13 Irish Traditions and Superstitions That Are Just Wonderfully Weird and Charming
Ireland is known for many things — the rolling green hills, the smooth-as-silk Guinness, the friendly people, the lively pubs, and the somewhat strange traditions and superstitions. If you've ever been to Ireland or just know an Irish person, you've probably seen them salute a solo magpie, pick up a coin they spot on the street, or get a bit jumpy if they spot a robin near their home. My husband is from a small town in Ireland, so I've seen firsthand just how strongly he believes these superstitions, which have, in turn, now rubbed off on me (I also have to always salute a solo magpie now). While most of these actions are small, they all have a very specific purpose, mostly to ensure you keep your good fortune and luck. To learn more about some of Ireland's most well-known traditions and superstitions, keep reading. But just be warned: you won't be able to have an itchy nose without fearing what the future holds anymore!
If you ever see an Irish person randomly saluting, it's probably to a magpie. Irish folklore says that seeing a lone magpie brings sorrow to the passerby, but if you salute the solo bird (or even tell them the time), you'll avoid any back luck. On the other hand, seeing a pair of magpies supposedly brings joy and good luck!
An Itchy Nose
Having an itchy nose signifies that getting into a fight might be in your near future.
Disturbing a Fairy Fort
There are fairy forts (raised structures in the shape of a circle that are the remains of prehistoric dwellings) all over Ireland, and they're generally protected historical sights by the government. In Irish folklore, these forts are home to fairies, but if you disturb or destroy one, it's said that you will be cursed for the rest of your life.
Seeing a Robin
In Irish superstitions, robins can be both a beautiful and sad thing. If a robin follows you around, it's a sign that a loved one is near. However, if a robin taps on your window or flies into your home through an open window, that's a sign of death, meaning someone you know might pass away. This is a morbid one but one that many Irish people believe to be true, including my husband. On the different days his grandmother and grandfather died, a robin flew into his home.
Opening a Window After Death
After someone dies, you're supposed to open a nearby window to let the person's soul leave and go up to heaven.
Giving Someone a Watch
If you get a watch as a gift from your signifcant other, it supposedly means that you're going to break up because time is running out.
Finding a Halfpenny
Halfpennies, which were previously used in Ireland as a toll in order to cross the famous Ha'penny Bridge in Dublin, stopped being used in 1987. However, it's still considered bad luck to leave any coin that you spot on the ground. You know the saying: "Find a penny, pick it up, all day long you'll have good luck."
Burning a Candle in the Window During Christmastime
Burning a candle in the window during Christmastime means much more than just cute holiday decor for the Irish. The tradition dates back to colonial times as a way for Irish families to express their Catholic faith during a time when it was outlawed by British priests. Having a candle in the window meant that Irish catholic priests could secretly visit the home. More recently, it signals that the home is open and welcoming to others, and if the candle goes out before Christmas, it's said to bring bad luck to the family in the New Year. And on a more lighthearted note, some Irish parents use it as a way to signal to Santa Claus that he should visit their home (this is what my husband's parents told him about their own candle).
A Bird Pooping on You
According to Irish superstition, a bird pooping on you (or your car) is actually good luck and is a sign of positive things to come.
A Cross on Irish Soda Bread
Most Irish soda breads have a classic cross shape embedded on the top, and that's for good reason. Most people still score a cross on their bread before baking because it's said to let the devil out (and, you know, it also helps the dough bake).
A Knife and Fork Falling on the Floor
According to Irish myth, if a knife falls on the floor, you will have a gentleman visitor. If a fork falls on the floor, you'll have a lady visitor. And if a spoon falls on the floor, you'll have a child visitor.
Finding a Comb on the Ground
In Ireland there's a myth that you should never pick up a comb that you find on the ground because it might belong to the banshee, the female spirit in Irish folklore that signals the death of a family member, usually by wailing or shrieking.
Entering and Exiting Through the Same Door
If you enter a home through one door, you should always leave through that same door, otherwise you'll have bad luck.