Ireland is known all around the world as a country steeped in tradition and culture. But how many Irish traditions are still alive and well in 2021? Last week I put out a social media poll examining how many well known Irish traditions are still adhered to today. You voted in your hundreds! Thank you so much to everyone that took part. Here are the key things we learned:
The old poem states: ‘One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a tale never to be told”. Since a single magpie is associated with sorrow, tradition states that waving at/saluting the magpie reverses the sorrow or bad luck. 72% of you said you would wave at a single magpie showing how superstitious we still are in 2021.
A Friendly Nation?
Over the past few years I have genuinely believed that ‘the land of a thousand welcomes’ stereotype was dying out quite quickly. I was therefore refreshingly surprised to see that 85% of you will regularly salute complete strangers! With fear and anxiety levels through the roof, it is more important now than ever before that we make it our business to be kind and welcoming to each other. So keep on spreading the love!
57% of you said that you would not eat meat on Good Friday while 45% said they try to refrain from alcohol. To be honest I was surprised. I have noticed a very steep decline in people following Good Friday practice in the past decade so I expected the results to be lower. When the ban on Good Friday alcohol sales was lifted a few years ago I thought that it was only a matter of time before the tradition died out completely.
I was quite shocked to see that 45% of you could hold a conversation in Irish. I expected the number to be significantly lower. I’ll admit that I was in the ‘Not a Notion’ 55% pool myself! But it is fantastic to see such a high result. So let’s keep the momentum going and revive our beautiful language.
St Brigids Cross
67% of you do not make a St Brigids Cross. A St Brigids cross is traditionally made on the patron saints feast day – 1 February. Tradition states that the cross should be put over a doorway or window to protect the home from harm. It is definitely rare nowadays to see someone make the famous cross and so the only surprise was that the percentage was not higher. It’s lovely to see that a quarter of you are still doing it so be sure to continue keeping the tradition alive.
A Musical Nation
This was definitely the biggest shock! 41% of you said that you are able to play an Irish instrument. The result would have been significantly lower if I surveyed my own close friends and family! But again it is really great to see that our Irish music is in safe hands.
Away with the Fairies
Would you cut down a fairy tree for €1000? 91% of you responded ‘Not for any Money’. Irish people, especially those living in the country, still hold on to many ancient ancestral beliefs, especially those relating to supernatural occurrences. At the top of our road at home in Clare, the entire motorway plans were altered back in 1999 to avoid the destruction of a famous fairy tree! Clearly we will be carrying these traditions with us into the next generation.
Light on our Feet
Thanks to the global success of Riverdance, we are perhaps best known for our traditional Irish dance. 56% of you said you could perform an Irish dance. I imagine the result would have been a lot higher had it been asked at 2am in a nightclub! However 56% was a very impressive result in my eyes and great to see that our traditional dance will be with us long into the future.
Respect for the Sick
76% of you said you would bless yourself when an ambulance passed. Traditionally this is done both out of respect and as a blessing for the sick person. Similarly the vast majority of us would bless ourselves if a hearse passed, or when passing a graveyard. Again, this is a sign of respect for the decreased. I was surprised that the result was so high as I expected this to be more of a country tradition. It is great to see that these respectful traditions are still a large part of our culture.
Out the way you came in
Our ancestors believed that when visiting someone else’s house you should always go out the same door that you came in so as not to take the luck out of the house with you. This is something that I would always adhere to myself but had only ever heard it being said in country households. 64% of you abide by this tradition so it looks like this one is here to stay for quite a while.
Give us a Song
77% of you said you would happily partake in a good oul Irish sing song. Ireland is unlike any other country in that many of us would far prefer a sing song in our local pub than heading to a nightclub. It’s fantastic to see that so many of you have your song ready to go for when we finally get to meet up again!
There were countless other Irish traditions that I could have investigated with more time – horseshoes, spilt salt, white horses, ‘Child of Prague’ statues, itchy noses, knives to the floor, whistling indoors, robins, black cats, the list is endless! Do you believe our Irish traditions are dying out? Were you surprised by any of the results above? Is there another tradition you would like to have had included in our poll? As always, I would love to hear from you.