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Section title: Irish
Introduction | History | Daily Life | Culture | References


Irish-Canadian Culture Today

Irish dance students from Halifax, Nova Scotia, at the Ottawa Feis, 1994  

Two important aspects of Irish culture today are Irish music and dancing. Thousands of young people across our country learn and practise traditional Irish step-dancing, even if they are not Irish. Children from as young as four years of age participate in exciting dance competitions called Feis ("fesh").

  Celtic cross

Many people recognize an important symbol that was widely used in the 1800s in the Irish Catholic community: the Celtic cross. It decorated everything from jewellery to tombstones, in celebration of Celtic heritage. Today, Celtic crosses commemorate important events in Irish-Canadian history.

Irish names are also part of Irish-Canadian culture. Someone with a surname beginning with O' is probably of Irish descent. In many cases, however, people with surnames such as O'Sullivan and O'Kelly dropped the O' after a generation or two in Canada.


All Irish Canadians now speak English or French or both, and a few also speak the Irish language. Irish is very beautiful but takes effort to learn, since the words sound nothing at all like they are spelled! Classes in the Irish-Gaelic language are becoming popular. Irish is taught at some universities in Canada and in communities where it is sponsored by a local Irish society or group. There are language immersion weekends and conventions, where only Irish is spoken, in various Canadian cities.

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