Rainy Day Reads – 3 Irish Poets

 

It’s April and the familiar “April showers bring May flowers” phrase may be floating around your environment. If the rain has you longing for a good read, curl up with a tome of authentic Irish poetry. Here are a few Irish poets—which you may or may not know well—to inspire your reading.

 

William Butler Yeats

Chances are you’ve crossed paths with Yeats in a lit class in either high school or college. As a Nobel Prize winner, the Dublin born poet is one of the most well-known Irish writers of any era. What’s more, his subject matter frequently included Irish influences, settings, or symbolism. If you want to dig in to his work, start with a crowd favorite such as “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” and then move to the politically fueled “Easter, 1916.”

 

 

Eavan Boland

Born in Dublin, Boland is the author of numerous collections of poetry as well as essays and books. As one of the first Irish female poets—and chiefly still one of the most widely known and impactful—she puts words to womanhood and also explores Irish history with fresh eyes. What’s more, she has shared her love of writing by instilling it in others as a professor. While she now lives in California, the influence of the Emerald Isle can be seen in a number of Boland’s works. Check out her poetry collections, which include A Poet’s Dublin, A Woman Without a Country, and In Her Own Image.

 

 

Seamus Heaney

Revered as one of the leading poets not only in Ireland but also around the world, Heaney is likely a name you are familiar with as well. An Oxford and Harvard professor as well as a Nobel Prize and T.S. Eliot Prize winner, Heaney was not only a brilliantly skilled and articulate poet but is noted to have been popular with the general public as well. Many of his works were influenced by the past, including his youth in County Derry, Ireland. Start your reading with Selected Poems 1966-1987, and be sure to pick up his modern translation of Beowulf, released in 2000.

 

Do you have a favorite Irish poet or poem? Share your story with us in the comments.

The Spring Blooms of Ireland

Ireland is alive with the colors of spring! But what exactly is blooming in the countryside? And how do the Irish refer to these flowers? Here, we take a quick look at seven springtime beauties you’ll find across the Emerald Isle.

#1
Common name: Bitter-vetch
Irish name: Corra meille

These flowers are typically found in dry areas. They bear small flowers in groupings of two to six that start out reddish purple and then fade into a blue-green hue. They bloom throughout the spring season in Ireland.

#2
Common name: Bluebell
Irish name: Coinnle corra

In Ireland, Bluebells hit their peak each April, creating a carpet of purplish-blue across widespread areas of the countryside. They are bulbous perennials that often cover woodlands but can also be found in home gardens.

#3
Common name: Poppy
Irish name: Cailleach dhearg

The familiar faces of poppies appear during late spring and summer in Ireland. You might see their paper-like orangey-red petals blooming along roadsides. However, you’ll have to be quick as their petals quickly drop.

#4
Common name: Geranium or Crane’s Bill
Irish name: Crobh dearg

There are numerous varieties of this popular plant, which can be seen in even the rockiest regions of the Emerald Isle. It is a familiar flower in many destinations around the globe from late spring through summer. Colors range from white to pink, purple, coral, and red.

#5
Common name: Dog-Rose
Irish name: Feirdhris

From June to August, you’ll find these fragrant blooms in trees and shrubs along Irish roadsides. The native plants feature five petals that are typically a light, girlish pink or white in hue.

#6
Common name: Blackthorn
Irish name: Draighean

These white flowers with numerous stamens have a distinctive look. You’ll find them on shrubs and trees, but beware the branches come with thorns. Interestingly, the fruit—or sloe—of the plant is a key ingredient in a potent gin.

#7
Common name: Bulbous Buttercup
Irish name: Tuile thalún

A member of the ranunculus family, these native wildflowers can be found across the Ireland countryside. Their cheerful yellow faces, which feature five petals, bring a bit of sunshine to grassy knolls—and to those who pick them.

Research for this post was gathered from irishwildflowers.ie and wildflowersofireland.net. Visit them to learn more and see other varieties.

An Irish Breakfast with White Pudding

When you think of pudding, visions of dainty glass pedestal cups filled with a sweet, smooth treat most likely come to mind. However, for the Irish, pudding is in an entirely different food group: meat. White pudding is made from pork fat or beef suet, oatmeal, and onions. It’s closely related brother, black pudding, has the same ingredients but also includes fresh pig’s blood. The two dishes are often served together at breakfast. Since fresh pig’s blood is often hard to come by, we’re sharing a popular recipe for white pudding today.

