In our last post we mentioned the many gift buying and unique gift shopping opportunities that holidays can present us. And with news that a major store in London has just started its Christmas display in late summer, it appears many people are thinking ahead to Christmas shopping well in advance. So perhaps a summer vacation in Ireland could prove the ideal opportunity to browse and shop for some early Christmas gifts from Ireland?
Well as we explored in our previous post, it could well be. With a little foresight and planning one can nab a locally crafted and unique gift from your holiday destination, bring it home and keep it as a present for loved ones for a special time, i.e. an upcoming birthday or as a future Christmas present. Indeed with Christmas shopping seeming like a well planned year round activity these days, you never know when a few well timed moments spent browsing in local shops and craft fairs during your holiday could come in handy when stuck for gift ideas in future. That well chosen jumper or fashion attire, item of Celtic jewelry or artwork bought whilst on holiday could be a lifesaver in the run up to Christmas time.
For those visitors on vacation in Ireland, buying gifts for relatives or friends back home interested in Irish culture, there are many worthwhile Irish gifts to choose from. The ones with usually stand out as individually Irish are Celtic jewelry, the Claddagh ring, Irish food and drink hampers, as well as garments such as tweed and the Aran Sweater, a popular Irish product that also comes with its own story and mythology that is every bit as alluring as its design. This knitted jumper from the remote Aran Islands with its patterns and stitches that tell their own story and regional history has always held a certain mystique. Worn for centuries by the local fisherman off the Aran Islands, the jumper known locally and nationally as a long wearing and warm item of winter clothing essential for a hardy Irish winter, came to international attention during the 50’s and 60’s through Ireland’s first “popstars” the Clancy Brothers who wore Aran sweaters on stage.
These classic Irish sweaters were originally hand knitted with unscoured sheep’s wool by the wives and daughters of fishermen on the remote and hardy Aran Islands off west coast of Ireland, the Aran jumper was known for its durability and longevity, was water resistant and could be worn when wet, perfect for the fishermen for whom it were originally crafted. Today’s Aran Sweaters are slightly different to the original hand-crafted pieces of yore, being mainly machine knitted with soft merino wool and are a comfortable, warm and functional fashion item available to everyone. And the sweaters main feature: the distinctive set of stitches and cable patterns that makes it so revered and memorable remains the same.
For part of the long standing appeal and popularity of the garment are the myths and stories that surround it, especially with regards to the symbolism and stories that the individual stitches and cable patterns on an individual Aran sweater convey. The Aran Sweaters origins, being knitted by individuals and families meant that each sweater was as individual as the person knitting it. The stitches and cable patterns used came with many traditional and religious interpretations and often signified regional and/or local identification. Aran sweaters, or commonly referred to as Irish Fisherman sweaters, have a variety of different stitches (such as honeycomb, moss, blackberry, tree of life etc) which are symbolic and convey stories as distinctive and famous as that of Celtic design. This ultimately adds to the sweaters/jumpers worldwide allure.
Now no longer the preserve of hard working local fisherman, today the Aran jumper has evolved into a stylish item of clothing for modern wear, is a popular Irish gift item, part of Irish history and culture. When choosing an Aran Sweater for the man (or woman as they can be worn by anyone) in your life, be they a family member, friend or lover, this stylish and comfortable jumper with its own unique cultural background and knitted designs could be a welcome birthday gift or future Christmas present. With good foresight and clever summer holiday gift shopping you can combine a great summer vacation with some thrifty future birthday present/Christmas individual shopping making it easy to justify that summer vacation or trip to Ireland.