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.

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

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.

Crocuses

Crocuses

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.”

 

Daffodils

Daffodils

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.”

 

Primroses

Primroses

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.

IMG_3266

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.

IMG_3354

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

Share on Facebook

Thanksgiving – The Irish Connection

Believe it or not, the origins of Thanksgiving may have an Irish connection.  “No way,” I hear you declare, but incredibly a link may actually exist.

 

Thanksgiving - The Irish Connection

Image Credit

Until now, I deemed Thanksgiving a totally American holiday with no ties to the old sod whatsoever. That myth was laid to rest this week by one of my blog readers. Her comment included a link to a very interesting article by the Irish Cultural Society of San Antonio.

This article piqued my interest so much, I just had to share this little nugget of Thanksgiving history with you today, on this special day of blessings.

And so, here I go again, claiming anything and everything has an Irish connection.  I’m nearly beginning to annoy myself with all this Irish pride. But then I realized you all share the same Irish pride, so I couldn’t resist writing a post about my newly found information.

My quick synopsis of the tale follows, but for anyone interested in further details, you can read the full story here.

 

The First Thanksgiving With An Irish Twist:

 

A North American winter was far harsher than the pilgrims ever imagined possible. During the first year in their new land they faced challenges of starvation, freezing temperatures and death. Their plight was so bad they even considered returning to England.

Salvation arrived, that first February, in the form of a ship carrying provisions to sustain them. ‘The Lyon’ arrived from none other than Dublin, Ireland, sent by a merchant and loving father, who was worried about his daughter. She had moved to the New World with her pilgrim husband.

Thanksgiving Wishes

Image Credit

A Day of Thanksgiving was celebrated the day after the ship’s arrival.  I hope the Pilgrims shared some of their Irish bounty with their Native American neighbors.

Two hundred years later President Lincoln decreed the day a national holiday, but moved it to November.  When President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to move the holiday in the 1930′s, public outcry prompted a study to validate the origins of the holiday.

The Boston Post published an article which mentioned The Lyon’s arrival in New England as the reason for the first Thanksgiving. However, the article claimed the ship’s origin as England or Holland. Outrage amongst Irish American Bostonians spurred the writer to acknowledge Dublin as the port of origin. A correction was promised the following Thanksgiving, but was never printed.

And as with most controversies, time brought calm, and the origins of the first Thanksgiving were quietly committed to the annals of history.

And so the first Thanksgiving may have celebrated the generosity of a loving Irish father, shared by The Pilgrim Fathers with their Native American neighbors???

For me the key to  this holiday is that it remains centered on giving thanks for our many blessings.

And so, on this Thanksgiving Day, I wish you all a time of peace, joy and love, shared with family and friends.

 

 

Lá an Altaithe Shona Daoibh,

(Happy Thanksgiving Day)

Irish American Mom

 

P.S. A big thank you to Ruth for her informative comment on my post ‘Ten Reasons Why I Love Thanksgiving’.

Share on Facebook

President John F. Kennedy – An Irish American Who Inspired A Generation

Today, on the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s death, I pay tribute to him, an Irish American who inspired a generation and beyond.

512px-John_F._Kennedy,_White_House_photo_portrait,_looking_up

Image Credit

As a child growing up in Ireland I often heard people talk of where they were when they first heard of JFK’s assassination. Irish people revered Kennedy.  All four of his grandparents were the children of Irish immigrants. To this very day we lament his loss at such a young age. I can hardly believe he was younger than I am today, when he was shot in Dallas at the age of 46.

Because JFK was so young when he was killed, he remains forever young in our memories. We do not picture him as a 96-year old, but as a resilient man, stolen from the world when he still had so much to do.

The tragic news of his death reverberated around the world, with deep shock waves felt in Ireland, the land of his ancestors.  Even today we still talk of his great legacy and hold him in high esteem. But what is his legacy?  What did he achieve in his brief years as President that continues to inspire and motivate us to this very day?

Jfk_inauguration

Inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, January 1961

 Image Credit

Kennedy’s inaugural address, the first ever to be broadcast live in color, is one of the late president’s most moving moments. With one simple statement he inspired a generation:

 

“… Ask not what your country can do for you;

 

Ask what you can do for your country.”

 

Kennedy understood how to use words to strike an emotional chord.  He spoke eloquently of America’s role in the world.  He did not shy away from asking Americans to avoid selfish motives, but to selflessly put their country first.  He created, then seized a moment of idealism, uplifting a nation with his optimism.

He did not simply leave us with words to remember him by, but an enduring legacy of achievements. His fierce belief in the need to nurture American values guided his policies on education, social justice, racial equality and global development.

President Kennedy knew he was lucky to call America home, yet he challenged his fellow Americans to protect that nation, to become engaged citizens and invest in their own future.  He inspired this nation to create a better tomorrow, daring to dream a man could walk on the moon; or that Americans could sow the seeds of peace throughout the world.

JFK Firescreen

Firescreen with image of JFK proudly displayed in a Dublin neighbor’s home to this very day.

And through all the pressures of a Presidency, he showed great grace, and a sense of humor. His ability to laugh at himself and inject humor into a conversation we, here in Ireland, claim to be part of his Irish inheritance.

His appreciation for the arts is another trait we Irish love to take credit for.

 

“I look forward to an America which will steadily

raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and

which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities

for all of our citizens.

