Good Friday Traditions In Ireland

Good Friday is a strange name for the day the Son of God was put to death, but it is generally believed to be derived from the term God’s Friday.  To mark Good Friday, I thought I would share some photos of Irish Celtic crosses which I took last summer, and review some old Irish traditions associated with this holy day.


In Ireland, this day was traditionally dedicated to penance, fasting, and prayer. Some Irish Catholics fasted completely until midday. Then at noon they only broke their fast by eating a piece of dry bread washed down by three sips of cold water, each sip taken to honor the Holy Trinity.

Hot Cross Buns cooling on wire rack

For those who preferred a little less Lenten austerity, one meal and two collations (snacks) were allowed on their Good Friday menu, but fish was recommended for the main meal.  Hot cross buns could be eaten for one collation.


In the past this was a day of rest with little or no work completed on the land.  One minor task was allowed – good luck and blessings for the summer’s crops could be attained by planting a small amount of grain or seed potatoes.

In preparation for Easter, cleaning and tidying the house and yard was permitted.

No nail could be driven on Good Friday as a mark of respect. Carpenters definitely took the day off.

No animal could be slaughtered, since shedding even a drop of blood was frowned upon.

Fishermen stayed at home with all vessels and fishing nets remaining idle on this holy day.

Good Friday was never the day scheduled for moving house or starting an important project.


Good Friday is not an official public holiday in Ireland, but banks and pubs are closed. When I was young no pub was open on this day, but I believe in recent years a few exceptions have been made.


Good Friday is one of the best days to visit a graveyard or holy well.  On this day it is believed holy water has curative properties.

Silence is encouraged by many older Irish people. Remaining silent between noon and 3 pm is a sign of respect for our Crucified Lord, who hung on the cross for these three hours.

Celtic Cross at Cashel

Good Friday has always been considered a good day to die. I’m not sure if any day is a good day to die, but on Good Friday the Irish believe the deceased’s soul ascends straight to heaven.


If you happen to be a migraine sufferer today is the day to cut your hair. Our ancestors believed a good haircut would ward off headaches for the coming year.  A good toenail and finger trim was also recommended on Good Friday.  Women and girls working in the house loosened their hair, allowing it to hang down as a symbol of mourning.

Penance was practiced by remaining barefoot throughout the day.


In years gone by there were no fancy chocolate Easter eggs to be found in Ireland. Instead, eggs laid on Good Friday were marked with a cross.  These eggs were then cooked and eaten on Easter Sunday. Also if you were in need of healthy hens, setting eggs to hatch on this day was highly recommended. 

Those born on Good Friday and baptized on Easter Sunday often possessed the gift of healing.  Boys born on Good Friday were encouraged to join the priesthood, with the expectation they would become a parish priest or a bishop.

Crucifixion Carving at Cashel, Ireland

These old Irish customs show us that in days gone by, Good Friday was not merely a day to commemorate the sorrow of Christ’s death. Through these simple, solemn customs our ancestors found a way to remember Easter’s spiritual message of ultimate hope.



Beannachtaí na Cásca Oraibh

(Easter Blessings)

Irish American Mom

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Snowdrops And Daffodils And Flowers Of The Spring

The first sight of Irish snowdrops in early spring brings hope of warmer days ahead. I love these little, dainty flowers.  They truly lift my spirits after the dark days of winter.



Ireland’s snowdrop crop of 2014 has already bloomed.  Tiny flowers, as white as pearls, sway on green-hooked stems, shaped like St. Patrick’s crozier. Daffodils dance in the winds, and crocuses bring color to dormant flower beds.



For those of us who grew up in Ireland in the 1970′s “snowdrops and daffodils” were an important part of our sing along repertoire.  Ireland’s first Eurovision Song Contest winner, Dana, was loved by Irish school children. Her winning song brought springtime to mind:

“Snowdrops and daffodils,

Early morning dew…..

….. All kinds of everything

Remind me of you.”




