irish gift is something to be cherished and is something unique to Irish heritage.

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Irish Blessings and Sayings

A unique Irish gift that many Irish people possess is the ability to have very wise and thoughtful things to say for particular situations. Often the Irish sense of humor is portrayed and the Irish tend to be able to add a little bit of sarcasm in many of their sayings.

stone age site where Irish saying would have been saidOne of the most popular places to hear Irish blessings is during weddings especially Irish ones of course and the meaning of these Irish blessings are very special and niche to the Irish people.

“Bless you and yours

As well as the cottage you live in.

May the roof overhead be well thatched

And those inside be well matched.”

And then of course there are the sayings that are full of knowledge and wisdom and have that unique Irish gift of sarcasm that the Irish are known for.

“May you be in heaven a half hour

before the devil knows your dead.”

Of course this Irish saying is playing with the idea that the usual mischievousness and devilment  of the Irish often lands them in trouble and knowing the luck of the Irish, hopefully the devil won’t notice when they pass away and that luck may be on their side.

“It’s no use carrying an umbrella if your shoes are leaking.”

Tom Crean a wise Irish manIt may not be the most intelligent phrase but it is very true to life and similar to something said by someone with lots knowledge. The phrase has deep meaning, – don’t do something that doesn’t help you situation. Of course there are hundreds of Irish phrases and Irish blessings that you can use on a daily basis.

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Christmas in Ireland

Ireland can be a magical place and is lively around the Christmas period especially in the heart of Ireland, Dublin. Ireland is predominantly catholic and this has brushed off on everything Irish, from Irish presents and Irish law right down to the way the Irish think. Christmas has always been a nice time of the year and this year is no exception.

What really makes Christmas in Ireland

2013-12-14 18.14.19In recent years Ireland has had mass emigration and every year thousands of people flood in from all over the world. The pubs fill and homes are decorated in celebration for their loved ones coming home and for the two or three weeks that this happens Ireland becomes a thriving nation again as people begin to celebrate the opportunity of seeing each other again and celebrating the fact they are home once more.

Towns and villages get into the festive spirit as well and try to make a push for those extra few bob that are floating around during Christmas in Ireland. Two iconic places that you can see this are the Dublin and Galway Christmas markets which have a magical feel of a winter wonderland. You can see amazing Marry-go rounds and enjoy a drink in many of the bars within the markets and experience the magic of Christmas in Ireland right in the epicentre.

The big day

Christmas DinnerOf course it all comes down to the day when you exchange Irish gifts with loved ones and show each other how much you mean to one another before you sit down to enjoy a massive feast of Irish turkey and our famous ham. Don’t forget about absolutely stuffing yourself and passing out on the couch.

Then out to meet all your friends and relatives on Saint Stephens’s day the 26th of December.

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Making Irish Connections through Irish Symbols

The Irish take their nationality very seriously and anybody with a remote connection seems to take their patriotism to and even more extreme. It is no wonder the Irish have sometimes been labelled as the “fighting Irish”. So when the presence of an Irish symbol appears it is more than likely that it will grab the attention of any Irish in the vicinity and connect all the Irish together which is a great Irish gift anyone from Ireland seems to have.

Finding the Irish Connection in an Irish Symbol

Irish BarNo matter where you are you will nearly always find a connection to Ireland. Either a sign post in Hawaii pointing towards a small town in Ireland or even somebody signing their name on the wall in the bar there is generally some sort of Irish symbol to be found. What is even more common is Irish bars which seem to be everywhere and you can be sure you can find Irish symbols in them

Irish symbols became important during the Stone Age when people use to use symbols to communicate by using the alphabet known as the Ogham. Celtic symbols were also found on the Irish currency up until recently and the more modern Irish symbols have a strong connection to their Stone Age and medieval/religious history of Ireland.

Recognisable Irish Symbols

Kingdom of IrelandIreland has a few different symbols within its culture. These include the harp, shamrock, leprechaun and of course the tri colour. The harp is often seen on the flag which was once used to represent the king of Ireland. It features a gold harp with a royal blue background. Of course then there is the Irish symbol of the shamrock which was a great gift given to us by Saint Patrick, he showed us how it resembled the father, son and Holy Spirit. The shamrock is also used on Ireland’s national airline “Aerlingus” while the harp is used on their rivals “Ryanair”. Then there are leprechauns who are an Irish myth but have been made into an Irish symbol by the Fighting Irish or more commonly known as “Notre Dame” American football team.   Who could forget the most popular Irish symbol of them all the Irish flag which represents the Republic of Ireland (Green), the Orange party (Orange) and the peace between them (white).

