Saturday, March 17, 2012
10 Fun Bits of Irish Trivia for St. Patrick's Day...
2) All that Red Hair you associate with the Irish? It may not be Irish at all. Red Hair is more indicative of Viking DNA, no doubt the result of several hundred years of Scandinavian pillaging and other extra-curricular activities on the Irish coast. Not unsurprisingly, Scotland – which was closer to Viking raiders than Ireland – boasts 50% more redheads than the Emerald Isle. An absolute majority of the Irish have brown - not red - hair.
3) Potatoes ain’t Irish either. They are native to the Andes Mountains of South America, and were first brought to Europe in the 16th Century by Spanish Conquistadores who obtained them from the local Incans.
4) Corned Beef and Cabbage is a distinctively….American dish. Corned Beef was considered an expensive extravagance in Ireland, especially at the time of the Famine when few Irish could afford it. It became popular in the United States in the last 1800s as an Irish-American dish, but has never been popular in Ireland itself.
5) Speaking of the Famine – “An Gorta Mor” (or “The Great Hunger”): During the worst years of the famine, 1845-1849, 25% of Ireland’s population died or were sent by ship to the US and Canada. During those same years, a record amount of calves, beef, bacon, and ham were exported from Ireland to England. Monetary aid to the Irish was sent from the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, the City of Calcutta, India, and the Choctaw Nation, which had barely survived the Trail of Tears 16 years earlier. Americans sent the equivalent of over $1,000,000, more than any nation,including Britain itself.
6) Even though Irish Gaelic is the National Language of Ireland, required in public school, and recognized as an official language in the European Union, no more than 85,000 Irish – only 1.3% of the population – speak it regularly and fluently.
7) While Ireland and Guinness Stout are practically synonymous in popular culture, two-thirds of the beer consumed in Eire is lager, not stout. The number one national brand is not Guinness, but Smithwicks. Of all beers, the number one beer in Ireland? Dutch-brewed Heineken. And while the Irish drink a lot of beer – 139 liters per person annually – the Czechs are the worlds beer-drinking champs at 159 liters per person.
8) If you want to be remembered after you’ve passed on, be a horse. Horseracing has long been a popular pasttime in Ireland, and in the early 1840s, many races were won by a horse named “The Pride of Ballyara.” But in the middle of the Great Famine, The Pride of Ballyara was pressed into service as a workhorse, pulling a cart laden with oats and corn 50 miles from port to the city of Sligo. When he died, grateful residents saw that he was buried in a plot in the Ballyara Graveyard in South Sligo (an otherwise “human” cemetery) where his headstone and grave remains the most prominent and well-maintained plot in the graveyard to this day.
9) In spite of often being characterized as some rude backwater by the European upper classes, Ireland provided more teaching scholars than any other nation throughout the middle ages. The monasteries located throughout Europe – which became today’s Universities – were the centers of teaching and learning in the medieval period…and every one of them was either founded by, or ‘staffed’ by, Irish scholars.
10) We have all heard of Leprechauns…but apparently, they are not the only ‘wee’ things in Ireland. In 2005, Martin Casella’s play, “The Irish Curse - a new comedy about guys with one tiny problem” exploded in New York City and then Dublin. And alas, statistics bear out the myth: At 12.78 centimeters (5.03 inches), Irish men apparently have the second smallest ‘equipment’ in Europe, beating only the hose-challenged Romanians at 12.73 centimeters (Of course, that never prevented them from producing large families…) The Heaviest equipment in Europe is sported by the Hungarians, French, and Scandinavians, all averaging over 6 inches each. [Disclaimer: Your blogger boasts more Scandinavian and French DNA than Irish…]
Which sounds like a great reason to get one’s bravado up and imbibe a bit of Guinne…er, no, Smithwicks…to boost one’s confidence!
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to all my fellow Irishmen and Wannabes!