family fun

Irish Traditions: Kissing the Blarney Stone

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Almost 10 years ago, my family traveled to Ireland to embrace our Irish roots. One of my favorite photos of all-time is a picture of my great grandpa and grandma which was taken right after they arrived in Pennsylvania from Ireland. They were photographed proudly standing next to a bell on their piece of land with "O'Sullivan" engraved on the wood that displayed the bell. Given that their last name started with the traditional Irish "O," they were forced to drop it during a moment in history that was filled with turmoil for Irish immigrants. That bell and engraving were meant to symbolize a new beginning in their life in America.

Given that my family has such strong roots in Ireland, my parents thought it would be a great idea to take my brother and me to Ireland to learn about the culture first-hand. My great aunt and uncle, although Pennsylvania residents, owned a hay-thatched summer cottage in Ireland on the coast of Dingle Bay. Every day we chose a new adventure, devoured traditional meat and potato dishes, and met with so many kind, hard-working, fun-loving people who welcomed us with open arms. With their fair skin, freckles, rosy cheeks, and dark hair, I fit right in and felt at home.

During one of our excursions, we traveled all the way to Blarney Castle. We figured we couldn't travel all the way to Ireland and not embrace one of the best-known Irish traditions: kissing the Blarney Stone. The actual Blarney Stone itself is a bluestone that was built into the battlements of Blarney Castle in 1446. The only way to get to the stone was to climb countless flights of stairs within Blarney Castle. Once we arrived at the top of the castle, we were faced with the difficult, fear-inducing task of kissing the stone. Placing hygienic caution aside, we had to lie flat on our backs, scooch to the edge of the castle, lean over backwards on the parapet's edge (with the help of an assistant), and reach as far as we possibly could to kiss the stone. Talk about frightening. All I can say is, thank goodness there was an assistant there to help calm the fears.

One might ask, why put yourself through all of this? That's easy. It's all about embracing your roots, facing your fears...and of course, once you kiss the stone, you're bestowed the gift of eloquence.

How do you embrace your family roots? Irish or not, how will you be celebrating this St. Patrick's Day?

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Jen Tilley


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