To the rest of the world, Irish culture is associated with either St. Patrick’s Day, shamrock, leprechauns or the stout called Guinness. However, Irish culture is much more than the familiar association with the aforementioned objects. The culture of Ireland is as rich and diverse as its people. It is a culture characterized with a strong Christian foundation and respect for oral tradition. This research paper aims to discuss the various aspects of Irish culture: religion, traditions, folklore and literature, music, dance, cinema and sports. Ireland is a predominantly Christian country, and St.Patrick was responsible for bringing Christianity in Ireland (“Culture of Ireland”).
Ireland was converted into Christianity as early as 5th century AD (“Culture”). The name of the missionary was Patricius, a “Romanised Celt” whose father was a deacon and a grandfather who was a priest (“Culture”). When he was sixteen years old, he was kidnapped and taken away from his country to be sold as a slave. Later on, he was able to escape and study to be a priest. When he was asleep one night, he dreamt of a voice that instructed him to go back to Ireland.
He obeyed the voice, and he soon became the Naomh Padraig, or popularly known as the patron of Ireland, St. Patrick (“Culture”). The shamrock, which is often associated with Ireland, is still connected to St. Patrick (“Culture”). It was said that St. Patrick took a shamrock and explained to the Irish people the connection between the shamrock and the Holy Trinity. He said that as it is possible for three leaves to come from a single stem, it is also possible for three separate entities to be contained in one God (“Culture”). St.
Patrick holds such a special place in Irish culture that his feast day is the most celebrated event of the year in the Irish calendar (“Culture of Ireland”). St. Patrick’s Day falls on March 17th, an occasion that is not only celebrated in Ireland but also in other parts of the world (“Culture”; “Culture of Ireland”). While different countries celebrate through festivities that involve the color green, back in Ireland the feast day is observed differently (“Culture of Ireland”). The day usually begins with families going to church to attend mass.
They do so with shamrocks worn on their breasts. After mass, families share a bountiful feast while witnessing the parades that were held in the United States shown on television. This is because parades in Ireland were only a recent development (“Culture of Ireland”). Most of the Irish traditions are firmly grounded on the Christian faith (“Culture of Ireland”). That is why baptism, Communion and Confirmation are significant events in an Irish person’s life. Most of the Irish citizens are Roman Catholics; tradition states that a few weeks after birth, a child must be baptized.
The next tradition is the First Communion. In Ireland, a child as young as six or seven years old must receive the Body of Christ. Lastly, before an Irish person reaches adolescence, he or she must undergo the Confirmation (“Culture of Ireland”). Another tradition in Ireland is giving due respect and importance to the dearly departed (“Culture”). According to Irish folklore, a female spirit called the bean si would wail to warn of the imminent death of a family member. In the old Irish tradition, wakes were usually filled with merrymaking.
Aside from praying, people also sang, narrated stories and participated in games. All these activities were part of what was then perceived as the appropriate way to honor the dead. However, this is no longer practiced today (“Culture”) In present day Ireland, when someone passed away, it is a customary to hold a wake about two days before the body is to be buried (“Culture of Ireland”). During the wake, women would place the body either on a bed or a table (Steffen). The duration of a wake starts from the person’s death and ends with the funeral.
Unlike in other countries when wakes were held in funeral parlors, Irish tradition dictates that wakes must be held in the home (“Culture of Ireland”). This wake is an opportunity for both family and friends to say goodbye to the deceased and rejoice in the dead person’s journey after death. It is also a tradition in Ireland for someone to stand above the coffin for two nights to pray for the dead. More often than not, it is the rosary that is being prayed. Also, part of the Irish tradition is what is called keening (Steffen). It is the name of the lamentation of women during the wake.
Lastly, during the funeral itself, it is another tradition for family members to bring the coffin, or even just halfway, to the Church where the funeral will be held (“Culture of Ireland”). Weddings are also part of the Irish tradition. One of the traditions in an Irish wedding is the handfasting (Steffen). Handfasting involves the couple being bound to each other in the wrist. It is from this expression where the phrase “tying the knot” was derived. The agreement made by the couple while bound to each other has a duration of a year.
After the year has passed, the couple can either choose to have a committed bond or simply be bound again for one more year (Steffen). Folklore and literature also hold much significance in Irish culture. Since time began, the file or poet, had already been held in high esteem in Irish culture (“Culture”). The poets are known for satires and praise; it is believed that their works carry not only magic, but also the wisdom of the mystics. These poets were part of the educated class; they were considered as professionals and were supported by Gaelic and Norman-Gaelic patrons.
In addition, the heritage of Irish folklore also includes not only historical and mythical lore, but also that of fairy-lore. Even St. Patrick is a crucial figure in folklore, as saints are the usually subjects of lore. Folklore has so much value for the Irish that they have created a group for the collection and preservation of the country’s lore. At present, there is the Department of Irish Folklore, situated within the University College Dublin. However, it began as the Irish Folklore Commission, which was founded in 1935 (“Culture”).