Snowdrops and primroses featured in Ireland’s folk songs. One of the most haunting songs of my childhood is “The Old Bog Road.” These sad lyrics tell the story of an Irish immigrant to New York, yearning for his homeland. This verse brings a tear to my eye:

“My mother died last springtide, when Ireland’s fields were green:

The neighbours said her waking was the finest ever seen.

There were snowdrops and primroses piled up beside her bed,

And Ferns Church was crowded when the funeral Mass was said,

But there was I on Broadway, with building bricks for load,

When they carried out her coffin from the Old Bog Road.”




Listening to my father recite these lines led me to assume the snowdrop is a native Irish plant. I included a description of snowdrops in my historical novel, set in Ireland in the 1840′s. I decided however I better do some snowdrop research to ensure historical accuracy. I soon discovered there probably weren’t many snowdrops to be found in Ireland at the time of the Famine.

What I thought is an-ever-so-Irish plant actually originated in not-so-snowy Turkey. Reluctantly, I deleted my lovely snowdrop descriptions from my novel.


And so I asked the question, how did these precious little flowers find their way across 2000 miles to thrive in the cold, damp soils of my homeland?

Back in 1874 a Victorian botanist, Henry Elwes, collected the plant in Izmir. Before leaving Turkey he established a system for bulb collection and transportation to the British Isles. Millions of snowdrops have been exported ever since.


Snowdrops and daffodils flourish in Ireland, probably because Irish gardeners find them poetically beautiful. Springtime bulbs are planted with care in autumn, with an eager eye kept on the dark soils of winter, watching and waiting for the first spiky green stems of spring to appear.

Daffodil Close-up

And once in full bloom we know brighter days are on the way. Here’s hoping sunny spring days will arrive very soon in North America.



Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

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Winners Of Sean Feeny’s Northern Soul CD

A big thank you to everyone who participated in this week’s giveaway for four copies of Sean Feeny’s Northern Soul CD.  It was lovely to hear how much everyone enjoys Irish music.

Album Cover - Northern Soul


Our four lucky winners are:

Mary Sullivan


David McMurray

Julie B. Green


Congratulations to all four winners. I will send e-mails to arrange delivery of your prizes.

A big thanks to everyone who commented and supported this giveaway, and to Sean for sponsoring the prizes. Best wishes and I hope everyone had a lovely St. Patrick’s Day.


Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom

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Irish Breads For St. Patrick’s Day

Irish breads are rustic and hearty. These are the breads of my childhood.  Unsweetened  soda breads are full of tasty homemade goodness, and simply delicious with soups and stews. A hint of sweetness in raisin breads and scones makes them perfect with a cup of tea. Here is a selection of my recipes:

 Bread And Cakes


Irish Raisin Soda Bread In Baking PanIrish Raisin Soda Bread

Ireland is famous for delicious soda bread made with simple ingredients.  It gets its name from the bicarbonate of soda or baking soda used as the leavening agent. Growing up I loved my Granny’s “sweet cake”.  Here’s my Americanized version of her raisin soda bread….. Read more and get the full recipe here.



4 slices of brown bread

Irish Brown Bread

A nice wedge of brown bread perfectly partners soups and stews.  Here’s my recipe, created with all-American ingredients. No expensive baking mixes required for an authentic Irish brown bread…. Read more and get the full recipe here.




Sliced Potato BreadIrish Potato Bread – Yeast Recipe

Potato bread made with yeast, flour and mashed potato is a hearty bread.  I love to make sandwiches with this bread.  Here’s my step-by-step photo instructions for baking these rustic loaves……. Read more and get the full recipe here.





Kerry or Irish Apple CakeKerry Apple Cake

Kerry Apple Cake, also known as Irish Apple Cake, is a moist cake with a crunchy top, and can be served cold or warm with chilled cream or custard. An Irish Apple Cake is technically not a cake at all.  Apple bread is a better description, but I suppose our ancestors assigned the title cake to any baked good with a little bit of precious sugar added….. Read more and get the full recipe here.





 Irish Raisin Tea Scones

One of my fondest memories of Ireland is sitting down to an afternoon cup of tea and a hot buttered scone.  My mother makes delicious raisin tea scones, so when I lived in New York, I promptly tried to replicate her recipe. The secret to scone success, I discovered, is all in the flour…. Read more and get the full recipe here.