So the next time you see an Irish symbol stand tall and let people know that you are Irish.

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Irish Woollen Mills and Irish Sweaters

Irish sweatersIreland, what a place. Every time I see a picture of it my jaw drops and every time I hear an old Irish saying I revert to silence for at least five minutes to take in the philosophical meaning and also the wittiness behind a lot of them. What is often left out when people talk about Ireland is the garment industry and the Irish sweaters that make great Irish gifts at Christmas

What went wrong with the wool?

Once a thriving industry in Ireland which employed thousands of people it has since found it’s self in despair for the last number of years for a few reasons. The boom came and people saw easier ways of making money, then the recession came and people now wanted to make the Irish sweaters again but they couldn’t sell any. All except a few great Irish woollen mills survived and not only kept making Irish sweaters but also enhanced the way they make their woollen wear.

The Irish woollen mill secrets

The Black sheepIrish sweaters are made from the soft Irish wool that is sheared every year off the sheep, then hand loomed in a secret way which only the Irish woollen mills know about and then of course that wool is given to the knitters who either machine knit or hand knit the Irish sweaters into fantastic garments that are known worldwide for their amazing quality, warmth and soft texture.

Irish sweaters are great but often expensive. Before you make the big decision of what to get somebody for Christmas have a think about it and look at all the Irish Christmas gift possibilities. You might just find something really unique to suit somebody who is truly Irish.

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INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT IRELAND

Ireland is an interesting place and has even more interesting facts that most people would have never known. These are just some unusual and quirky facts about Ireland and how some great traditions have been passed down through the centuries. Let us know about anymore you might know of.

We have our own language

Facts about irelandThe Irish language known as Gaeilge (pronounced Gu-way-gla, not gealic) has been a great Irish gift passed down from generation to generation and is a compulsory subject in Irish schools. A lot of Irish people particularly like this fact about Ireland and makes them proud to be Irish

70 million Irish people

There might be just over 4 million people on the Island of Ireland but when it comes to counting the amount of people with Irish blood in their bodies that figure shoots through the roof to 70 million.

We invented the . . .

The Irish are great day dreamers and you might not have realised it but Ireland has contributed some great inventions to the world. The submarine, chocolate milk, Radio therapy and even the brothers who founded Mac Donald’s had Irish blood in their veins and that’s an Irish fact.

The burrenThe Burren contains

The Burren, a beautiful cast lands scape in the west of Ireland features flowers unique to Europe. Even though it looks like a Barron landscape it is a botanists dream as Alpine-Arctic plants flourish alongside Mediterranean plants.

We started Halloween

Long ago during pagan times Halloween was actually New Year’s Eve in Ireland and Scotland. This tradition continued through the centuries until it eventually became part of Christian Ireland and we now celebrate all Saints Day and Halloween the night before

Irish post officePostal night mare

Ireland is a postal night mare as there are no postal codes outside of the capital, in fact some houses don’t even have names or numbers are you can sometimes find letters addressed with references such as “the red door” or “3 doors down from the shop”

First Duty free airport

Shannon Airport in County Clare had the first duty free shop in the world which opened in 1947 and has been selling alcohol and cigarettes tax free for 66 years now.

Newgrange

Newgrange is an old megalithic tomb that is 600 years older than the pyramids. It is also older than Stonehenge in England. It is of an enormous size considering the tools used to build it and still stands tall today

The potato is not a native food

PotatoEven though the Irish do stereotypically love potatoes and eat them all the time the potato is not native to Ireland and was introduced to Ireland by Sir Walter Raleigh in the 1500’s.

The bogs in Ireland

A known interesting fact about Ireland is that the bogs have kept remains of ancient burials almost completely intact. They have also found butter, combs and other everyday items in bogs from the stone age era perfectly preserved. This has given scientists a great glimpse into what life was once like

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IRISH LAST NAMES

What makes an Irish Name?
Cork city crestThe Irish are a unique bunch. Their names are hard to pronounce and with an Irish accent are even harder. Many begin with an O’ or a Mac’ for instant O’Mahony or Mac’Mahon but what a lot of people don’t realise is that each O’ or Mac’ stands for “grandson of” or “son of”. This applies for both male and female and has been passed down over the years as an Irish gift from generation to generation.

The different clans

But what is even more unique to Irish names is being able to tell where they are from or where their clan originally began. Take the O’Mahony Irish surname again, the O’Mahony clan originally began in Cork but has since spread across to America probably most likely Emigrants leaving Irelandduring the famine and there is now a large proportion of O’Mahony’s in New York. You could put money on it that if you meet somebody called O’Mahony in New York you could manage to find an Irish connection trough their Irish last name by only going back a few generations. The majority of Irish surnames work like this, so if you are a Mac’Carthy you are most likely going to find a connection to Kerry and the same with the Irish surname of O’brien, they have a strong connection with County Clare. Notice how they all have an O’ or a Mac’.

