Irish Language Blog

New Year’s – Celtic Style (1 Mí na Samhna in ionad 1 Eanáir) Posted by on Oct 31, 2012 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

While January 1 is widely considered to be “New Year’s Day” in many parts of the world, including Ireland, there is/was a Celtic concept of the New Year that placed the holiday much earlier in the winter season, specifically on November 1.

I say “is/was” quite deliberately.  Considering “an t-aonú lá de mhí na Samhna” to be New Year’s Day is primarily an ancient or folkloric belief, but some people today are reviving it as the “new” New Year’s Day (Samhain).  More power to them, I say.  I do wonder, though, whether any of the Samhain advocates actually pass up the chance to celebrate  ar an aonú lá de mhí Eanáir.  Somehow, ní dóigh liom é!

Ar aon chaoi, this year I did get a “ríomhchárta beannachta” don Bhliain Úr Cheilteach on October 30th.  Ceann an-deas le ceol le Loreena McKennitt (an t-amhrán “All Souls’ Night”).  Go raibh maith agat arís, a Phádraigín G. má tá tú ag léamh an bhlag seo!

Whether you celebrate “an Athbhliain” Celtic-style, on 1 Mí na Samhna, or sa dóigh phríomhshrutha [FREEV-HRUH-huh], on 1 Mí Eanáir, or iad araon, it gives us a good chance to practice the word “bliain” [BLEE-in] which is “year” in Irish.

Here are some forms of the word:

an bhliain [un VLEE-in], the year (with lenition, because it’s a feminine noun), as in “an bhliain seo caite” (last year, btw, is also called “anuraidh“)

na bliana [nuh BLEE-un-uh], of the year, as in “ó cheann ceann na bliana” (from year’s end to year’s end, lit. from end end of year)

na blianta, the years, as in “na blianta ó shin” (years ago, lit. “the” years ago)

na mblianta, of the years, as is “taithí na mblianta” (the experience of “the” years, as in teaching, etc.)

Here are some additional uses:

i mbliana [IM-LEE-uh-nuh], this year (note: there’s no word “this” in this Irish phrase; also note, this is the adverbial usage, as in “I’m going there this year,” not the noun usage, as in “This year is a lucky one)

anonn sna blianta, on in years (if discussing age: Tá sé ag dul anonn sna blianta)

And if you’re being specific about ages, you have to remember when to use lenition and when to use eclipsis:

bliain amháin, one year

dhá bhliain, two years

trí bliana, three years (no lenition following numbers 3 through 6)

sé bliana, six years

seacht mbliana [shakht MLEE-uh-nuh], seven years (eclipsis for numbers 7 through 10)

deich mbliana, ten years

fiche bliain, twenty years (no change to “bliain” for multiples of ten)

cúig bliana is caoga, fifty-five years

seacht mbliana is seachtó, seventy-seven years

Various phrases having to do with New Year’s, generally considered to be January 1st, are:

an Bhliain Úr OR an Bhliain Nua, the New Year

Athbhliain faoi mhaise [AH-VLEE-in fwee WUSH-uh], Happy New Year (lit. “re-year” under prosperity)

Oíche Chinn Bhliana, New Year’s Eve, lit. eve of end of year

san athbhliain, in the new year

Come to think of it, most of the e-cards I’ve seen for “Oíche Shamhna” or “Samhain” simply leave the Irish word at that, and add the rest of the greeting in English (Happy Samhain, etc).  I don’t think I’ve actually seen an e-card with “Samhain” imagery and a typical New Year’s greeting in Irish, such as “Athbhliain faoi mhaise.”  If you wanted to make the greeting fully in Irish, it would be “Samhain Shona duit (daoibh, if plural).

Whenever you care to send such beannachtaí, now or i Mí na Nollag, that’s the skinny (fios an scéil) on the word “bliain.”  I hope you found it úsáideach!  SGF, Róislín

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