Irish Legends & Traditions

Legends and traditions have been part of humanity for centuries. As St. Patrick’s Day approaches on March 17th, do you know about the legends and traditions of the Irish, their meanings and how they came to be?

Legend of the Shamrock

Many people from all over the world believe the shamrock is the symbol of Ireland. It is not, but one could say it’s the emblem of Irish culture. The ancient Druids honored it as a sacred plant, believing it had the power to avert evil spirits. The ancient Celts also revered the shamrock because it has three leaves, and they considered “3” to be a sacred and mystical number. By the 17th century, the shamrock had become a symbol of emerging Irish nationalism, and many Irish began wearing it as a symbol of pride in their heritage.

Keep reading to learn about the legend of the snake, Irish music and the tradition of corned beef and cabbage.

Legend of the Snake

It has long been told that during the 5th century, St. Patrick stood on a hilltop and drove all the snakes from Ireland. He used only a staff to herd the slithering creatures into the sea, banishing them for eternity. It’s true, aside from pets and zoos, there are no snakes in Ireland. In fact, no snakes were ever in Ireland. The snake legend somewhat validates the shamrock legend because snakes are never seen in fields of shamrocks anywhere in the world, and that shamrocks can indeed be used as a remedy for snake venom.

Irish Music

Music is often associated with St. Patrick’s Day, and the Irish culture in general. From ancient days of the Celts, music has always been an important part of Irish life. The Celts had an oral culture where religion, legend and history were passed from one generation to the next by way of stories and songs. They used music to help them remember important events and hold on to their heritage and history. The instruments that formed their music included the fiddle, uilleann pipes, tin whistle and boadhrán. These instruments have been used for centuries in Irish music. Irish music had an enormous influence throughout the world, particularly in America. The songs and fiddle tunes the Irish emigrants brought with them went on to become the basis of several forms of American music including folk, country and bluegrass.

Corned Beef & Cabbage

The consumption of corned beef is often associated with St. Patrick’s Day in the US. It is not considered an Irish national dish. The connection with St. Patrick’s Day specifically originated as part of the Irish-American culture, and is now often part of their celebrations in North America. In Ireland, the closest tradition is bacon and cabbage. Corned beef and cabbage became popular in the US after Irish immigrants in the northeast used corned beef instead of pork in their dish. This substitution was likely due to the low cost of corned beef in the US. Now corned beef & cabbage is the food of choice as many families gather to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Click here for our recipe, and here to learn about our locally made corned beef.