Whether you’re planning a vacation, sending a gift to Ireland for a celebration, researching your heritage or just want some fun facts about “The Emerald Isle”, this infographic walks you through the history of this culture starting with the first people arriving in 8,000BC up through the beginnings of the Irish State in 1922. You’ll have fun learning folklore like leprechauns and the old hag of May Day to fun festivals you may want to attend.
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History by Epochs and Eras
- 8000BC – 4000BC – First people arrive in Ireland. The hunter-gatherers lived on a varied diet of seafood, birds, wild boar, and hazelnuts.
- 4000BC – 400AD – The first arrival of the Celts in Ireland. During this period and wheat and barley were primary crops.
- 400 – 800 – Christianity and the Latin language were introduced (mass was in Latin).
- 800 – 1536 – This was a hostile era. It started with Viking raids, then the Norman invasions of 1169 and 1171 occurred & control alternated between Norman lords and the King of England.
- 1536 – 1922 – A full conquest of Ireland occurred. In 1919, war broke out and five-sixths of Ireland seceded from the United Kingdom.
- 1922 – Present – The Irish free state came into being in 1922 with the 1937 constitution renaming it Ireland. In 1949, it became a republic.
Ready to celebrate? Here are a few of the many Irish festivals worth checking out.
- St. Patricks Day Festival – March 17th – Dublin hosts the largest parade in Ireland with over 500,000 people attending. Everyone’s a little Irish this day.
- Puck Fair – August 10-12 – Over 400 years old, this is the original and oldest Gathering Festival with concerts, storytelling, music, dance, and fireworks.
- Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann (Festival of Music) – August 12th – 19th – This festival has run over 60 years and through competition, establishes standards in traditional Irish music.
- Galway Oyster Festival – September 28th – 30th – Happening since 1954, this is both the most internationally recognized food festival in Ireland and the longest running oyster festival.
- Rose of Tralee – August 17 – 21 – This international event has women of Irish descent from around the world competing for the title Rose Of Tralee.
- Samhain Festival – October 31 – November 1st – Also known as Halloween, this is a traditional festival in Dublin that marks the end of the summer.
Aside from the festivals above, the Irish have unique holidays and celebrate others in a different way.
- Bloomsday – June 16th – Started in 1954, this holiday celebrates James Joyce, one of Ireland’s most famous literary masters.
- Christmas – December 24 – Jan. 6th – Due to Ireland’s large Catholic population, this celebration lasts two weeks.
- St. Stephen’s Day – December 26th – This holiday honors the Christian martyr. It is celebrated with traditional ceremonies, feasts, and trips to pubs across Ireland.
Customs & Gift Giving
With any ancient culture comes a plethora of rich traditions, here are only a few of the ones you may come across when you visit Ireland.
- Matchmaking or Babhdóir is one of Ireland’s oldest traditions! In the past, matchmakers helped arrange marriages between families. Now, they help couples find love.
- Blessings – Ireland is famous for them! You will hear them at weddings, family gatherings, or special occasions from friends and family and all express wishes of love and happiness.
- Celebrating the dead – Irish wakes are seldom solemn. Friends and family alike gather and share memories and funny stories about the deceased with food and drink.
- Flower gifts – When giving flowers as gifts, don’t give lilies. White flowers symbolize death and are used for funerals.
- Bring a gift – If you are invited to someone’s home, it is customary to bring a gift. The gift is usually opened in front of the giver as opposed to other cultures where they wait until everyone leaves.
- Pub Culture – In Ireland, even as a tourist, you will often find a group “buying a round.” If you receive a drink, you will be expected to buy a round so bring some extra Euro.
Folklore & Symbolism
With a rich culture of history and mythology, there is no shortage of tales, stories and mythic creatures in Ireland. Here are a few of our favorites.
- The Old Hag of May Day – Farmers protect their homes and herds of cows from hags who steal butter, milk, and cows in the early morning of May Day.
- Leprechaun – This creature dresses in emerald green clothing and plays tricks. He has a pot of gold hidden at the end of a rainbow.
- Tale of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and Benandonner – Fionn grabbed a mass of land, threw it, and it landed in the Irish sea to form the Isle of Man, Rockall, and Lough Neagh.
- Shamrock means ‘little clover’ and represents the holy trinity. If you find a 4-leaf clover, the fourth leaf will bring you luck!
- Even though there were never snakes on the Emerald Isle, the legend that St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland remains.
- The Celtic Cross is a popular symbol that shows how life and eternity, old ways and new are interconnected and it has no end. St. Patrick wanted the pagans to convert to Christianity, so he incorporated a sun into the cross.
- Kissing The Blarney Stone – for over 200 years, tourists, celebrities and others have kissed the stone to be given the gift of eloquence.