Lá Saoire i mí Dheireadh Fómhair

Today being the last Monday of October, it’s a Bank Holiday here in Ireland so I’m having the day off (well, at least the morning: I have a telecon this afternoon). This week is Study Week too so there are no lectures or tutorials – real or virtual – until next Monday. Now that I have a broadband connection at home I’ll be working from here much more as the Level 5 restrictions require me to. It won’t be ideal because a lot of my work stuff is still in the office on campus, but at least I’ll be more comfortable than first time round, when I was in the flat.

Normally, most students go home for some or all of Study Week and return to campus the following week. This year I suppose most will stay where they are, although some might go home and stay there until the end of term since virtually all their teaching is online this term. They won’t even have to come back for the examinations after Christmas as these will be online too. It’s anyone’s guess whether we will have teaching on campus next Semester.

Coincidentally, the first campus closure started just before a Bank Holiday too. That was St Patrick’s Day. It seems like an eternity ago. The news of my award of the St Patrick’s Day Beard of Ireland would surely have made front pages across the Republic had it not been for the Covid-19 Pandemic. I think I’ll refrain from trimming my beard for the duration of the new restrictions like I did during the original lockdown.

Incidentally, the Irish word for beard is Féasóg. Also incidentally, I’ve signed up to have Irish language lessons this term; they start in November.

As I’ve mentioned before, this Bank Holiday (as others of its type in Ireland) has a sort of astronomical connection. In the Northern hemisphere, from an astronomical point of view, the solar year is defined by the two solstices (summer, around June 21st, and winter around December 21st) and the equinoxes (spring, around March 21st, and Autumn, around September 21st). These four events divide the year into four roughly equal parts each of about 13 week. If you divide each of these intervals in two you divide the year into eight pieces of six and a bit weeks each. The dates midway between the astronomical events mentioned above are (roughly) :

1st February: Imbolc (Candlemas)
1st May: Beltane (Mayday)
1st August: Lughnasadh (Lammas)
1st November: Samhain (All Saints Day)

The names I’ve added are taken from the Celtic/neo-Pagan (and Christian) terms for these cross-quarter days. These timings are rough because the dates of the equinoxes and solstices vary from year to year. Imbolc is often taken to be the 2nd of February (Groundhog Day) and Samhain is sometimes taken to be October 31st, Halloween.
Another name for the present Bank Holiday is Lá Saoire Oíche Shamhna (Halloween Holiday), although Halloween itself does not occur until next Saturday. Bank Holidays are always on Mondays here so they’re often a few days away from the dates above.

2 Responses to “Lá Saoire i mí Dheireadh Fómhair”

  1. Do you think “Féasóg” may be related to “Fizzog” – English slang for “face” which Google claims is derived from “physiognomy”?

    • telescoper Says:

      This did occur to me but I didn’t find any reliable etymological case for it. The OED does not mention a possible Irish origin. The earliest recorded instance of “fizzog” is 1811.

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