Our culture is our wealth and not unlike
money at times it seems what we acquired yesterday is more relevant
I was born into the Irish culture but through conscription and
marriage I am heavily into the Italian culture. While I have never
visited Ireland, I have visited Italy numerous times. If I may let
me try to share some customs of both nationalities. I'm sure most
of them will be very familiar to all.
When ever you referred to a deceased person one would always say
"Lord have mercy on him or her".
Example I remember Uncle Joe "Lord have mercy on him"
he would take us fishing every summer back in the 1950's.
Knock on wood when you refer to something that came from your good
fortune. How many times have we done that?
1) There is, I'm told, an old Irish belief that you should knock
on wood to let the little people know that you are thanking them
for a bit of good luck. Others have sought a meaning in which the
wood symbolizes the timber of the cross, but this may be a Christianisation
of an older ritual.
Before a new born baby was taken out in public he/she had to be
1) The prerequisite for the child's baptism was the mother being
a) Churched the mother would go to church to receive the sacrament
of penance and holy communion before the baptism.
2) The mother would not attend the baptism. Only father and godparents
would represent the family.
"Mal Occhi" the evil eye. This is brought on by being
over attentive or over complimentary. This can be brought on by
latent envy. One of the ways to counteract it was to say "God
bless him/her ".
Example Oh what beautiful baby girl "God bless her."
1) If this blessing was omitted someone else would immediately say
" God bless her ". If that wasn't done the child would
Overlooked To undo it the mother's thumb was dipped in olive oil
and the sign of the cross was made on the baby's forehead. Silent
prayers would follow to complete the "overlook".
Does anyone remember the Italian professional mourners? I read
that the Irish also used them (they were called Keeners).
My father would take me to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery at least once
a month. More often than not I would hear a woman crying in that
distance. It gave me an eerie feeling because she wasn't just crying
she was wailing. My father told me the woman crying and wailing
was a professional mourner. The Italian family of the deceased would
hire her to mourn at the grave of their loved one.
All of the above I experienced in my younger years none of the
above have I experienced in recent years.
Their origins go back to the beginning and they may seem to be
superficial. But they do seem to give depth to that which is missing
in today's world.
Something is more important than oneself.