Irish Holidays

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XXIV (2) | Start of Chapter

Thursday, May day.—Here the ancient custom of dressing poles with flowers, and placing them before the doors of the rich, is kept up. Horses and carriages are ornamented with them, and the children of the peasantry call at the doors of the gentry to receive presents.[19] The holidays of the Irish peasantry present to the stranger the character and condition of this people in the broadest outlines. You see how the liberty, which on such an occasion is allowed the greatest latitude that it ever can take, is chastened by a cringing servility, which says, "l am your humble slave." You see the effort at tidiness and show, which give you the extent of the scanty wardrobe acquired by the ill-paid labor of the master. You see the quick perception of generosity and meanness, as the gift is put into the scale with the donor's wealth and station. You see the full mark of enjoyment which the Irish heart is capable of reaching above all others, both in sunshine and storm; and you see that God has stamped his image as legibly, as nobly, yes, as invitingly, on the peasant as on the lord.

Ireland’s Welome to the Stranger is one of the best accounts of Irish social conditions, customs, quirks and habits that you could wish for. The author, Mrs Asenath Nicholson, was an American widow who travelled extensively in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine and meticulously observed the Irish peasantry at work and play, as well as noting their living conditions and diet. The book is also available from Kindle.