Irish White Pudding

 INGREDIENTS
1 2/3 cup steel-cut oatmeal
1 cup milk
2 cups pork fat, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons white pepper
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon ginger
casings

PREPARATION

Soak the oatmeal in milk for one hour. Use a mincer with a 5mm plate to grind the pork fat and onion. Mix the onion, pork fat, and all of the spices together in a large bowl. Stuff into large pig casings and boil or steam at 170°F for approximately 1 minute per the mm in width of the sausage. For example, if you have a sausage that is 3mm in width, cook for 3 minutes. The temperature should reach 162°F for two minutes before you remove from cooking. Remove from the pan and place in a bowl of cold water. The sausage can now be consumed or you may wish to heat it on a griddle or skillet. To do so, slice the sausage into chunks and fry until brown. Serve immediately.

White pudding may traditionally be served with eggs, black pudding, Irish bacon (which is sometimes called back bacon because it is a leaner cut of meat made from the back of the pig), tomatoes, soda bread, and even beans that are sweetly flavored with molasses and rum.

Enjoy a Traditional Irish Easter

Easter in Ireland looks similar to celebrations around the world—with a few traditions unique to the Emerald Isle added to the festivities. Here’s a glimpse at a few of the ways the Irish celebrate the spring holiday weekend.

Clean Sweep

If you have started your spring cleaning, now is the time to finish. And, if you haven’t started, well, there’s no time like the present. The Irish often spend the week proceeding Easter tidying up their homes. Good Friday, in particular, is known as a time of preparation. In olden times, it was a tradition for priests to visit and bless homes on Good Friday; this time of cleaning and readying may be a nod to that.

A Change in Tradition?

While many of Ireland’s Easter traditions hearken back to the early roots of Christianity, one nearly century-old observance recently changed. Pubs in Ireland, which were previously banned from selling alcohol on Good Friday, will now be permitted to open. This is the result of legislation passed early in 2018, aimed at having the pubs open for the many tourists who visit the country during Easter weekend.

Silent Saturdays

Holy Saturday is often spent in silence for many Irish. This is a time of reflection on the Lenten season and the meaning of the approaching holy day. Many will also attend church on this day. An Easter vigil is held at night with all of the candles being extinguished by 11 p.m. At that time a new flame, known as the Paschal candle, is lit and presented on the altar.

Mass and a Feast

As in many American households—and those around the world—Easter Sunday revolves around two main events: attending church services, of course, and dining with family and friends. Ireland is no exception to this rule. Families don new dresses and suits for the day and head off to church. Afterward, a feast—including meat, which many Irish have abstained from during periods of Lent—is served at the family home.

All Fun and Games

The Easter bunny visits children in Ireland and they gather to hunt eggs on Easter afternoon, typically. Many Irish, both young and old, also participate in games involving eggs. These include egg-and-spoon races and egg rolls, a game of skill and luck in which hardboiled eggs race to the bottom of a hill.

What traditions do you and your family observe in honor of Easter?

4 Commonly Heard Irish Words and Phrases Explained

If you’re planning trip to Ireland or you just want to be in the know around Irish-speaking friends, brush up on the meaning and usage of these four phrases, all of which are frequently heard on the Emerald Isle. After learning these sayings, you’re sure to be considered a local when making a toast, giving a greeting, or pledging your allegiance.

Craic

Pronounced “crack,” this term most simply means fun. The Gaelic word lacks a definitive English translation, thus leading to lots of confusion around its true meaning. For example, you might hear “How was the craic?” in reference to a weekend or night out. This means, “How was the atmosphere, the scene, the party, and the entertainment?” If someone responds by noting that the craic was 90, it means it was out-of-this-world or amazing.

Céad Mile Fáilte

There’s no Irish phrase more inviting than this one, which means “a hundred thousand welcomes.” This is a Gaelic term that carries over to modern day, conveying the spirit of the Emerald Isle and appearing on numerous home décor plaques (including the beautiful stained glass version shown here) as well as in public spaces.

Erin Go Bragh

This short phrase (pronounced err-in go bra) means Ireland forever. It is a term used to show allegiance to the Emerald Isle and to celebrate pride in the country.

Sláinte

This commonly heard phrase is meant to convey a form of the popular English toast, “cheers.” The next time you propose a toast—especially if you’re in Ireland—use this popular saying (pronounced slan-che), which also literally means health. Add the words “agus táinte” to propose both health and wealth to all who drink.

How the World Celebrates St. Patrick’s Day

Ireland may host the mother of all St. Patrick’s Day celebrations but cities around the globe, especially those with an Irish heritage or population, take part in the festivities. Here are a few notable cities that go all out for the holiday.

