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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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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Happy Lughanasadh

Happy Lughnasadh everyone.  Celebrated on the 1st of August, Lughanasadh (pronounced Loo-nah-sah)  is the third of the four ancient Celtic seasonal festivals.

Today marks the waning of summer and the beginning of autumn in Ireland. Seasons change earlier on the Emerald Isle than in North America. And today on Lughanasadh the ancient Celts celebrated the first harvest festival of the year.

Lúnasa is the modern Irish spelling for both the month of August and the festival. With my little smattering of Irish, I mistakenly believed the name was associated with the moon. As a child I used ‘luan’ as the Irish word for moon.


Since I don’t trust my rusty brain, I decided I better double check the meaning, only to discover the more common term for moon is ‘gealach’.  Well, that got me thinking I better investigate my assumptions for Lughanasadh, and as expected I was a little off base.

The harvest moon is associated with the festivities, but the feast bears the name of the sun god Lugh.  Ancient Celtic Ireland was an agricultural community. On the first day of Lughnasadh Celtic farmers cut the first grains of the season, and families baked loaves of bread, marking the beginning of the end of summer.

Lugh, the ancient Celtic sun god, is credited with hosting the first harvest festival. His poor foster mother, Tailtiu, died from sheer exhaustion after clearing the brush and forestry from the central plains of Ireland for planting crops (another poor, over-worked Irish woman!!)

Lugh commemorated his foster mother’s sacrifice and dedication, by organizing a great feast and sporting competition. Let’s face it, he really should have just helped the poor woman clear the brush.

Over the years this harvest festival evolved into a great tribal assembly. Násad is the ancient Irish word for assembly. It became a time for making legal agreements, resolving disputes, and challenging competitors to great sporting feats.  Hand-fastings, or ancient Celtic weddings were also held on this date.

Reek Sunday Pilgrimage Croagh Patrick - © Copyright Alan James and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.

Reek Sunday Pilgrimage Croagh Patrick – © Copyright Alan James and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.

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Since much of the festivities occurred at the top of mountains, climbing Ireland’s hills became associated with Lughnasadh. This tradition was Christianized over time, the most famous trek being the Reek Sunday pilrimage to the top of Croagh Patrick. Thousands of pilgrims climbed this famous Mayo mountain last Sunday.


And so today, when celebrations of Lughnasadh no longer

dominate Irish culture, perhaps we should just pause for a

moment, taking time to be grateful for the food on our table

and for all of our blessings.


Summer days are drawing to an end and evenings are beginning to grow noticeably shorter.  Lughanasadh is a time to begin reaping what has been sown, and to remember the ever turning cycle of Mother Nature.


Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom





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Lessons I Learned From My Dad

I talk about my Mom quite often on my blog, how she shared her recipes, taught me life lessons, and the skills to live life to the full.  Today, on Father’s Day, I realized I talk a lot less about my Dad.  But rest assured rearing me was a joint effort, a partnership between two loving individuals.

My Father

Because my Mom stayed home when I was a kid, she fills my Irish story lines with ease.  She talks a lot more than Dad, and when I say a lot, I mean a lot. Her voice echoes through my memories. But when I look back I realize Dad was everything I could have ever asked for.

I often wonder if Americans think every Irish childhood is a miserable one. Much of our literature gives that impression.  My childhood was far from the typical miserable, Irish, Catholic upbringing. I was blessed to grow up in a happy home, with a father who is a kind and loving man.

And so today, on Father’s Day, I thought I might share some lessons I learned from my Dad.


1. Patience:


My father never rushes. He does everything at his own pace.  “I’ll get to that, in God’s good time,” is one of his favorite sayings.

Or slower still, he’ll get to it “in his own good time.”  We’d have nine days in a week, if my father was helping at the time of Creation.

He thinks things through, contemplates before speaking, and does nothing in haste.  He may be a plodder, but rest assured he has plodded successfully through life.


2. Never Write A Letter In Anger:


He always told me never to write a letter when angry. If I did, he advised me to put it away, rest on it for a day or two, then reread it before sending it.

If sentiments remain unchanged after this deliberately enforced breathing space, then by all means share those angry thoughts with the world. As a result I have never sent an angry letter, and lived to regret my words.


3. Encouragement:


My father is my best supporter in life, but never in a loud and ostentatious manner. He never praised me boastfully as a child. His encouragement came when things went wrong. With Dad I knew I was wonderful, no matter what.


4. People Always Come First:


When I was a little girl I crashed a chair through a crystal cabinet, smashing at least half of the Waterford crystal my parents received for their wedding. A Hummel shepherd lost his sheep as a result of my horseplay.

But my father never cared about the loss of objects. His reaction was – “Thank God she’s not hurt.”

That’s how I learned I was more important than all the things in the world.


5. Love Of Family:


My father is one of thirteen children. By the time he became a father most of his brothers and sisters were living in America and England. Even though only three siblings remained in Ireland, as a child I knew I was part of a large family.

Even if the tribe is scattered to the four corners of the world, my father maintains ties with all.  Homecomings are big occasions for our family. Dad always opens the door to our long lost cousins. He loves to meet and entertain them, listen to their Irish American tales, and share stories of our ancestors.  As a child I knew I was part of a large tribe, and that we had many stories to tell, both Irish and American.


