Calendar Customs

“If one were to ask which particular branch of folk tradition most widely reveals the panorama of the whole, the answer would undoubtedly be calendar custom. Calendar custom is deeply influenced by environment, by climate, by the fertility of the soil, by the proximity of such geographical features as the sea, rivers, lakes, mountains, and moors. It is intimately connected with the daily and yearly routine of work. It is associated with travel and trade. It bears upon the social traditions of the community and upon the individual lives of the community’s members. It embodies devotional and religious practices, divination, healing, mythology, and magic. It abounds in explanatory tale and legend, historical allusion, and pious parable, and includes all manner of amusements, sports, and pastimes.”

Kevin Danaher, The Year in Ireland, 1972

At one time in Ireland, almost every other day was marked by the feast of a saint, or by a festival. Many of these are fading from living memory. On the eve of the Feast of St. Martin of Tours, celebrated on November 11 across Europe, an Irish tradition saw a cockerel sacrificed; its blood sprinkled on the four corners of the house. These, along with other traditions such as the Lughnasa harvest festival, are fading or forgotten.

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