Dublin, Ireland

Come March 17th, both reverence and revelry abound in Ireland’s capital city. Cathedrals hold communion and commemoration events to mark the life of their patron saint, while Irish stout is served throughout the city for merrymakers. Dublin actually dedicates four entire days (five, this year) to the most well-known—and celebrated—holiday in the country. This is known as St. Patrick’s Festival and includes a range of events for all ages. Find more info at stpatricksfestival.ie/info.

London, United Kingdom

Similar to Dublin, London hosts an extended St. Patrick’s Day celebration that spans three days. Held in Trafalgar Square, the London St. Patrick’s Day Festival features Irish song, dance, food, culture, arts—and, of course, a parade. Now in its 16th year, the festival brings together a crowd of more than 125,000 to celebrate the saint.

Rio de Janiero, Brazil

Everyone goes green for St. Patrick’s Day, including the famous Christ the Redeemer statue that stands tall over this South American city. In addition to the greening of this monument, celebrations take place at Irish pubs, event venues, and civic organizations throughout the city.

Savannah, Georgia, United States

In the United States, especially the South, Savannah has become nearly synonymous with the celebration of March 17th.  River Street, which appropriately runs along the edge of the Savannah River, is the place to be for music, food, drinks, and taking in the city. City Market, another popular hangout hub that is located in the historic district, also offers art, live music, eats, and more to celebrate the holiday. Don’t miss taking a peek at the city’s fountains, which are all dyed green for the occasion, including the iconic Forsyth Fountain in Forsyth Park.

Chicago, Illinois, United States

When Savannah greens their fountains, Chicagoans green their river. Each year, 400,000 people gather to dye the Chicago River on March 17th. While the coloring doesn’t last long, only about five hours according to a city website, the party continues with a jam-packed parade, numerous independent celebrations, and green lights across much of the city.

Vancouver, Canada

Finally, if you’re looking for a celebration that spans more than a few days check out Canada’s CelticFest, which is held in Vancouver. Now in its 14th year, CelticFest celebrates the heritage of the Celts through music, dance, food, film, spoken word, and community togetherness. The three-week celebration culminates in a highly anticipated St. Patrick’s Day parade held on the last day of the festival, March 17th. For more info, visit celticfestvancouver.com.

Where is your favorite place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Tell us in the comments section.

Green Up for St. Patrick’s Day

9 Must-Haves for the Holiday

It’s time to add a little green to your wardrobe and your home, and, well, basically your entire life. With St. Patrick’s Day just weeks away, now is the time to stock up on the color of the season. Here are nine green finds we selected to get your entire family ready for the big day. 

Light Up Shamrock Door Hanger

Set the tone for your Irish home with a large green, shamrock-shaped door hanger. Turn on its lights at night for added shine.

>>Win this item in our weekly giveaway.

 Top O’ the Morning to You Mug

Start the day off right with a cup of java in a mug fit for an Irish woman.

 Bling Stretch Bracelet

Up your accessory game with a glittering green piece you can wear with jeans or dressy attire.

 

Kid’s Striped Rugby Shirt

Even the youngest members of the family can be dressed in Irish pride thanks to this navy and green jersey.

 

“Pot O’ Gold” Green Hot Chocolate

For those who prefer to sip their green rather than display it, this reusable tin pot holds a concoction that will transform into delicious, emerald-hued hot cocoa when you add water.

 

Erin Go Bragh Wood Plaque

Deck your walls with a plaque that pledges allegiance to Ireland. Whether it’s St. Patrick’s Day or the middle of October, the sign is sure to make guests feel a warm Irish welcome.

Shamrock Ballpoint Pen

Your autograph will have an Irish flair when you use this refillable pen, which features not only a shamrock by also the Claddagh and Celtic knotwork along with the color green.

 St. Patrick Figurine

Pay tribute to the holiday’s namesake with a pint-sized figure of the saint dressed in his signature color.

Bucket Hats

You can mark wearing his-and-her green hats off your bucket list with these Irish-themed sun-shaders.

Who is the Leprechaun?

We see their likeness every March 17. They are synonymous with both luck and trickery. And the color green and pots of gold seem to be their main accessories. But what do you really know about the history of the leprechaun? Read on to learn more about this mythical Emerald Isle creature.

 One of Many Fairies
Irish folklore is one of the most celebrated and imaginative story traditions around, so it’s no coincidence that the leprechaun plays a role in numerous tales. One of many characters in the Emerald Isle’s early mythology, leprechauns are said to date back to the time before the Celts. They are always male, and they are portrayed as being mischievous and often involved in deception.