Literature plays a crucial role in Irish culture; however, it is not only distinguished in Ireland, but also throughout the world. Irish literature is recognized the world over, as several authors have brought their country much pride and critical acclaim through their works (Government of Ireland). For instance, James Joyce placed Ireland in the world literature map through his work entitled Ulysses (Government of Ireland; “The Irish”). Bram Stoker, on the other hand, was the author of Dracula, the famous horror novel (“The Irish”).
Jonathan Swift also made a notable contribution to Irish literature through Gulliver’s Travels. Oscar Wilde, the author of The Importance of Being Earnest, was also Irish. Samuel Beckett is yet another Irish author, who made Irish literature famous with works such as Waiting for Godot and Endgame. George Bernard Shaw, a dramatist known for Caesar and Cleopatra and Major Barbara, was also born in Ireland (“The Irish”). Then there is Sean O’Casey, who wrote The Plough and the Stars, as well as Juno and the Paycock (Government of Ireland).
The later was made into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock (“Culture”). Moreover, many Irish authors have received recognition for their talent in writing. In the 20th century, there have been four Irish writers that received a Nobel Prize for literature; the most recent one was Seamus Heaney (Government of Ireland). Music in Ireland is quite diverse. In medieval times, Irish music was “non-literate” (“Culture”). It was passed on from one generation to another through oral tradition (Government of Ireland). The harp is the most important instrument in the history of Irish music (“Culture”).
In fact, in 17th century Ireland, the harp was accepted as the arms of the country. There are two kinds of harp that play a key role in Ireland’s musical history: the clairseach and cruit, both of which are significant musical instruments (Government of Ireland). The Irish poets of the early times used the harp for accompaniment (“Culture”). Aside from the harp, other ancient Irish instruments were the uilleann pipes, accordion, fiddle and the bodhran (Government of Ireland). Despite having an oral tradition in music, one composer was fortunate enough to have his works preserved over time.
His name is Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738), one of Ireland’s earliest poets and most famous harpists (“Culture”; Government of Ireland). The Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, an institution whose objective is to promote Irish music all over the world, contributed to the preservation of Irish music (Government of Ireland). Meanwhile, Irish music in the 18th century was dominated by composers, while the 19th century was distinguished by remarkable operas (“Culture”). Up until now, Ireland still continues the tradition of opera, with the likes of Dublin Grand Opera and the Opera Theatre Company.
Another important musical institution in Ireland is the Radio Telefis Eireann, which manages the National Symphony Orchestra. Lastly, the 20th century saw musical fusion dominate the Irish musical landscape; it also saw the emergence of musical artists the brought Irish music throughout the world. World-renowned Irish artists include U2, Enya, Sinead O’ Connor, The Cranberries, Boyzone, The Corrs and Westlife (“Culture”; Government of Ireland). Traditional Irish dance is also famous all over the world, through “The Riverdance” (“Culture of Ireland”; Government of Ireland).
This kind of dance originated hundreds of years ago in Ireland, and was eventually passed on to other cultures when many Irish people were forced to migrate during the 1800s famine (“Culture of Ireland”). Other Irish dances include hornpipes, polkas, reels, slides and jigs (“Culture”; Government of Ireland). It is also important to note that Ireland does not have a national dance company or ballet institution, but it has minor but active dance outfits all over the country (“Culture”). Irish cinema may not be known all over the world compared to the cinema of other countries, but it is still contributes to the world of film making.
The history of Irish cinema began with the primary public screening in 1896, when the Lumiere brothers showed their films in Dublin (“Culture”; Government of Ireland). A year later, Professor Joly showed Irish subjects that were initially filmed. In 1909, the first cinema to open in Ireland was the Volta, located in Mary Street in Dublin. This cinema was briefly managed by James Joyce. Ireland also holds a place in Hollywood, as several movies were shot in the country. Movies shot in Ireland include Juno and the Paycock by Hitchcock, Far and Away by Ron Howard and Braveheart by Mel Gibson, just to name a few (“Culture”).
The Irish Film Board was originally created in 1981, but it was reintroduced in 1993 to support the local film industry of Ireland (Government of Ireland). The country of Ireland is actively engaged in sports. It may not be as famous for soccer as other countries, but Ireland has actively participated in soccer competitions. In fact, the youth soccer teams of Ireland have been victorious in several European competitions, and some Irish soccer players have played for various European teams (Government of Ireland). Ireland is also passionate about rugby football.
Aside from soccer, other famous sports in Ireland are Gaelic football and hurling, track and field, snooker, golf and boxing (Government of Ireland). Ireland is a country with an interesting and diverse culture. Its culture is very much grounded on religion and oral tradition of medieval times; however, it is also a rather modern culture as well, as evident in the literature, music, cinema and sports of its people. Indeed, the culture of the Ireland must not be confined to certain holidays or objects, as it is much more than that.
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