My somewhat quirky views as I gaze at the world around me!

Archive for the ‘HOLIDAYS’ Category


It’s SPRING in Ireland!!!!!!


I love the Irish saints, especially the female ones.   They all seem to derive from pagan gods and goddesses. February 1st is St Brigid’s Day (or maybe Sunday is……’s Ireland, you know).  I’m reposting 3 articles from Irish that I really enjoyed reading and many thanks to the authors of them. The photo here is my St Brigid’s Cross that hangs on my kitchen wall.  It was made by a wonderful artist named Ciaran in Connemara. It is said to protect against kitchen fires and ensure harmony in the home.  Working very well so far!!!!

And February 3 is Saint Caoilfhinne’s Day ….very special to me as it is my daughter’s (Keelin) “saint’s day” and my Irish granny’s, Winifred Spellman Clark,  birthday (RIP).

St Brigid, a pagan goddess turned Christian saint in Ireland

\"SpringSpring in Ireland officially starts on St Brigid’s Day which is February the 1st in our calendar.Photo by: Wiki

Spring in Ireland officially starts on St Brigid’s Day which is February 1st in our calendar. However, this may not be accurate as this is a celebration that has its roots along way back in pre-Christian times, some 6,000 years ago actually when there was no written tradition.

Like many other cultures around the world female deities ruled supreme, the similarities between Egyptian mythology and Irish mythology being quite remarkable. For example, most people will be familiar with Egyptian ritual from “The Book of the Dead”, of Isis breathing life into the mummified corpse but many may not many know that the same scene is depicted in stone at the foot of a high cross in Ireland.

Similarly our Goddess had a sacred cow that suckled a king, the same as Queen Hatshepsut in Egypt. India, and many other cultures, rever the cow as a symbol of nurturing. In fact up until the 12th century children were baptized with milk in Ireland.

Fascinating or obvious, these ancient races relied on the land so it is no wonder they revered the female Goddesses that embodied and symbolized mother earth for them. She had to be appeased and celebrated to insure the fertility of the land, animals and people.

Celtic mythology holds that the chieftains slept with the goddesses in a mating ritual that crossed the boundaries of physical and metaphysical as these Goddesses could shape shift into birds and other mythical creatures. She could be ‘an old hag’ in human form standing at a crossroads, or the triple goddesses ‘Moriggan’ in the tale of the Tain or the ‘banshee’ in latter years foretelling death in a family.

Having infused tradition in Ireland with a mixture of reverence and fear, for thousands of years prior to Christianity creeping into Ireland, its highly understandable that our ancestors would have been a tad reluctant to banish her completely, which coincidentally is about the time she seems to have morphed into the Christian St Brigid we know about today? Although the signs were there from the start that this was no ordinary mortal woman?

Apparently or so the story goes and we Irish never let the truth get in the way of a good story, when St Brigid was trying to wrestle enough land on which to build her monastery in Kildare from the high king of Leinster, he said that she could have as much land as her cloak would cover. Where upon Brigid laid down her cloak and it magically spread out to cover several hundred acres….!

Beannachtaí na feile Bride

\"StSt Brigid is the female equivalent of St Patrick in Ireland, but there are no parades in her honor.Photo by: Wiki

St. Brigid is the female equivalent of St. Patrick in Ireland, but there are no parades in her honor, and apart from the St. Brigid’s Cross, her name is hardly known.

That really should change.

St. Brigid was a woman who was well ahead of her time. Born around 453, she was the daughter of a slave and a chieftain. Her feast day is celebrated on February 1.

She became one of the most-powerful women in Ireland. After refusing an arranged marriage, she went on to found many convents whose schools provided an education for thousands of young women who otherwise would have had none.

She was the lone female figure whose voice was heard in a male-dominated Church, but the stories of her good deeds and extraordinary acts ensured she was canonized well before most of her contemporaries.

She stands today as an example of an Irish woman who followed her heart and took on the powers-that-be in a male-dominated world. She was certainly a figure as extraordinary as Patrick himself.

Originally published 2011.

