Last year, we covered a whole host of Irish, Yuletide traditions. Check them out here, here, and here.
Ireland’s history is a long one, stretching back centuries before written history. With that history comes many things: deeply rooted, rich cultural traditions, a sense of national pride, and, of course, a whole host of superstitions! We’re here tonight with some of Ireland’s wintery old wives’ tales—just in case there’s any truth to them (who doesn’t want to start the new year off on the right foot?) Enjoy!
Did you get a watch as a holiday gift this year? Hopefully it wasn’t from your significant other—word in Ireland is that a watch from a partner means time is running out and you’ll be breaking up soon. (Just set the clock back, it’ll be fine!) Similarly, a gift of pearls means tears, while anything sharp (knives, scissors, even earrings) can mean a punctured friendship! Don’t worry, you can get around any of this by taping a penny to the gift and having the recipient hand it back to you—that way they’re technically purchasing the present!
You know all those charming New England farmhouses with a single candle in each window? This long-standing tradition stems from the Irish and legend has it that if your candle goes out before Christmas it bodes ill luck in the new year. (Luckily most of those candles are electric these days!)
Did you drop any silverware at your holiday table? A visitor may be in your near future! A knife indicates a male visitor, a fork a female, and a spoon a child (though, regionally, it may mean a child is coming into the family—not just for a visit!)
There’s plenty more meal lore around the holidays: refusing a mince pie during the holiday season will bring you bad luck the next day, eating breakfast by candlelight on Christmas morning and then three sips of salted water at dinner that night will instill good luck and good health, and you must abstain from meat two days after Christmas or have bad luck in the coming year.
Have an itchy nose? You may have the flu (did you get your flu shot?), or a fight may be in your future! (Or, alternatively, as many superstitions are regional: you’ll soon be kissed by a fool.)
Having mistletoe in the house is said to protect one from thunder and lightning! You better keep some on hand—it’s also said that a clap of thunder midwinter foretells the death of the most important person in a 20 mile radius of the storm. Though, if it rains at their funeral it means they’re at peace.
During this season of giving, make sure to donate at least one pair of shoes—the Irish say if you don’t, you’ll be going barefoot in the next life. (And if you get new shoes for Christmas, make sure not to wear them that day…that’s bad luck!)
It’s said that bees awaken from their winter hibernation on Christmas Eve to sing a song in celebration—but only the truly holy can hear them!
Supposedly, snow on Christmas indicates a green Easter in the coming year (alternatively, a green Christmas means a white Easter) and high winds that day indicates good luck blowing in.
Finding a holly bush full of its iconic red berries was considered good luck! (Holly has been an Irish staple for Yule decorations for over 2,000 years and is also seen as a symbolic form of protection.)
And this is just the tip of the iceberg—who knows how the Irish keep all these beliefs straight? In any case, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday season and new year…even if you put up Christmas decorations before the 8th of December or leave a fallen pin on the floor. But, I mean…maybe just pick it up. To be sure.
This post is part of a series. Read our last folklore post, all about the myth of the mysterious barnacle goose, here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
Find all of our latest news on our Scoil Rince Luimni Facebook page!