 Tea Brack in Cake PanIrish Tea Brack

Brack is a traditional Irish cake baked at Halloween.  The name comes from the Irish word ‘breac’, which means speckled.  Fruit freckles every slice of this delicious cake or bread….. Read more and get the full recipe here.


For all the cooks out there planning their St. Patrick’s Day menus, I hope these recipes help you choose the perfect bread to accompany your dishes.



Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig

(St. Patrick’s Day Blessings)

Irish American Mom

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Sean Feeny’s Northern Soul – CD Review And Giveaway

Sean Feeny’s NORTHERN SOUL is a charity CD blending the sounds of motown and soul with the distinct strains of traditional Irish music.

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Weekend I thought why not introduce you to this unique and fascinating mixture of Irish and American music styles. And into the bargain, Sean has provided four copies of his wonderful album as prizes for four lucky readers of Irish American Mom.

Album Cover - Northern Soul


The Album:


On this album ‘Soul Man’ meets the uilleann pipes. The fiddle features on ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’. The ukulele seems to be asking ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’. These carefully chosen tracks are a unique take on some old classics. Sean describes this album as “The Commitments meets The Chieftans”.


“Sean Feeny’s NORTHERN SOUL is a brave and beautiful collection of classic soul songs

re-interpreted by a new and fresh soul singer.

What a breath of fresh Donegal Air in every heartfelt note!”

- Brian Kennedy


A Donegal man, Sean spent three years planning and developing Northern Soul, his first solo album. In his early twenties Seán toured with bands such as Westlife and Irish Country star Derek Ryan, and his former band D-Side, but now he is taking center stage to bring his musical vision to the world.

Singing- Sean Feeny

Sean Feeny of Northern Soul

Musicians and singers from all over Donegal shared their talents to record this charity album. Fiddlers, piano accordionists, flautists, tin whistle, mandolin, banjo and ukulele players all joined forces to recreate beautiful, heartfelt renditions of some old favorites.  Sean said:


“I am very privileged to have so many wonderful singers and musicians,

whom I am honoured to call friends, featuring on this album. 

Without their generosity and willingness to help this album

would never have been possible and wouldn’t have turned out the way it did.”


I have listened to this album many times, and love to sing-along when I’m driving. My voice is so bad, I’m banned from singing to it when the kids are in the car.

Sean Feeney

The Charities:


This CD is raising funds for GROW Mental Health Movement and the North West Simon Community. Five years ago Seán was part of the first annual Letterkenny Street Sleep, increasing his awareness of the plight of homeless people throughout Ireland and the world. This eye-opening experience led him to choose the North West Simon Community charity as one of those to benefit from sales of Northern Soul.

Northwest Simon Community

The aim of the Simon Community is to ensure people keep their homes, by providing a listening ear, practical supports, information and advocacy.

Grow is a National Mental Health Organisation that provides an opportuinity for growth and personal development for people with mental health problems, and also for people who may be having difficulty coping with life’s challenges.


How To Buy The Album:


Northern Soul is only 10 euro.  The album is available at Books & Charts, Dungloe, Leo’s Tavern, Meenaleck, Crolly or An Grianán Theatre, Letterkenny. It is also available by mail order. For queries email:

Thank you to Sean for his generosity, and concern for others. I wish him every success for a long and enduring career as a talented musician.

Sean Feeny’s Northern Soul is also featured on Facebook.


The Giveaway:




Four lucky winners will receive a copy of the CD Northern Soul by Sean Feeny.

To enter just leave a comment on this blog post by noon on Tuesday, March 18th, 2013.  Any comment will do but if you need inspiration why not tell us what type of music you enjoy, or what type of music would be a good blend with Irish traditional music.

A winning comment will be chosen randomly.  Remember to leave your e-mail so that I can contact you should you win.  Your e-mail won’t be published or shared, just used to contact our lucky contestants.

Winners will be announced on Tuesday March 18th, so I can get the winners’ prizes in the mail.

Thanks to everyone who enters and supports our giveaway. I look forward to reading your comments.



Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

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