Read more:
Follow us: @IrishCentral on Twitter | IrishCentral on Facebook

The roots of St. Brigid and how to make her iconic cross (VIDEO)

Brendan Patrick Keane @irishcentral January 31,2011 03:30 AM


The St Brigid’s cross invokes the North Star and the pattern that the Big Dipper makes in the sky over the course off a year.Photo by: Photocall

Brighid means the “Exalted One” in Irish, and “the Woman” is a figure of intense power in Irish mythological and religious imagination.

February 1st or 2nd is a day claimed by Celtic seasonal thinkers, who called the holiday Imbolc to celebrate Bríd in the form of cailleach-becoming-maiden who collects kindling to make fire in the winter that will warm the spring and make her young again.

This holiday then is understood through the stories of the incredible Brighid. She was the inventor of the mourning songs called caoineadh “keening.” In the story, she keens to mourn the death of her son Ruadán and so invents the artform. Brighid’s is like the Tibetan ritual of ushering souls to nirvana in the Book of the Dead.

The Irish tradition of making crosses on Imbolc or Lá Fhéile Bhríde is remembered as a Christian ritual and has become that for most Irish people. The spiral of the Brighid cross invokes the North Star and the pattern that the Big Dipper makes in the sky over the course off a year. As the night sky turns around the North Star, the Big Dipper turns through the seasonal year like the hand of a clock.

Brigid is the fire-keeper of that flame of life that mothers tend to so that we don’t die in the winter, and so the lines of family are not broken by the trauma of the cold months. In the winter Brighid becomes the cailleach, the woman in agedness, and on Imbolc she collected the kindling of the fires that get her to the spring of regeneration.

Christian interpretation in Ireland makes Brighid into a nun, and children occupy themselves by taking bits of straw and weaving this potential-kindling into the shape of spiraling Brigid’s crosses.

Taking up the tradition in its many forms focuses the mind in the meditation of craft, and connects our winter minds mad at the cold to the great wheel that turns and is slowly bringing us into the spring of renewal.

Here’s a simple guide on how to make a traditional Brigid’s cross:

Read more:
Follow us: @IrishCentral on Twitter | IrishCentral on Facebook




As the lazy, hazy days of summer come to an end on this Labor Day, this snoozer doesn’t seem too concerned!  Taken at Busch Wildlife Center in Jupiter, Florida.  The Center is just a delight, especially for children, with lots of native wildlife including panthers, raccoons, eagles and, of course turtles.  Most of the birds, reptiles and animals were found wounded or orphaned and have been nursed back to health.  Admission is free and donations are gratefully accepted.  The gift shop is a wonderful source for souvenirs, stocking stuffers, and token gifts.

Copyright 2013                        Mary Jane E Clark


Ah, New Orleans, LA or NOLA!  I never thought I’d enjoy it as much as I did and now can’t wait to return!  The 2 signs below epitomize the city….KEEP DOORS CLOSED, yet in 5 days, I never saw that door closed.  By contrast the sign at Willie‘s Chicken Shack, en anglais, LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL, says it all!  The rules are fluid, alcoholic beverages are allowed in open containers on the streets, the music is vibrant and diverse, as is the population.

Besides the French Quarter, with all its unhealthy behaviors from drinking to sex, drugs and rock n roll as well as beignets, the rest of the city offers an incredible range of delights.  To name a few, St Charles Avenue Streetcar through the Garden District and Tulane, the Riverwalk with its Aquarium, numerous sculptures and memorials to the Holocaust, to Immigrants, to Children and on and on………….absolutely fascinating  to walk and see not only the riverboat restaurants, but the working ferries and freights, reminding one the New Orleans is one of the most import ports of the South.  The World War II museum is very well done and well worth a half day visit for a very modest price.

Having been in turn ruled by French, Spanish and British, I’m so glad it’s part of the United States.  In fact, during the Famine Years in Ireland (1840-50), it was the 2nd most active port receiving Irish immigrants (after New York).  And their lead up to St Patrick’s Day rivals Dublin’s, second only to the Mardi Gras celebrations!

