Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Hallowe'en: Observed: some Irish Hallowe'en Traditions

According to some historians Hallowe'en was first celebrated by the Celts who called it 'Samhain', the 'Feast of the Dead'. This was the day when the dead revisited the mortal world. In Gaelic the day is called 'Oíche Shamhna', which literally translates to 'night' of 'November', or November eve. It is a harvest celebration which marks the end of summer and the start of the winter months.

In the eighth century the Catholic Church designated the first day of November as 'All Saints Day ('All Hallows'). It was to be a day of commemoration for those Saints who did not have a holy day of remembrance specifically dedicated to them. The night before was known as 'All Hallows Evening' which, over time, became known as Hallowe'en (thus the apostrophe between the two 'e's).

Here are some Irish Hallowe'en Traditions of which my family partake:


Colcannon is a dish of mashed potatoes mixed with curly kale and a little bit of onion; it is served as a traditional Irish Hallowe'en dinner. Tradition holds that clean coins are wrapped in waxed paper and placed in the colcannon for children to find and keep. When I was growing up my mother did not add the coins for fear that someone would choke on a coin, and I do not add them when I make colcannon.

Barnbrack (or Barmbrack)

Barnbrack is a traditional fruit bread/cake in Ireland and is often served on Hallowe'en. Each member of the family gets a slice, and also any guests. Although we do not include them in our barnbrack, traditionally bits of rags are wrapped and baked into the cake. If you get a rag it means you will end up poor. We like to keep everything on the positive side, so in our family both my mom and I bake only wrapped coins and a wrapped ring into the bread. If a coin is in the slice you receive, your future will be a prosperous one; if you find a ring in yours, romance is in your future.

Pumpkin Carving

Carving Pumpkins dates back to the eighteenth century. Many stories exist about the origins of pumpkin carving; however, according to one popular legend, an Irish blacksmith named Jack colluded with the Devil and was denied entry to Heaven. He was condemned to wander the earth in the dark, but pleaded with the Devil to give him some light. A burning coal ember was thrown up to him from Hell. He gouged out the core of a turnip and placed the ember inside. Thus, the tradition of Jack O'Lanterns was born - the bearer being the wandering blacksmith - a damned soul. Villagers in Ireland placed a lantern in their window to keep the wanderer away. When the tradition emigrated to America with the Irish the more plentiful pumpkins were used instead.

Hallowe'en Costumes

This tradition of wearing costumes also dates back to Celtic times. Legend tells us that, with the dead returning to the mortal world on this special night of 'Samhain', the living Celts would dress in elaborate costumes as spirits and devils, so that they could mingle with the spirits of the dead without fear of being carried away by them during the night.

Thanks to for some of this information.
*Click on photo for larger version.
©Copyright J.Geraghty-Gorman 2010.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fizzy Friday: Goblins and Ghosts and Spiders, oh my: Hallowe'en is on its way

Autumn is my best-loved season and with it comes one of my favourite holidays, Hallowe'en. I love it when lots of children come to our house. Some visit fully decked out in the latest costume, while others are creatively attired in threads of their own invention. We get the little ones who aren't quite sure what it's all about, but are happy to accept candy from the excited lady at our front door (me). We get the university and college students who paint their faces and put on their T-shirts inside out, just so they can get free sweets to help extend the grocery budget. We always decorate the house, either the day of Hallowe'en or the day before. We don't have the decor set for this year yet, so here are a few shots from Hallowe'ens past.

Witchy Welcome!

BOO! to you

Goblins and goodies

Our little Spider Silkies

Boo is big around here. The little kids love him.

We have a spider problem!

Doggies on a pumpkin, and a cranky witch.

One boney thumbs up from this Yankee fan.

Have a boo-tiful Hallowe'en Everyone!

*Click on most photos to view a larger version.
All Photographs ©Copyright J.Geraghty-Gorman 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Freaky Friday: At Foxmount Country House, a high tech ghost

Our room is on the upper floor, second window in from the left.
When my husband and I travelled thoughout Ireland in 2008 we had the opportunity to stay in the beautiful Foxmount Country House, a Georgian period country manor on a working dairy farm which sits just outside of Waterford City in County Waterford. Our hosts David and Margaret Kent were most gracious and welcoming, and prepared an afternoon tea for us upon our arrival. The house is very elegant and we drank in every sight on the estate, including the beautiful gardens.

We arrived at the house mid-week and were the only guests in what is normally a fully booked bed and breakfast. I discovered very quickly that when you are accustomed to the noise of the metropolis, the complete quiet of the country can be, at first, a little unsettling, but once you relax you discover what it really means to be in a quiet place. There was no background noise, no white noise, no hotel lobby 'muzak'. It was heaven.

