irish and galician culture

I’m from Ireland and it’s been said on more than one occasion that there are quite a few similarities between Galicia and Ireland. There’s our love for folk music, the weather’s much the same, the food we eat and what we drink have strong connections, even how we enjoy our free time is closely related. But why? It most certainly goes back to our Celtic roots, evidence tells us that ancient Irish people and Galicians constructed identical homes called, ‘Pallozas’, stone-like beehive structures that are dotted around both territories. Yet what I notice most of all is that we go to great lengths to have parties, what we call in Ireland to have a ‘hooley’ and in Galicia they call a ‘festa’. We’re also both very superstitious. In Ireland we have the ’banshee’ a female ghost who combs her hair and wails, warning that someone is about to die, whereas Galicia has the ‘A Santa Compaña’, a group of lost souls that if stumbled upon can spell doom. Samaín is the Galician equivalent of Halloween, which was originally the pagan religious celebration to honour the end of summer harvest.

What strikes me is the way that both Irish and Galicians answer a question with a question. Whenever I travel outside Dublin, to County Mayo, say, and I’d comment how grand the day is, the locals reply, “It is, isn’t it? Sure, why wouldn’t it be? How do you see it?” Nearly changing their mind half way through. Likewise, in Galicia, you ask someone the same and they’ll tell you practically a similar story. For example, I might say, “Come rain or shine, are you going to the party?”, and they answer, “It depends”. Not sure what it depends on, but I found out a good while back that Galicians never give a yes or no answer just like many Irish people.

A great party dish that can be eaten throughout the year in Ireland is bacon, cabbage, turnip and spuds and without question feasted upon by many an Irish family. Equally, the Galicians enjoy bacon and turnip tops served with taters (potatoes, aka spuds), though the turnip tops are available only throughout autumn into mid-winter. I know this because some Galician students used to giggle when I’d talk about how much I missed my favourite dish – bacon and cabbage served with turnip, albeit the bacon and turnip tops in Galicia are delicious. I’d go on about how I missed eating turnips until I found Galician farmers use them as feedstock for pigs. But I’d have the last laugh because back home we’d give the turnip tops as supper to the pigs!

Damien Sheehy

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