So, visit the Bead City and laissez le bon temps rouler!

(I’ll still be featuring all-Ireland blogs at so come visit me there, too)

Copyright 2013                        Mary Jane E Clark




Although I love living in Ireland and Florida, my favorite vacation getaway spot is Boca Chica in the Dominican Republic.  Lying under a palapa, reading a book, sipping a cold beverage and then floating in the crystalline water is absolute paradise!  So, for all my friends suffering in cold climates, close your eyes and dream.

Copyright 2013             Mary Jane E Clark



Two years ago, I  was stranded in the United Arab Emirates at Christmas because of terrible snowstorms across Ireland and England.  I was delighted to find, in this very Muslim country, many Christmas decorations and carols being played.  Of course, being the UAE, this Christmas tree is “over the top”….it’s decorated with $11 MILLION worth of jewelry!  It was in the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi and was very well-guarded.



Copyright 2012                        Mary Jane E Clark


It started innocently enough.  This morning I casually mentioned that Thursday is Ground Hog Day.  My Irish Mister asked “What’s that?”  Now, have you ever been able to explain Ground Hog Day and not sound like a complete idiot?  No?  Well, listening to myself I realized I couldn’t manage it either!  So we began discussing other holidays in both countries.

We’ll work our way through the year and share the similarities and differences.  New Year’s Eve in Ireland is very like New Year’s Eve here in the US…..lots of house parties, parties in pubs, parties and dances at hotels with many people booking hotel rooms to avoid “drink driving” as the penalties are often more severe there.  And, yes, they also sing Auld Lang Syne at midnight…at least the chorus, just like here!   (Does ANYBODY really know all the words?)  New Year’s Day the partying continues, in fact, sometimes they never even stop drinking til late in the evening on the first.

No Martin Luther King Day in Ireland in January.  The “silly season” starts about 10 days before Christmas and continues through New Year’s and virtually nothing gets done.  So January is the time to get back to work.

Valentine’s Day is the same everywhere.  No President’s Day in Ireland.  Here, it’s the third Monday in February, another 3 day weekend.  (I remember getting both Lincoln’s Birthday on the 12th and Washington’s on the 22nd off from school.  We’re getting cheated by only having one birthday party!)

March brings my favorite holiday…..St Patrick’s Day, of course, on the 17th.  We’re pretty content here to make a day and night of drinking, wearing green and trying to speak with a fake brogue wishing everyone “The luck of the Irish be wit ye”.  Now, of course, the Irish drink all the time (except for the Pioneers, but that’s another story for another time), wear green, on average, about as often as anyone anywhere and speak with authentic brogues and accents that differ from one part of the country to another.  However, they party for a full week complete with parades, Masses and even more live music than usual.  Truly the luck of the Irish! Surprisingly, Mother’s Day also is celebrated in March with the obligatory flowers, candy and cards.

Easter is a solemn religious event in both countries and  the Easter Bunny makes his annual appearance right on time in both places, as well.  Speaking of trying to explain a holiday, where exactly does the rabbit fit into the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection???

Also in April is the commemoration of the anniversary of the Easter Uprising on April 18, 1916.  It was a failed revolution but was the first Proclamation of Independence from Britain.  The execution of the martyrs of the uprising so infuriated the general population that they began to rally to the side of the rebels, leading, in 1922, to independence.  The third Monday in April is Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts.  Why does this matter?  Because if Tax Day, April 15, falls on a Sunday, then you have until the 16th to file your income tax return; however, this year the 16th is Monday, the IRS office in Massachusetts is closed and so you have until the 17th and it would be discriminatory to only allow residents of New England the extra day, so everyone gets until April 17 to file this year.  Oh, and I just found out it’s also Emancipation Day in Washington, DC, so the same deal holds.  (Ground Hog and Easter Bunny aren’t seeming quite so ludicrous, huh?)