Our room on the upper floor of the house was dressed in period furniture, which I loved. We felt as though we had journeyed back in time. In the evening we ventured out for dinner and on our return very gladly settled into the soft down bed in our room. It had been a very long day with a lot of driving; I was really tired, and so quickly fell off to sleep.

It was a singularly windy night in Waterford, and as I settled in to sleep I could hear the branches of the trees moving in their dance with the wind. I was awakened around 1 a.m. by the sound of something brushing against the panes of glass in our window. I got out of bed and opened the window to brush aside strands of ivy. Although a soft rain was now steadily falling, there were breaks in the clouds, and I was delighted by the sight of billions of stars in the night sky.

The ivy enveloped window
Scurrying back into our very cozy bed, I quickly fell asleep again. About an hour later I awakened to the 'sound' of complete stillness. Hearing absolutely nothing, for a moment I thought I had gone deaf, then I could hear my husband's breath softly purring in a deep sleep. I laid on my side with my eyes shut, drinking in the quiet, then I turned on my back, opened my eyes and saw it. A glowing white light.

A glowing white light was emanating from the dresser across from the foot of our bed. It would get very bright, almost filling the pitch black room with soft light and then fade, brighten again, and then fade. It was as though the glow was pulsing like the rhythm of breathing. I could hear my own breath quicken in fear, but I could not move. My eyes were filling with tears because I was so frightened. I felt my hand move toward my husband and the next thing I knew I was shaking him awake. "Matt, Matt", I cried out, "what is that? what is that?". My poor husband bolted up in the bed, having been stirred from a deep sleep. He looked toward the end of the bed and started laughing. I didn't think it was very funny, and was annoyed by his behaviour. He jumped up out of the bed, switched on the light, and pointed to my laptop. I had left it on the dresser, and the glowing light? The indicator from my MacBook Pro in sleep mode, a high tech ghost.

The next night this city girl and her understanding husband happily fell asleep in a noisy hotel.

The culprit

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fizzy Friday: The Blue Bomber, Part 2: Sometimes Father does know best

On Monday I wrote about my first car, the Blue Bomber, so today I thought I would share my most fond memory of that little blue car.

The best memory (which also always makes me cry) has to do with the first time I waxed the car after washing it. I was very determined to have the car look its absolute best and so had bought the whole Turtle Wax kit. Even though I was "only a girl" (my brother's words), I intended to wax the whole car all by myself.

It was a very hot day for the end of the summer, but I was determined to do it. My dad showed me how to effectively apply the wax and instructed me to apply it in small portions, polishing to remove it as I went; however, once I had the basic technique in hand, I had my own ideas about how to do it. At sixteen I thought I knew it all, (I really should have taken over the world right then), so I asked Dad to leave me alone.

Beginning with the front hood, I proceeded to apply wax to the body of THE ENTIRE CAR. Needless to say, by the time I returned to the area in which I had first applied it, the wax had dried in the hot sun. It took many many weeks of car washes to finally get most, but not all, of that wax off. The car always had a sort of swirly patina look to it. The part of this memory that makes me cry is that even though my dad could have made me eat crow for not listening, he just patted me on the back, smiled and said, "Don't worry Jenn, with the waxy swirls all over it, your car just looks very unique." I'll always be very grateful to my dad for not "rubbing it in".

Thursday, October 7, 2010

In the works: An Irish Government Bill to allow release of the 1926 Irish Census

Hello Everyone,

Those of us interested in Irish Genealogy will be happy to know that a government Bill is in the works with respect to the release of the 1926 Census, the first census of the 'new' Ireland, the Irish Free State.

The Genealogical Society of Ireland has confirmed that the Statistics (Heritage Amendment) Bill, 2010, the Society's Bill to have the 1926 Census of Ireland released, is published and awaiting introduction at Second Stage in Seanad Éireann, the upper house of the Oireachtas (the legislative branch of Irish parliament).

The Bill is sponsored by Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú (Fianna Fáil Party) and has the support of many senators on both sides of the House.

If you would like to view a copy of the Bill visit:

Keep your fingers, and toes, crossed for passage of this Bill.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday: Overrun by Mother Nature, St. Colmcille's Churchyard, Swords, Fingal, County Dublin, Ireland

The cemetery is a perfect place for nature to clearly remind us of who is in charge.

