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Independent.ie

Tuesday 6 December 2016

The ring in the barmbrack is just a bit of innocent, old-fashioned fun, right?

Ann Fitzgerald

Published 27/11/2016 | 16:00

Barmbrack
Barmbrack

What many of us don’t know — and many more have forgotten — is that it actually contains a very important subliminal message, to get young people thinking about the opposite sex.

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Next Monday, the North Clare Historical Society hosts an intriguingly titled talk by Pádraig Ó Héalaí on ‘Tying the Knot: Aspects of Marriage Customs and Beliefs in Irish Folk Tradition’.

“The ring in the barmbrack is not supported by any religious, educational or other system,” says Dr Ó Héalaí. Rather, it is a mechanism devised by society to sustain itself and help the individual go through life.

The former senior lecturer in Irish at National University of Ireland Galway will also speak about the changed nature of marriage.

Right down to the middle of the 20th century, marriage was not seen as the ultimate expression of romantic love but rather as a practical arrangement between two families.

By extension, those without the same “encumbrance” of wealth, e.g. servants, labourers or craftsmen, may have been more likely to marry for love. Venue is the Courthouse Gallery, Ennistymon.

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