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Cultural Universals

Food 

Irish food is much like ours here in the United States.  There are many similarities, but there are also many subtle differences.  For instance, the sausage looks exactly like our linked sausage, but doesn’t taste anything like ours at all.   Due to their popping and splitting during cooking, they are called bangers.  They also have white and black pudding, which is a type of sausage-like food.  The black pudding is often made from  meatfatsuetbreadsweet potatoonionchestnuts, and barley.  Oh, and I almost forgot the most important part.  Blood.  Yes, that’s right, they use blood in it.  Sounds delicious doesn’t it?!  Of course, Mrs. Weaver and Mr. Foster had to try it, but they were not fans, so only a taste was just enough to hold them off for the entire trip.   Our bus driver kept telling us we had to try the Irish Breakfast.  It consisted of eggs, ham (they call it bacon), black and white pudding, beans, tomatoes, and hash browns.   It was rather tasty, other than the black pudding.   White pudding is the same thing as black pudding, just without the blood.  Being that Ireland is an island, there is a lot of seafood of course.   Many different types of fish, but from what we heard, the salmon was to die for.  When people think of Ireland and food, you can’t help but think about potatoes.  The potatoes were unbelievable.  Every type we had while we were there were excellent.  French fries, baked potatoes, scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes.  You name it, every type was delicious!  Another food that is famous all over Ireland is the Irish Stew.  It is a traditional stew made from lamb, or mutton, (mutton is used as it comes from less tender sheep over a year old and is fattier and has a stronger flavor) as well as potatoes, carrots, onions, and parsley.   Irish soda bread is another Irish delight.

        

        

Religion

After the seeds of Christianity were planted in the fifth century, the sixth and seventh centuries saw monks set up monasteries all over the country, becoming a fixed feature of the Irish landscape.  Many monasteries grew in size and importance, establishing a unique way of life and exhibiting special political and cultural influence in Ireland right up until the Anglo-Norman invasions of the twelfth century.  In the absence of a centralized authority, these large monasteries became powerful urban centers of population, learning, trade, and craftsmanship, as well as of religion.  Every time we came to one of these monasteries, we’d find a round tower.  These round towers were protection for the monks.  As stated above, the Anglo-Normans (vikings essentially), attacked and pillaged Ireland.  The monks in the monasteries had no means of protection, so they started building round towers.  Round towers had only one entrance that stood about 10 ft from the ground.  To get into this entrance one would need a ladder, once in the tower, there were multiple levels.  You would have to pull the ladder into the entrance and use it to get to the other levels.  Once on an upper level, you would pull the ladder up to prevent others from getting to you.  Pretty clever!   Another interesting facet to the Irish religion was the Celtic High Cross.  These are stone crosses made with the most minute details and often had bible stories strewn across them.  At the time when the crosses were constructed, many people were uneducated.  They were not able to read the bible, so they relied on story tellers or pictures.  The pictures on the crosses tell the stories that we still find in the bible today.  Each cross had many different sections, each section told a different story.  Another huge part of Irish culture is St. Patrick.  St. Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland, and as the story goes, Patrick was taken as a slave from his home in England to Ireland.  He was there for six  years as a slave, but managed to escape and return home to his family.  After returning home, he felt as if God was telling him to go back to Ireland to tell the Irish about Christianity, and so he did!  He returned to the place that stole him from his family and told them about the love of Christ.  Legend also credits St. Patrick with teaching the Irish about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a three-leafed plant, using it to illustrate the Christian teaching of three divine persons in the one God. For this reason, shamrocks have definitely become a central symbol for St Patrick’s Day.

        

      

Language

While English is widely spoken in much of the country, Irish is the official language of Ireland.  It is known as Irish, Gaelic or Irish Gaelic.  The Irish people do not like for their language to be referred to as “Gaelic” because of the potential to confuse it with Scottish Gaelic.  Therefore, in Ireland they simply refer to their language as Irish.

Prior to the Great Famine of 1845-1852, Irish was the primary language of the country.  Because the people living in the farming areas were hardest hit by the Famine, they suffered the biggest loss in the number of Irish-speaking people (due to emigration or death).  They continue their efforts to revive a language that plays such a vital role in their culture and heritage.

Listen as our bus driver counts from one through ten in Irish… Counting One-Ten in Irish

        

      

Transportation

All street vehicles in Ireland drive on the left side of the road which means the steering wheel goes on the right side (both of which are opposite of the United States).  Dublin is connected to all of Ireland’s major cities.  Travel by boat, train and bus are very popular means of transportation.

        

      

      


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