The stone reads:
Erected By
Patrick Carey of Baskin hill
in memory of his beloved son
Patrick Carey
who died March 19th 1879 aged 30 years 

Another Kettle ancestor

Nature has wiped away all signs of script on this cross

The stone is at the center of this bushy area with ivy completely covering it.  None of the script remains.

Headstone of the Philips Family, 1862

All Photographs ©Copyright J. Geraghty-Gorman

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Blue Bomber, my first car

Thanks so very much to Texasblu at Sharing a Slice of Life, Hummer at Branching Out Through The Years, and Carol at Reflections From the Fence for the idea of writing about memories associated with our cars.

When I was fifteen I couldn't wait to get my driver's license. I thought that my sixteenth birthday would never arrive. On the day of my sixteenth birthday, along with three friends, I went straight to the DMV to take my learner's permit test. Over the next three weeks I took six driving lessons from an accredited school, so that I could get a break on the cost of insurance, and then took the exam to get my license. I passed with flying colours, and was absolutely thrilled because my first car was already sitting in the driveway just waiting for me. It wasn't a gift from my parents; it was there because I had earned every penny of the $800 it cost to buy it, and I had made my dream come true.

My birthday falls at the end of the summer, and all that summer before the big day I had worked really hard in order to earn enough money to augment my savings and buy the Blue Bomber. At the age of thirteen I had already been dreaming about the day I would have my own car, and so I applied for and was hired to work as a 'page' at the Public Library. The accepted age for teen employment at the time was sixteen, so I had to get a letter of permission from my parents indicating that they were okay with my working after school and on weekends. Over the next three years I saved every penny I could. I kept telling my dad I was going to buy my own first car. I don't know if he understood how determined I was, because whenever I would talk about it a skeptical little smile would come across his lips.

During the summer before my sixteenth birthday I took on a second job working at a pizza parlor. One night when I was on my way home I spotted the Blue Bomber in a used car lot. On its front windshield '$800' was painted in big bold numbers. I knew I would have enough money to buy it, and so over the next couple of weeks I harassed my dad into going with me to look at it. Eventually he agreed. He 'borrowed' the car from the lot to have a thorough safety inspection done. When he was satisfied I wouldn't kill myself in it, he capitulated and signed off on the documents; however, he did insist that before I bought it the dealer would have to "put new rubber all the way around" (translation: 4 new tires). The dealer agreed. I didn't have a chequing account, so he went with me to the bank to get a certified money order on my account for exactly $800.00.

The only existing photo of the Blue Bomber (unfortunately poor quality)
This photo from shows a beautifully restored version of a 67 blue Chevy Nova

I Loved that car! It was a 67 Chevy Nova, an old clunker in the eyes of many of my friends, but a dream car to me. I have so many happy memories of road trips in that car. Of course, my dad said that once I had a car I would never have any money for anything else, and he was right. Between insurance, gas, and service sometimes it seemed like a money pit, but I didn't care because for me it meant freedom.

Coming up on Fizzy Friday: The Blue Bomber, Part 2: a.k.a Sometimes Fathers do know best.

All Photographs ©Copyright J. Geraghty-Gorman 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

Fizzy Friday: Only one very stormy 30 minutes in a fortnight

On average it rains in Ireland about 280 days a year; however, when it rains it doesn't rain all day. Sometimes the rain lasts a couple of hours; sometimes only a few minutes, and it tends to rain more in the west country than the east. The day depicted in these photos is the same day I was in St. Stephen's Green. The sun was shining in the morning, but there was a torrential rain storm in the afternoon; however, the downpour only lasted about half an hour and then the rain fell lightly for another hour or so. In fact, it really didn't rain much at all for the two weeks previous to that day. As it always does, the rain storm ended with a rainbow in the distance. I didn't want to get soaked, so all these photos were taken while I was riding on a bus.

The skies look threatening as I wait for the bus on Dawson Street across from the Mayor's Residence
Stuck behind a Route 10 bus on Suffolk Street
Approaching Heuston Station; maybe the sky is clearing
About to cross the Liffey near Collins' Barracks; there's that dark sky again
About to turn into Phoenix Park; it can't be 2 pm, can it? 
Here comes the rain!!!  That's the Wellington Monument, a 207 foot tall obelisk (see below)
The Wellington Monument on a sunny day
I think it's going to stop raining any minute now.
On the quays next to the Liffey
A rain soaked Ha'-Penny Bridge
The sky is still dark, but the rain has stopped and there's a rainbow in the distance
By the time the bus arrives at the Spire in O'Connell Street the sky is beginning to clear
The Spire: Look up, way up

*Click on photos to view larger version.
All Materials ©Copyright J. Geraghty-Gorman 2010
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