6. Learn From Your Ancestors:


My father has spent years recording and documenting our family tree. He has traced our roots back to the 1700′s.  We do not hail from an illustrious line of noblemen, but from hard working Irish farmers, who tilled the land, built stone walls from rocky mountain fields, and above all, who survived through thick and thin.


7. Protection:


When I left for America many moons ago, my father told me to remember I can always come home. No matter where I wander, no matter what happens, no matter what goes right or wrong, I can always go back to where it all began. His words have sustained me through the years. Knowing my family is my rock, gives me a beautiful feeling of protection.


8. Loyalty:


My father taught me to be a loyal and supportive friend, the kind of friend I’d like to have myself.  He is always there for his friends and family, especially when the chips are down.  He goes the distance to help. Whether it is bringing in the hay or simply lending a ladder, no act is too big or small for Dad.


9. Money Is Transient:


My father never focused on accumulating wealth as a path towards happiness.  He believes money is transient, just “resting in your account” to quote Father Ted, before it passes through on its journey around the world. Dad taught me to treat unexpected windfalls as an opportunity to set a dream in motion, or a chance to share my good fortune with others in need.


10. Generosity:


Worldly possessions mean little to my father. I can’t ever remember him buying a fancy thing for himself. His happiness comes from giving, not always things, but giving of his time, his undivided attention, his love and his protection.


And so today, on Father’s Day, I say thank you to my father, for his unconditional love and support.  I am who I am, because of Dad.



Lá na nAthair faoi shona daoibh!

(Happy Father’s Day)

Irish American Mom



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Irish Quotations & Blessings For Memorial Day

On Memorial Day we remember those who have died for our freedom. We remember their courage and bravery, their service and sacrifices, and their families and friends who mourn them.

 Zachary Taylor Cemetry, Louisville

This weekend I say thank you to the many who have paid the ultimate price to uphold the principles upon which this nation was founded. We must never take liberty for granted, but must take time to pause and acknowledge the bravery of America’s finest men and women.

To mark Memorial Day this year I thought I might share some quotations form Irish men and women, together with the patriotic words of an Irish American President.


In Honor Of Our Fallen Heroes….


“Be my epitaph writ on my country’s mind,

‘He served his country and loved his kind’.”

~Thomas Davis (1814-1845)



 ”Death leaves a heartache no one can heal;

Love leaves a memory no one can steal.”

~ From An Irish Headstone.

 Memorial Day Flags at Zachary Taylor Cemetry, Louisville


“Peace to each manly soul that sleepeth;

Rest to each faithful eye that weepeth….”

~ Thomas Moore


“A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces

but also by the men it honors,

the men it remembers.”

~John F. Kennedy



“Life springs from death:

and from the graves of patriot men and women

spring living nations.”

~ Patrick Pearse


 Flowers and American Flag On A Soldier's Grave

“It is not those who can inflict the most,

but those who can suffer the most who will conquer.”

~ Terence Mac Swiney



“Let every nation know,

whether it wishes us well or ill,

that we shall pay any price,

bear any burden,

meet any hardship,

support any friend,

oppose any foe

to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

~John F. Kennedy



“Liberty without learning is always in peril;

learning without liberty is always in vain.”

~John F. Kennedy

The Bivouac of the Dead

Commemorative Marker at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, Louisville

“The only thing for the triumph of evil

is for good men to do nothing.”

- Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797)



“God willing He’ll keep them

who died fighting in war

God willing their memory

won’t stray from us far.

God willing He’ll bless them

who still fight the good fights

God willing He’ll bring

them safe home to our hearts.”

~ Irish Blessing For Soldiers



“Until we meet again, may God

Hold you in the palm of his hand.”

~ Irish Blessing


Tree at Zachary Taylor Cemetry

 Prayers For Those Who Mourn:


“The light of God surround you,

The love of God enfold you,

The power of God protect you,

The presence of God watch over you.”

~ Annonymous


“This day and always,

May God’s strength direct you,

May His power sustain you,

May His wisdom guide you,

And His vision light you.

His ear to your hearing,

His word to your speaking,

His hand to uphold you,

His pathway before you,

His shield to protect you,

And his legions to save you.”

~ Adapted From St. Patrick’s Prayer.



Memorial Day Flags at Zachary Taylor Cemetry, Louisville

 ”On that day when the weight deadens on your shoulders

and you stumble, may the clay dance to balance you.

And when the ghost of loss gets into you,

may a flock of colors — indigo, red, green, and azure blue –

come to awaken in you a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays

and the stain of ocean blackens beneath you,

may there come across the waters a path of yellow moonlight

to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,

may the clarity of light be yours,

may the fluency of the ocean be yours,

may the protection of the ancestors be yours,

and so may a slow wind work these words of love around you,

an invisible cloak to mind your life.”

~ John O’Donohue, Anam Chara.



“May you see God’s light on the path ahead

When the road you walk is dark.

May you always hear,

Even in your hour of sorrow,

The gentle singing of the lark.

When times are hard may hardness

Not turn your heart to stone,

And may you always remember

You do not walk alone.”

~ Irish Blessing In Time Of Sorrow

 American Flag On Grave For Memorial Day


Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)



Irish American Mom



“A good run is better than a bad stand”
Irish saying/prov

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