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Ireland is one place which will always remain special to me. This beautiful country is rich in history, and has also been the home to many talented writers including the likes of Oscar Wilde. Ireland has made large contributions in the field of literature, and the very traditional folk music combined with the beautiful steps of the Irish dance all reflect the rich culture of Ireland. The Irish castles that dot the lush, green countryside speak volumes about the rich history of this glorious nation. Let me take you on a trip that explores this amazing country and the traditions that were seen and are followed even today.

The Irish culture has quite a few divides between the people with regards to the religion or even the language issues. Today, this place is seeing an increase in the population with the new immigrants coming in from all around the world.

Lifestyle
The people of Ireland are known to be very hospitable and friendly in nature. Having a family life is considered of great importance in Ireland. The traditional ways of the Irish people can be seen more commonly in the rural areas of Ireland. Here, a lot of traditional customs are followed which is quite a contrast to the modern life that is led in the urban areas of Ireland. Ireland also has a large number of people who own their own palatial residences.

The modern Irish follow a more open method of communication. They believe in displaying their affection rather than curbing the same. English still remains to be the most spoken language today, due to the influence of the Elizabethan rule over the nation in the past. The native Gaelic dialect is still spoken by a large number of people of Ireland as a second language. The language was introduced by the Celts and many senior citizens can be found speaking in the traditional Irish tongue as their first language.

The homes in Ireland still follow the same rules and are built in a similar fashion, as was the pattern of the olden days. Bright and cheerful colors can be seen splashed on the walls of most homes with colorful doors. Homes of Ireland are generally terrace houses with the central heating system having replaced the traditional fireplace.

Professions and Industry
Farming dates way back into Irish history. In the olden days, the ownership of cattle was considered to be a status symbol. When it comes to farming, the males handle most activities that are related to it. Women are known to market some of the produce. In the past, agriculture was always the primary profession of a common man, and men handled most of the affairs connected with the job. Today, women have also taken up this profession, although Irish farming is still largely dominated by men. A large section of the production is exported internationally. The Irish farmers are known to use the latest methods for their farming needs. Some of the main products in agriculture are dairy and meat, barley, turnips, wheat, etc. Ireland has also flourished in areas of textiles, clothing, pharmaceuticals, and even in the fishing industry.

Religion
Although there is no official religion for Ireland, special consideration has been given to the Catholic Church. One can see Roman Catholics, Methodists, Jewish, Presbyterianism and even a small percentage of other religions such as Islam existing in Ireland.

Music and Dance
The Irish are known for their love for music and dance. The traditional music of Ireland still has a strong foothold in the music scene despite the various influences from abroad. There are many bands that still play traditional music. The most famous amongst these musicians was Turlough Carolan who composed over 200 musical pieces. Celtic music is also considered to be a part of their culture. Towards the later period of the 20th century, Ireland also saw a lot of music groups gaining popularity on the international map. Sean-nós had a major role to play in Irish music. Amongst the most honored in classical Irish music, Sir James Galway has always been considered to be an excellent flutist. Classical music has seen its revival only in the past few years; this is primarily because of the divide of the island (North and South). The area of the Northern Ireland falls under UK and the Southern falls under the Republic of Ireland.

The beauty of the Irish dance is such that it can mesmerize even those who have no particular interest in dance. My personal favorites are Riverdance (a show performed in 1994), which showcased quite a few varieties of Irish dance. Step dancing remains the most popular variant till date. Sean-nós dancing, old step dancing, and the modern versions of step dancing are popular all over the world.

Sports
Ireland has actively followed and developed their sporting culture in various games such as hockey, rowing, golf, cricket, rugby, shooting, etc. However, traditionally, the major sports played and followed by enthusiasts all over the country are Gaelic Football and Hurling, which contribute to over half of the match attendance in the country. The games are played at various levels such as underage, under 18, under 21, and adult. Gaelic football is very similar to Australian football or rugby. Hurling has its roots in hockey, though there are many significant differences, such as the ball is allowed to touch the ground only on rare occasions. Hurling is also known as the fastest field sport in the world.

Arts and Literature
Ireland boasts the finest writers of all times. Ireland even has 4 winners of the Nobel Prize for literature (20th century). Writers such as Oscar Wilde and William Butler Yeats have made major contributions in the literary world. Visual and graphic arts also have a strong foothold here. Some of the early associations of art is seen in the carvings that were found at sites at Newgrange and illuminated manuscripts that belonged to the medieval period.

Irish Festivals
Ireland is a real treat, especially when it comes to their festivals. One can witness a great variety of music, drama, literature,food, sports, arts, and a huge amount of partying. The most prominent festivals are Cat Laughs Festival, Cork Jazz Festival, Dublin Writers Week, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, the Puck fair, the National Plowing Championship, St, Patrick's Day, and the Wexford Opera.

Food
Stories related to the old Irish culture mention honey being widely used especially to make mead. Meat was widely eaten along with poultry products. The potato formed a major part of the food in Ireland amongst the labor class. Today, the food habits have influences from all over the world. Although meat has always been the main item in Irish food, fast food has also taken over. New Irish dishes are being churned out to maintain some healthy eating habits; these focus mainly on fresh vegetables.

The Color Green in Irish Culture
Although no one knows the real reason behind the significance of the green color in Irish culture, many theories exist. It is commonly believed that green symbolizes the natural green landscape of the country, and wearing the color is considered as giving tribute to the nation. It is also believed that green symbolizes the shamrock, which was the sign of St. Patrick. In fact there is even a tradition of pinching people who forget to wear green on St. Patrick's Day.

Modern Irish Culture
Nowadays, many varieties of food that is common across the western world have influenced Irish cuisine. Fast food and European cuisine is found across the nation. More importantly, pub culture has spread widely across all strata of Irish society. Pubs or bars are used not only for drinking, but have also become common places for socializing, although Ireland does have the second highest per capita alcohol consumption in the world. The practice of clubbing has also increased dramatically.

Today, although the original Irish traditions may not be visible everywhere with the advent of the pubs, one can still catch glimpses of traditional culture in various parts of Ireland, especially during festivals.