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With the approach of St. Patrick’s Day, it feels like the perfect time to discuss the “luck of the Irish” by way of sharing their traditions.
Curious, I looked up information about the origins of the phrase, “luck of the Irish”. Why, I wondered, are the Irish considered lucky?
I discovered the phrase does not come from Ireland but from America. During the gold and silver rush years in the latter half of the 19th century, many of the most well known successful miners claimed Irish descent. Over time, this association led to the “luck of the Irish” expression.
Before sharing some of Ireland’s good luck traditions, you might wonder about Saint Patrick. Saint Patrick’s Day is an annual celebration held on March 17, the traditional death date of the patron saint of Ireland. The day evolved into honoring Irish culture with parades, music, dances, drinking and the wearing of the green.
The first surprising fact is this one…Patrick wasn’t Irish. He was born in Britain in 385. During his teen years, a group of Irish raiders kidnapped the youth and imprisoned him in Ireland. Patrick spent six years in captivity. During these lonely years Patrick turned to God for comfort and guidance. When he escaped captivity, Patrick walked 200 miles to the coast and returned via boat to Britain. In a dream, Patrick heard a voice, God’s voice he believed, telling him to return to Ireland as a missionary.
After 15 years of study, Patrick became an ordained priest and returned to Ireland. He ministered to Christians already living there and introduced Christianity to others. Ultimately, he became known as Ireland’s patron saint.
Good Luck Traditions from Ireland
The Irish, like many other people, observe superstitions and luck traditions, some of them quite ancient. And they aren’t all good luck traditions. The Irish are careful to avoid bad luck as well.
Have you heard of these luck traditions?
When a Hawthorn tree grows alone in a field it’s called a fairy tree. The Irish consider it a portal between our world and the fairy world. They don’t cut these special trees down or harm them in any way, for continued good luck. It’s bad luck to cut a fairy tree down.
Dropping Cutlery on the Floor
Dropping a knife, fork or spoon on the floor foretells who will visit in the near future, depending on which utensil falls.
Drop a knife and expect a male visitor. When a fork hits the fork, look for a woman to stop by. And when a spoon falls to the floor, a child is sure to visit.
I grew up hearing that if my nose itched it meant company was coming. Although I have Irish ancestry, we didn’t get the expression quite right. In Ireland, an itchy nose means get ready for a fight!
To avoid a punch in the nose, slap the person next to you, lightly on the wrist. Some believe a light punch on the arm of the person nearest you forestalls a fight as well.
Itchy Palms and Money
Ireland has a second superstition involving itching. When the palms itch, money is coming…or going…depending on which palm is affected.
When the left palm itches, expect to receive money. And if the right palm is the itchy one, money flows from you to another.
Cheer When a Bird Poops on You
Similar to the Italian tradition, it’s good luck in Ireland when a bird poops on you. Consider yourself singled out and blessed with favor. I experienced such a blessing in Italy! Sadly, no bird pooped on me while in Ireland.
The More Magpies the Better
Another bird plays a role in luck, in Ireland. They even have a rhyme for the number of magpies, or crows, that you see.
“One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told.”
The Irish take the spotting of magpies very seriously. Waving at or saluting a solitary magpie breaks the curse of sorrow. Otherwise, the more magpies you see, the luckier you are.
Good Luck Coins
The Irish believe good luck arrives with the finding of a half penny. Although ha’ pennies went out of circulation in 1987, the good people of Ireland still consider it lucky to find a coin…any coin. Just don’t walk away and leave the coin behind. That’s an invitation for bad luck to follow you.
Your Shirt’s on Wrong
An old Irish superstition involves a shirt. If you happen to put one on inside out…while dressing in the dark or dressing in a hurry…leave it that way. It’s good luck to wear your shirt with the wrong side out throughout the day. Don’t change it though to right side out. That’s unlucky as the bad luck overshadows the good.
Shoes Go On the Floor
Another old Irish superstition forbids the placing of new shoes on a table. You don’t even want to try it, to find out what happens. Just…don’t. Keep your shoes on the floor.
Irish Wedding Charm
When planning an Irish wedding, every household uses a Child of Prague statue. This statue of a young Jesus, dressed in flamboyant clothes, signals the desire for good weather.
The day before a wedding or other important event, the Child of Prague statue goes into the yard. Some place it under a bush while others bury it in the yard or even decapitate the statue. It signifies a divine request for good weather during the event.
Don’t Pick Up that Comb on the Ground
Beware picking up combs found on the ground. If it’s a coin, grab it. If it’s a comb, leave it alone.
A banshee is a mythical creature in Ireland. She’s a supernatural spirt that wails, screams and shrieks. A comb lying on the ground might belong to a banshee and you DO NOT want her to come looking for what belongs to her.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day
I hope you enjoyed learning about some of Ireland’s luck superstitions. As you wear the green or chug a beer, keep these ancient traditions in mind. And if you are blessed someday with the good fortune of a trip to Ireland, enjoy that beautiful, green, richly cultured country. The Irish are some of the friendliest, most fun people I’ve met.
Do you have Irish ancestry? And are you familiar with these traditions?
Fun St Patrick’s Day finds from Amazon:
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