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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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

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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

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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’.

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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.


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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?


Inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, January 1961

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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

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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

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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

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