Shoemakers By Trade
Because even fairies need an occupation, leprechauns were identified as shoemakers or cobblers. In fact, some research points to this trade as the origin of their name. The term leath bhrógan refers to a shoemaker, and one can see how it could have transitioned to leprechaun. Other theories on the etymology point to leipreachán and ‘luchorpán, two Irish Gaelic words that both mean sprite or pygmy.

Cloaked in Red?
While green is the leprechaun’s color of choice today, this has not always been the case. Red was his original clothing hue. Many researchers believe that due to the popularity of all things green on the Emerald Isle, the leprechaun changed his color of choice to follow suit. In addition, green is also thought to be a lucky color.

Rainbows & Gold
It’s hard to envision a leprechaun without a rainbow and a pot of gold; but how did this trio become so tightly woven? Legend points to the leprechaun’s squirreling away of money, as he was thought to have hidden money in a crock or pot and then guarded it. Humans were said to be able to capture the leprechaun, keep their eyes locked on him, and force him to reveal the location of his gold. It is also said that if you find the end of a rainbow, you will find a leprechaun’s pot of gold. If only one could catch that elusive bright arch!

Discover Giant’s Causeway

What is Giant’s Causeway?
Giant’s Causeway is a unique geological formation of basalt columns that create a “road” or walkway leading into the North Atlantic Ocean just south of Scotland. It is comprised of nearly 40,000 pillars. It is a part of the National Trust, which promotes the preservation of natural wonders, and was also named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986.

 Where is Giant’s Causeway located?
It is on the coast of Northern Ireland in County Antrim. The entire formation is approximately four miles long.

How was it created?
It is believed that during the Paleogene Period, which was 50-60 million years ago, lava from erupting volcanoes covered the area and then cooled as the sea reached it. Layers and layers of the lava formed the basalt columns, which likely became this shape due to pressure between the different pockets. Over time, natural erosion and weather conditions revealed the pillars in their current state.

What is the story or legend that surrounds it?
Rather than surrounding its existence, it is, perhaps, the legend that makes Giants Causeway so unique. In short, the story goes that Irish giant Finn MacCool was teased by Scottish giant Benandonner. It even went so far as for Benandonner to tell Finn he was weak.

This provoked Finn to tear off pieces of the cliffs along the edge of Ireland to create a path to Scotland. However, when he traversed the path and arrived in Scotland, he realized Benandonner was much stronger and larger than he, and quickly made an about-face to return home.

When the Scottish giant followed, Finn’s wife cleverly disguised him as their baby. Upon seeing the “baby,” Benandonner thought if he was that large then the dad (Finn) must be a real giant. He quickly took the pathway back home to Scotland, tearing it up as he went to make sure Finn would not follow him. Hence, Giant’s Causeway gets its name from this tale.

What types of activities can you enjoy there?
If you want to learn more about these breathtaking, natural formations, you walk with one of the knowledgeable tour guides or you can pick up an audio guide and give yourself the tour.

If exploring is your thing, there are numerous walking trails that allow you to see both the pillars and the plant life on them. Additionally, many visitors enjoy seeing specific parts of the formation such as The Giant’s Boot, which is reported to have been lost by Finn in the legend; The Wishing Chair, a seat that was naturally created in the formation; and The Camel, which is a natural formation in the shape of this mammal. Finally, the Visitor’s Centre is also a popular—and resourceful—destination for those who come to Giant’s Causeway.

Learn more and plan your visit at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/giants-causeway.

St. Valentine’s Irish Connection

Does Ireland come to mind when you hear the name St. Valentine? If it doesn’t now, it likely will after you hear this tale.

During the 19th century, Father John Spratt was well known in Ireland. He was not only a notable preacher but also commended for his work with the poor. In addition, he is credited with building a new church to Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Whitefriar Street in Dublin. According to a history from the Carmelites, his notoriety followed him when he was asked to preach in Rome in 1835.

Pope Gregory XVI

During his time there many Romans came to hear him speak, and thus came to revere him. Due in part to this, Father Spratt was the recipient of what some might consider an unusual gift. Pope Gregory XVI presented him with a small vessel tinged with St. Valentine’s blood along with a reliquary that contains some of the remains of his body.

Today, the reliquary and vessel are housed in Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin. A life-sized statue of the saint is recessed into an alcove in the wall above the place where the relics are kept. It should also be noted that not all of Saint Valentine’s remains are in this location, hence the claiming of other sites to have his relics.

According to the Carmelites website, today many engaged couples come to mass on this day to receive the a blessing on their rings and to pray to St. Valentine as they begin their lives together.