How we have spread across the world?

Ireland has always been known for its mass emigration and this why the Irish have managed to mix themselves into almost every culture worldwide. One of the big factors for emigration would have been the famine, in fact 1.3 million people emigrated bring with them their Irish last names and their families who would carry their surnames with them down through the generations.

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JUST IN – TIMBERLAKE singing the Auld triangle

Ireland is known for its ballads and traditional music that has been passed down as an Irish gift from generation to generation. Some of the greatest Irish bands are close to home and feature the likes of Ronnie Drew and Luke Kelly. They sang some of the most famous songs you could think of from raglan road to the Irish rover and dirt old town, they even sang Thin Lizzy’s whiskey in a jar.

They were some of the best Irish singers around and were true Irish men who enjoyed the “craic” and having a laugh. One song they sang that struck a note with their audience though was “the Auld Triangle”. The song tells a story about a Mount Joy Prison and how “the auld triangle” was beaten to wake the inmates. The song has a strong connection to Ireland and even more so the people who were locked up in Mount Joy Prison

“The Auld Triangle goes Jingle Jangle”

But once again the song has resurfaced and come back into the spot light as Justin Timberlake sings the traditional Irish ballad alongside Marcus Mumford. Of course he is not the first person to do a cover as Glen Handsard did a cover with Damien Dempsey as well as the Pouges, U2 and Dropkick Murphies along with over a dozen other bands and singers. Justin Timberlake though kindly reminded the world about how great Irish ballads are and just how great the Irish gift of music is.

The reason he is sang the Irish ballad “the Auld Triangle” is because he is currently recording a movie called “Inside Llewyn Davis” where he stars as a folk singer. We have left you here with both Justin Timberlake’s version of “the Auld Triangle” and also Luke Kelly’s.

Let us know which one prefer?

LUKE KELLY AND THE DUBLINERS

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE

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Sixmilebridge – County Clare

Six Miles Both Ways

County Clare is full of wonderful little villages which are thriving with character and Sixmilebridge is no exception. The name of the town (Sixmilebridge) comes from its distance from one of Ireland’s major cities, Limeirck.  But what is unique about it is that both ways to the city from Sixmilebridge is six miles.

400 Years Ago

Sixmilebridge developed around the O’Garney River and the village still holds many of its characteristics that it did back then. The river was perfect for milling and what you can see in the video is a weir which was built by a Dutch company for milling almost 400 years ago. The mill which was only recently renovated still stands and has had a huge influence on the village itself.

After the Toll Bridge

Unfortunately the mill is no longer used as a mill. It ceased trading after a toll bridge was constructed on the river by Henry D’Esterre which is still standing in the heart of the town today. Unfortunately the weir has had no function since but the local people have set up a duck Inn which is home to 50+ duck, swans and many more type of wildlife just to next to the old mill.

The video below is taken from the old mill looking out over the river and is exactly what it would have looked like nearly 400 years ago.

Sixmilebridge – O’Garney River

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Buying Irish gifts for Irish people from an Irish shop

The Irish are a peculiar bunch

Belleek Pottery in an Irish shopThe Irish are a tough bunch to craic. They don’t take compliments well and get very awkward when you mention how good they are at something. They get flustered in social situations when they realise they are the center of attention but their thoughts and ability to vocally express themselves is a unique talent which they all have. Because of their shyness it is hard to know if you have gotten a present right or not especially if you are trying to get them something Irish. Unfortunately though trying to get an Irish person and Irish gift from and Irish shop can prove almost impossible.

Our patriotic heads

The Irish all have one thing in common, their love for their country. It is okay for Irish people to bad mouth it amongst themselves and even say horrendous things about it but once somebody with a non-Irish nationality says something bad they will group together and defend their heritage to the end. This is a fact which I am sure most people have seen. The fact that they are all patriotic makes sense to get them something patriotic from an Irish shop.

A Patriotic Irish Gift

Shop Street GalwayThe best thing to get them is a patriotic gift that has Ireland written all over it. They will cherish that gift for ever and will always remember you as a true friend or even as Irish yourself and lets face it, I’m sure a lot of the Irish men are sick and tired of getting socks every year for Christmas and birthdays. They will be only delight to see something new and patriotic that makes a lasting impression on them.

To make sure you are getting the perfect Irish gift in an Irish shop make sure it is Irish and patriotic.

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