Bun agus Barr | What’s This About?

The evening of 23 June, St. John’s Eve, is the eve of celebration before the Feast Day of St John the Baptist. The Feast of St. John closely coincides with the June solstice, also referred to as Midsummer in the Northern hemisphere. The Christian Holy Day is 24 June but in most countries festivities tend to be held the night before, on St. John’s Eve.

The Bonfire Night Tradition

This tradition is one that’s carried on from the pagan midsummer festival and fits a common pattern of Christianity latching onto previous pagan festivals. The St John’s Eve Bonfire is not unique to Ireland but also had/has a strong presence in Cornwall, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Quebec, Shetland Isles and Sweden. It’s therefore something that will be familiar to many of our ‘New Tyrone’ people, the migrants who are now such an important part of our County.

In Ireland Bonfire Night tended/tends to be a ‘west-of-the-Shannon’ phenomenon and in Ulster was/is strongest in parts of rural Tyrone – very much including Kildress –  and Donegal. Among our Bonfire Night traditions are:

  • Music, singing and dancing and something light to eat around the bonfire
  • Asking for God’s blessing on farms, fields, crops and animals
  • Spreading ashes from the fire over the land as a blessing for the crops
  • Girls praying as they walked round the fire so that by the following Bonfire Night they would be married
  • Bringing home an ember from the fire and placing it on the family hearth, especially in a new house

Often this prayer, or something similar, would be said as the fire was lit:

“In the honour of God and of St. John, to the fruitfulness and profit of our planting and our work …”

It’s not a bad sentiment for the Gaels of Kildress at Gortacladdy!

Come and join us this Thursday evening, from 8.00pm to 9.30pm for an evening of music, dance, song, a cup of tea/coffee and a (small!) bonfire.




By mark Mon 20th Jun