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17th Dec 2014

Eleven Irish Traditions You Won’t See Anywhere Else

Only in Ireland...

Cathy Donohue

There’s a certain way of doing things in Ireland: tea should be made a certain way, it is compulsory to mention the weather at least once a day and overall, we like to think we’re a welcoming bunch.

As a nation, there are a few traditions we have that you’re not likely to see anywhere else.

The list below features a few of these but you can be sure there’s plenty more too.

Popular sayings
We have a number of well-recognised phrases that are used all over the country. You might recognise a few of the following: “cop yourself on”, “come here to me now”, “getting the shift”, “having the craic”, “get out of that”, “mind yourself”, and “acting the maggot”.

We could go on but you get the idea!

The fry
If you’ve been away from home a while, is there anything as good as coming home to a big Irish breakfast? Fresh soda bread, real butter, both types of pudding, Superquinn sausages and all the other trimmings.

Same thing after a night out, we’re thinking of starting a rota to so fry duty is equally shared… no burnt rashers allowed.


Child of Prague
It’s a common tradition in Ireland to leave the Child of Prague statue outside the night before a wedding in the hope of a fine day.

Now, we have no idea if this actually has a bearing on the weather but we will continue it anyway.


Keeping up with the GAA
Maybe you’re a huge sports fan and attend every match possible or you’d rather poke your eyes out than spend time watching GAA.

Either way, you’ll do your best to support your local parish by shouting for them until you’re blue in the face (and your fingers are about to drop off as you’ve been standing in the rain for two hours).


Going on a session
Obviously nights out take place everywhere but we often like to make a big occasion of it, resulting in a serious “session”.

If you overindulge and end up with the mother of all hangovers, you might have gotten a little ”locked”, “mangled”, “in a hoop”, “wrecked” or “out of your tree”.


Light a candle
In times of worry and stress, lighting a candle is a familiar tradition in Ireland. If you have a big exam coming up or an important job interview, you’ll probably have a few candles lit for you.

Similarly, if someone is sick and feeling under the weather, this is a comforting tradition. Asking St Anthony for help if you lose something is pretty popular too.

Candle Light 027_opt

“What’s the forecast like?”
Discussing the weather, consulting the forecast, chatting about the possibility of yet more rain… in fairness we get an awful lot of mileage from chatting about what’s going on outside.

After all, it’s only in Ireland that you get people making for the beach the minute the sun comes out.


Days of note
St Patrick’s Day is celebrated the world over but it is our national holiday and we like to think we do it better than anyone else. With parades in every village, town and county, not to mind plenty of face paint and novelty decorations it’s usually a day to remember.

The 8th of December is often the day we start to look forward to Christmas, anyone else remember the annual trip to Dublin to shop for the festive season?


If you mentioned coddle (skinless sausage concoction) anywhere but Ireland, you’ll probably be looked at like you have ten heads. The same goes for bacon and cabbage, soda bread and stew. You can’t beat these dishes and we miss them so much when we’re away.


Problem? Make tea.
Tea is absolutely the first step in managing any crisis. Put the kettle on, make tea, add sugar for shock and talk the problem out.

The chances are you won’t even get to drink the tea but being physically able to do something, no matter how small, sometimes makes you feel better.

Irish Proverbs
There are countless Irish proverbs and hearing them will always make you feel close to home.

Nil aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin (there’s no hearth like your own hearth) and mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí (praise the young and they will blossom) is another well-known proverb.


 Illustration by Sinead O’Leary