Ellen's Story

Special Days

St. Brigid’s Day

This is on the 1st of February and it was the day the farmers started spring work on the farm. Crosses were made from rushes and it was believed these would protect the family and animals from harm.

Shrove Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday is the day before lent begins on Ash Wednesday. It was the day to make and eat pancakes before fasting for lent. People didn’t eat treats during lent. Meat wasn’t eaten on Fridays. No dances were held and no wedding took place during lent.


Easter was a time of celebration and everyone made sure to go to church and confession for Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Eggs were eaten on Easter Sunday and that was the end of fasting and lent for another year. People used to say that the sun danced on Easter Sunday morning at dawn.

May Day

May Day was the name given to the first of May each year and it was a day associated with Our Lady the Blessed Virgin Mary. Flowers would be collected and put at the front door of your house or left at the foot of a statue of our lady. It was also a big fair day as well. Farmers would hope to have all their crops sown by May Day.

Bon Fire Night

Bon fire night was the eve of St. Johns day on the 23rd of June fires were lit outside of fields and it was a tradition to say the rosary around the bonfire. There was a belief that if a bit of the ashes was scattered in each field crops were sown in there would be a good crop that year from that field.

15th August

The 15th of August was a holy day the Assumption of our Lady. People in our parish visited the Holy well in Kilgeever graveyard. My Granny remembers sitting in a queue inside the wall of the graveyard waiting her turn to do a station around the well. This meant saying certain prayers around the well.


The 31st of October was Halloween. This was an eerie kind of night and people believed witches could be around. There were lots of traditions on this night. The games played on this night:

-Diving for apples in a basin of water.

-Blind man’s bluff.

-Snap apple... an apple was hung from the ceiling on a string and you had to put your hands behind your back and try to take a bite.

-4 Saucers containing a ring, a rosary beads, some water and some clay. If you picked the ring it meant marriage, the rosary means you’ll be a priest or nun, water meant you’d emigrate and clay meant death.

Also there was a tradition of throwing things (turnip or cabbage) at peoples doors to scare them. People made Barn brac and hid a ring in it. The person who found the ring in their piece would get married within a year. Today people still dress up, were mask’s and go trick or treating.


Christmas preparations began well in advance- the cake and pudding had to be made- the goose or turkey had to be killed and plucked- ivy and holly would be brought in for decoration- a tree had to be cut and brought inside the house and decorated. A crib showing the stable in Bethlehem was put in homes and sometimes in churches as well.
Sancta Claus came to children if they had been good.
Christmas was a great time to visit friends and relations and card playing was a popular Christmas pass time.

St. Stephens Day

St. Stephens’s day was the 26th of December. People went on the wren - They went to people’s houses saying a poem or song usually people would say this poem:

The wren, the Wren King of all birds St. Stephen’s day was caught in the furze on with the kettle and down with the pan and give us a penny to bury the wren. They would dress up in disguise and wear masks and hope to collect money in a box for the entertainment they provided.

New Year

New Years day was where people made New Year’s resolutions and people believed whatever you did or felt on this day set the tone for the rest of the year. People wished their neighbours a happy new year and got the reply “and many happy returns”.

6th January

6th of January- this day had many different names.
1. Feast of the Epiphany- the day the 3 wise men visited Jesus in the stable.
2. Women’s Christmas (Nollaig na mban) a day of rest for the women who had worked hard over Christmas.
3. Little Christmas (Nollaig beag.) a smaller celebration of the big feast of Christmas.

It was also called the 12th day and marked the end of Christmas the tree and all the decorations were taken down after the 6th of January every year.

Writer: Ellen Power

Teller: Charlie Morrison

The original hand written story is available below

This page was added by Brige Woodward on 30/05/2012.

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