2015 is drawing to a close, and so the time has come once again for me to wish you all a Happy New Year.
To celebrate the New Year I thought we might explore some old Irish folk beliefs and customs surrounding this annual occasion….. Let’s face it! …. You can’t stop those years from ticking over.
How To Say Happy New Year In Irish:
“Athbhliain Faoi Mhaise Duit”
Here’s my phonetic pronunciation for you – “ah-vleen fway vah-sha gwitch”
The word “faoi” is pronounced ‘fway’ in Munster, but in Connemara it would be said as ‘fwee’. Since I learned most of my Irish from my West Cork mother, I’m sticking with ‘fway’.
This literally means a Prosperous New Year to You, but is the best equivalent to the English saying of “Happy New Year.”
When speaking to more than one person, you would say ….
“Athbhliain Faoi Mhaise Daoibh”
… which is pronounced phonetically as “ah-vleen fway vah-sha jeeve.”
New Year’s Eve In Irish:
The name given to New Year’s Eve in Gaelic or Irish was ….
Oíche Chinn Bliana
… which literally means Year’s End Night.
Phonetic pronunciation goes like this “ee-ha kin blee-ana.”
Another name for this special night focused on the tradition of preparing a big meal for the last day of the year …
Oíche na Coda Móire
….. literally means “The Night of the Great Feast.”
Here’s the phonetic pronunciation … “ee-ha nah cud-ah more-ah.”
Plenty of food was brought into the house for the Big Feast, but no food was taken out of the house during the celebration. By keeping food within the house, it was thought that good fortune would be bestowed upon all, and nobody would go hungry in the coming year.
Old Irish Folk Beliefs For New Year:
Judging by modern day jubiliant New Year celebrations held in Dublin and all around Ireland each year, you might be surprised to learn that Irish New Year festivities in days gone by were very reserved.
You see in old Celtic tradition the New Year actually began at Halloween with the celebration of Samhain. As a result our modern day tradition of bidding goodbye to the old year and welcoming the new one was not formally observed in Ireland.
However I did discover some lovely old traditions centering on this holiday. These are outlined in a booklet from 1967 called ‘Irish Folk Custom and Belief’, by Seán Ó Súilleabháin (1903 – 1996), which was published for the Cultural Relations Committee of Ireland.
Lighting A Candle In The Window:
Remember how we discussed the Irish tradition of lighting a candle in the window on Christmas Eve in a previous post …. well, a candle was once again set alight in Irish cottage windows on New Year’s Eve.
This was a night for remembering those who have departed this world. Families prayed the rosary together, remembering those who had passed and those now absent from home because of immigration.
All of Ireland’s sons and daughters who had left for the distant shores of America, Canada, England and Australia, and many more far flung places, were especially remembered on New Year’s Eve. This was the night when many of your ancestors were prayed for in their homeland of Ireland.
Flinging Some Bread At The Door:
As a nation that suffered the horrors of famine in the middle of the 19th century, many Irish traditions developed to ward off the great dangers of hunger.
Each New Year, brought with it many uncertainties, and our ancestors livelihoods were directly dependent upon good weather, the dangers of flooding and the dire need for a good harvest each year.
To banish the greatly feared dangers of hunger a piece of cake or bread was dashed against the door. A barm brack or soda bread was used for this bread flinging custom.
The man or woman of the house flung the first piece of bread and recited the following verse ….
“Fógraimíd an gorta
Amach go tír na dTurcach.
Ó anocht, go bliain ó anocht
Is ó anocht féin amach.”
Here’s the phonetic pronunciation …. ‘Foh-gra-meed on gur-tha / Ah-mock guh teer nah dhur-cock / Oh an-uck-th, guh bleen oh an-uck-th / Iss oh an-uck-th fey-n am-ock.’
Here’s my attempt at translation (any Irish scholars out there, please feel free to chime in with corrections) ….
“We call on famine,
Out as far as the land of the Turk,
From tonight, to a year from tonight,
and from this very night, be gone.”
Another person sitting in the group would respond ….
“An donas amach
A’s an sonas isteach,
Ó anocht go bliain ó anocht,
In ainm an Athar agus an Mhic agus an Spioraid Naomh,
First here’s my phonetic helping hand …. ‘On dun-us ah-mock / Ah-ss on sun-is ish-tock / Oh an-uck-th, guh bleen oh an-uck-th / In on-im on ah-hir ah-gus on Vic ah-gus on Spir-id Nave / Amen.’
Here’s my translation …
Misfortune be gone,
And happiness come in,
From tonight to a year from tonight,
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
After this little ceremony the family or group would eat the broken bread together, once again as a symbolic gesture to keep good fortune within, and hunger at bay.
Further explanation is available in Irish through this Wikipedia page.
And so, there you have it. A little run down of some old Irish New Year’s traditions. If you feel like throwing a bit of bread at the door tonight, fire ahead if you’re Irish.
I hope 2016 is a wonderful year for everyone. Here’s to a year of happy writing, blogging and sharing stories of Ireland and America.
Thanks so much for reading my recipes and ramblings, and do stop by in the New Year to check out my new blog posts.
AthBhlian Faoi Mhaise Daoibh
(A Prosperous New Year To All)