May 1st is May Day or Labour Day in Ireland.  Memorial Day in the US falls on the last Monday of the month (remember when it used to be May 30 every year?).  Also beginning in May, communities and parishes in Ireland begin observing “Cemetery Sundays” and these continue until the fall.  On the specified Sunday, friends and relatives attend special Masses and visit the graves of those who have passed away,  to show respect and often leave flowers and plants.  These Sundays are staggered throughout the summer so as not to cause traffic congestion and to allow people to visit the different cemeteries where they might have loved ones.

The first weekend in June in Ireland is the June Bank Holiday.  This is essentially a Monday-off 3 day weekend, like a federal holiday here.  And boy do the Irish love it and take advantage of the finally lovely weather!  Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in June in both countries.

July 4th is, of course, our Independence Day complete with parades, picnics and fireworks.  The poor Irish don’t even get a Bank Holiday in July, it’s Britain’s turn.  But they do enjoy an upturn in the economy due to the influx of tourists hoping to enjoy the fine Irish summer weather.  Right, that can be a real crap-shoot.  Last  summer was the coldest on record in Ireland and, I for one, lived mainly in jeans, sweaters and the occasional jacket.  It was very unusual and I’m looking forward to better this summer.

August begins with another 3-day Bank Holiday weekend.  The days are still really long, with sunset around 10 p.m. and the Irish relish the extra hours of daylight to enjoy themselves.  The only US holiday I can think of is Bennington Battle Day on August 16, but I don’t think that’s even celebrated anymore.

Our Labour Day, the first Monday in September, is the unofficial end of summer and the nights start closing in on both sides of the Atlantic.  Ironically, after the children in Ireland return to school, the weather is often the most gorgeous and warmest of the summer….truly delightful!

October is a special month for me, crammed with the birthdays of my daughter, 2 sisters, stepmother, 2 best friends, etc.  The rest of you, in Ireland or the US probably rank Halloween as one of your favorite holidays, as well it should be.  When else can you eat all that leftover candy (maybe you bought it on sale on November 1????) and not feel guilty?  Of course, Columbus Day gives us another 3 day weekend. Whether you believe he deserves the honor or not, I’ve never heard of anybody refusing to take the day off.

November 11 is celebrated in many countries by many names.  In the US, it’s Veteran’s Day, in Ireland, it’s Poppy Day.  The day, of course, commemorates the signing of  the Armistice which ended the War to End All Wars in 1918.  The red poppy is worn in remembrance of  all the lives sacrificed in all wars.  At the end  of November we in America are thrilled to celebrate a National Day of Thanksgiving, which was first established by President George Washington.  The date was changed by several presidents, including Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, but on 12/26/41, Congress made it officially the 4th Thursday of November.  For us, it means football, turkey, pumpkin and mince pies.  And, hopefully, everyone does remember to give thanks for all of our abundance.  It is also the start of our AMERICAN silly season, which lasts right through until January 1. or 2.  Or 3.

December…….. Christmas!  A time of joy throughout the Christian and Orthodox world.  A time of partying, shopping, eating, baking, enjoying friends and family.  My tradition for 12/24, here in Florida,  is to have an early dinner, attend a candlelight service at Jupiter First Church, go home to listen to Christmas music (I ONLY  listen to it Christmas Eve) and watch my DVD of a burning fireplace on the big screen.  Mister wanted to stop and have a few drinks after the Candlelight Service.  I had no problem with that, but as you know, it is virtually impossible to find an open bar on Christmas Eve. (Check out “Auld Lang Syne” by Dan Fogelberg)  He was absolutely shocked as that is the busiest night of the year for Irish pubs!  Search we did, to no avail, so we returned home and maintained the tradition, enjoying some adult beverages.  Christmas Day in Ireland, one sits down to a huge feast at home.  Going out is not an option, as all the restaurants and pubs are closed.   For many years, I did the huge feast thing, too.  Now that it is  just the two of us, I find the very elegant and extensive buffet at a local resort to be perfectly satisfactory.  The day after Christmas is simply December 26 here, maybe an extra day off.  In Ireland, it’s St Stephen’s Day, a day of visiting, feasting, perhaps spending time in the local and hearing  Wren Boys singing and performing.  And the pubs do a grand bit of business then.  After all, it’s still the silly season.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: