Irish Valentine’s Day Traditions
Not only is Valentine’s Day celebrated in Ireland, but this country has some very special connections to this famous day. You may not think of the Irish as a particularly romantic bunch, in which case you may be surprised to discover just how deep-rooted this day for lovers is in the Irish psyche and culture. While Irish people may not have the same reputation for romantic gestures as their Latin cousins in Italy, there are still some uniquely Irish connections to this romantic occasion.
One of these connections is the distinctive Claddagh ring, arguably one of the most romantic pieces of jewellery in the world. The ring is named after a small village in Galway where it is said to have originated in the 1600s. Its design shows a pair of hands clasping a heart which has a crown perched atop it. The heart represents love, the hands friendship and the heart is supposed to signify loyalty. How and where the Claddagh ring is worn tells the following story about the romantic status of the wearer according to tradition:
- Wearing the ring on your right hand with point of heart inwards: not looking for a relationship.
- Wearing the ring on your right hand with point of heart outwards: single and maybe looking for love
- Wearing the ring on your left hand with point of heart inwards: engaged to be married
- Wearing the ring on your left hand with point of heart outwards: married
So be careful how you wear this piece of jewellery just in case you give the wrong impression!
St Valentine’s Remains
One undeniably close connection between Ireland and St Valentine is the presence of the Saint himself in Dublin! Father John Spratt was a very famous preacher whose devout sermons became known to Pope Gregory XVI. In 1834, as a gift to the Irish priest, the pope sent the remains of the Roman St Valentine along with a ‘small vessel tinged with his blood’. These remains have been housed in Whitefriar’s Church in Dublin ever since, and people seeking love have made the pilgrimage to the church in the hope of finding romance. Special masses take place in the church every year on February 14th, during which the rings of couples are blessed to grant them happy and enduring love.
Where to Celebrate Valentine’s Day in Ireland?
Valentine’s Day continues to be celebrated in Ireland to this day every February 14th. While most choose to pass the occasion with a restaurant meal – if they can get a reservation – there are some particularly romantic spots in Ireland that would make a perfect way to spend Valentine’s Day:
- Glendalough: Wicklow is called the ‘Garden of Ireland’, and Glendalough is one of the most beautiful natural spots in that county. What better way to spend Valentine’s Day than strolling through the stunning scenery of the ‘valley of two lakes’?
- Aran Islands: A visit to the Aran islands off the west coast of Ireland is like time-travelling to the past. Take a break from the hectic modern world to enjoy the rugged nature of these Atlantic islands.
- Kissing Gate: You will find the famous kissing gate in the middle of Tannaghmore Gardens in Armagh. According to legend, couples who kiss over the top of the gate will be married within the year.
- The Burren: The Burren in Galway is best described as a type of ‘moon-scape’, its rocky limestone surface stretching into the distance. Spend a day ‘walking on the moon’ with a loved one before going to Galway town to celebrate the night in one of the countless bars or restaurants.
- Temple Bar: The old song talks about ‘Dublin’s fair city, Where the girls are so pretty’ so perhaps the famous Temple Bar is the spot if you are looking to find that special someone to celebrate Valentine’s Day with this year!
As they say in Irish: ‘Lá Fhéile Valintín Shona’ (Happy Valentine’s Day!), and since you're here why not check out some Valentine's Day traditions from around the world.