 

And I look forward to an America which

commands respect throughout the world

not only for its strength,

but for its civilization as well.”

 

These words helped inspire President Johnson to establish the National Endowment for the Arts just two years after JFK’s death.

This week President Obama described Kennedy as:

 

“resilient, resolute, fearless and fun-loving,

defiant in the face of impossible odds and

most of all, determined to make the world anew,

not settling for what is,

but rather for what might be.”

 

Today, as we  come together to reflect on the day John F. Kennedy was fatally shot while riding in a motorcade with his wife in Dallas, Texas, let us pay tribute to his visionary leadership.

His death shocked not only America, but changed the world forever.  Today, when political differences seem to divide us,  I pray his legacy will help us stand together, determined to create a future of hope, peace and abundance, united as Americans.

 

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

Share on Facebook

Happy Halloween 2013

Tomorrow is Halloween or Samhain (Sow-in) as it is called in Irish. It is one of the most important festivals of the ancient Celtic calendar.

Halloween 2013

I must confess, I love Halloween. I have loved it since I was a little girl in Dublin. It comes a close second to Christmas, as one of my favorite days of the year.

Excitement is rising in our home. My four little ones can’t wait to don their costumes to run from house to house on their annual candy quest.

Lucky Halloween Boy with Cat

Image Credit

Halloween – The Irish Connection

 

As you get all dressed up in your costume this year, or light up your carved out pumpkin, remember that together we celebrate a holiday that is truly Irish and American.  Read more about the ever-evolving Irish-American tradition of Halloween in this post from a few years ago.

In ancient Ireland Oíche Shamhna or Halloween night was a celebration of the final harvest of the year.  An additional place was set at dinner to invite dead ancestors to the table. It was believed boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead were thinnest on this night. Spirits were free to move between worlds and rejoin the living.

 

Halloween Food

Irish Halloween Foods:

 

Now if you’re wondering what should be on the menu for your ghostly guests, traditional Irish Halloween foods are colcannon and barm brack or tea brack.

My carrot and coriander soup may not be traditional Halloween fare, but its orange color makes it perfect fuel for little witches and vampires before they head off on a long candy trek.

 Halloween Collage

Why I Love Halloween In America:

 

Halloween may have started in Ireland, but Americans truly know how to celebrate in style.  When I first crossed the Atlantic many moons ago, it was such a relief to discover Halloween is celebrated on an even bigger scale in America than in Ireland.  Check out this post to find my top ten reasons for loving Halloween – American Style.

 

Irish Faerie Folk:

 

Wonderful insights into the faerie folk of Irish myths and legends are available on the Got Ireland website. Many of Ireland’s infamous, magical, spooky characters of yore are explored in a series of supernatural posts, just perfect for Halloween.

 

Happy Halloween To All:

 

Now that the time has come to find those scary costumes, and trick or treat to the orange glow of  Jack-O’-Lanterns, I wish you all a very happy and safe Halloween!  I hope you enjoy a holiday full of spooktacular fun.

 

Oíche Shamhna Shona Daoibh

(Happy Halloween)

Irish American Mom

Share on Facebook

Irish Cottage Windows

Nostalgic images of Irish cottage windows adorn postcards, calendars, placemats, mugs and numerous other mementos created to help tourists remember their days spent in the Emerald Isle.

Some claim this image is overused and just plain touristy, but for me it is synonymous with my homeland.

IMG_2769-001

Simple, small wooden windows often sport old black kettles. Red geraniums are striking, when highlighted by whitewashed walls.

IMG_2698

This summer I often paused to photograph cottage windows. My children just could not understand my interest in windows.

“Hurry up, Mom,” was a frequent instruction from my kids, who grew impatient with my constant dilly dallying, and car halting maneuvers to snapshot old windows that caught my fancy. In years to come I hope they’ll understand their mother’s fascination with Irish cottages and windows.

IMG_2731

Whenever I see a lace curtained window, I smile.  Simple, yet beautiful, these windows are fitting symbols of our rural heritage.

IMG_2782

Irish cottages usually boasted less than six small windows, and often only two or three.

The size and number of windows in a house were limited to avoid the dreaded ‘window tax’.  From 1799 until 1851 more than six windows in a house resulted in a window tax being levied on the homeowner. As a result cottages were built with as few windows as possible.

Cottage interiors were often smokey and dark. The window tax was often called the ‘typhus tax’ because of respiratory problems caused by poor ventilation.

IMG_2708

The general rule was that the front door of the cottage should face south.  Northerly winds are colder than southerly breezes.  Elemental considerations dictated the door free rear wall should face north.

IMG_2737

Cottage windows were small compared to the vast glass panes of today. The main reason for this, was to retain heat in the winter and to keep cool in the summer.  Cottages truly were an Irishman’s cave.

Glass was also expensive. Economy dictated use of the smallest possible amount of glass.

IMG_2777

Cottage walls were much thicker than today’s home structures. This design feature helped support the roof and beams.  Thick walls meant deep window recesses, just perfect for flower displays.

IMG_3268

Deep window ledges were also perfect for displaying statues, the Infant of Prague, being a favored window fixture.

IMG_2615

And of course, flowers adorned cottage windows in abundance, and still do, to this very day.

Every Irish cottage is slightly different, each seeming to boast a unique personality.  And behind these windows family stories of love and loss evolved…. if only windows could talk.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

 

Share on Facebook