Irish culture goes far beyond the borders of this tiny island country. We have accepted some of the Irish traditions, adopted a few customs, and yet still can’t get enough of the rich cultural heritage of Ireland.
Last updated: January 20, 2023
Irish Culture: Music, Pubs, Saint Patrick’s Day, and More
We often travel to new countries just to get an insider’s look at their cultures. Last year one of such cultural destinations for me was Ireland. I’ve always been fascinated by history and traditions of this country. Irish culture I learned about from books and a plethora of movies filmed on the island has intrigued me.
Yet the culture I experienced during my four-day trip to the Emerald Isle exceeded all my expectations. This journey showed me how actually little I had known about Ireland and its culture. From folk music and tales to traditional celebrations and drinks, Irish culture is far richer, more vibrant, and complicated.
IRISH CULTURE: THINGS THAT MAKE US SO FOND OF IRELAND
Sweeping Hills and Stone Walls
Locations shape cultures. Don’t you agree? In case of Irish culture, it’s not just an assumption, it’s a fact. Endless pastures dotted with sheep grazing on evergreen hills and short stone walls have been essential parts of the culture of Ireland for centuries.
Some say the Irish built these rocky barricades unintentionally. Ireland is naturally stony. In order to farm the land, the locals needed to remove the rocks that eventually were piled on top of each other. Slowly the short walls were erected. Others believe that the stone walls marked the territories owned by individual farmers.
Whatever was the reasons for these walls in the first place, the short stony fences lost their functionality. Today, they are purely decorative. Nevertheless, the peculiar walls never fail to ignite your curiosity and further increase your interest in the cultural traditions of Ireland.
I hardly know about any cultures that didn’t rely on superstitions at some point. Irish culture have outperformed all of them. While some of its old beliefs are slowly dying, the majority of the Irish still hold tight to their cultural myths and legends. Thus, up to this day the locals believe in lifelong bad luck for those who damage or cut down famous fairy trees.
Even kids know that Ireland is home to leprechauns, mischievous little bearded men that wear green coats and hats. Certainly, these fairytale creatures make shoes and hide pots full of gold at the end of a rainbow only in Irish folklore nowadays. Yet up to this day they are considered an essential component of Irish culture.
Guinness Beer and Irish Whiskey
You can forget about many elements of Irish culture, but Guinness beer and Irish whiskey are not some of them. These traditional drinks have become the major experiences on their own. So if you travel to Dublin, make sure to visit Guinness Storehouse and Jameson Distillery Bow St. to sample and learn all about these alcoholic drinks.
Irish Forty Shades of Green
Ireland with its almost never-ending rains teaches you how to differentiate forty shades of green. Heavy rains help make Irish soil fertile, resulting in abundant vegetation of various tones and hues. The Irish love to make fun of their country. They joke that Ireland has fifty shades of grey that, in their turn, are responsible for dozens shades of green.
READ MORE: Forty Shades of Green: Ireland Photo Diary
Irish Cuisine Filled with Stews and Potato Dishes
Although an integral part of Irish culture now, traditional stews and potato dishes appeared on Irish tables out of necessity. For centuries, Ireland was sparsely populated. Only after discovery of potatoes that could grow on harsh terrain, often unsuitable for other crops, the Irish could grow enough food to sustain a larger number of people. Today the potato dishes are the Irish’s favorite by choice.
Red Doors and Colorful Houses
Brightly-colored houses and doors definitely look very pleasing. But dive deeper in Irish culture and you’ll discover what role they played in the past.
For many years, Ireland was colonized by Britain. When Queen Victoria, also known as “famine queen” died, the Irish where ordered to paint their doors black in mourning. In rebellion, they painted the doors in the brightest shades.
Another tale says that Irish women painted the doors of their houses in the vibrant colors, mostly red, so their drunk husbands wouldn’t mistake other homes for their own.
Traditional Music – One of the Most Important Parts of Irish Culture
Irish culture is unimaginable without its traditional music. These folk tunes have entertained their listeners for centuries. Originally, the traditional music kept passing on from generation to generation by listening and learning by ear. Even today students are encouraged to pick up the tunes by ear, although the use of formal notes and books is acceptable now.
Cozy, noisy, full of locals and visitor, dancing and singing… The Irish pubs have adopted to Irish culture so much that you can’t confuse them with any other pubs in the world.
Irish culture has presented to the world some of the biggest celebrations. Nobody have any doubt about the Irish origins of Saint Patrick’s Day. It was established to honer Saint Patrick who, as the Irish believe, banished snakes from Ireland and taught the locals about the Trinity.
Yet only a few know that Halloween had also originated in Ireland. It reached the shores of North America with Irish immigrants and eventually was adopted by different countries.
Pale Skin and Red Hair
Just like the Irish pubs, the Irish are worldwide recognized by their pale skin and red hair. In reality, though, the number of the Irish redheads is very low. Yet compared with the rest of the world, Ireland has the highest per capita percentage of the redheads. The Irish owe their red hair to Celtic genes. The pale skin came as an adaptation to less sunlight throughout the year.
Narrow Rural Roads
Driving on Irish roads is quite an adventure. In fact, for some travelers it’s one of the main reasons to visit Ireland and experience Irish culture firsthand.
The narrow roads of Ireland can be a nerve-racking experience especially when sharing the road with another vehicle driving in the opposite direction. But as the Irish insist it’s not something you can’t master. Yet be sure to give yourself enough time to practice first.