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The True Meaning of “Ceilidh” in Cape Breton

Story by: Celtic Heart

It’s often heard around the island that there will be a ceilidh in this place, or that people are going to a ceilidh tonight, or will there be a ceilidh anywhere this weekend? People consider ceilidhs to be events where music will be heard and alcohol, beer or wine drunk, where there will be dancing and celebration going on almost until daybreak and maybe longer than that!

But what does ceilidh mean in the language of the Fenians? Perhaps everything I named will be there, but maybe none of them will be. A ceilidh is only a visit. If you sit down and have a cup of tea with someone, it’s a ceilidh. If you go to visit someone in the hospital, that’s a ceilidh too. (Don’t take drink and musical instruments into a hospital; they get cross at you.)

How did this divide about the meaning of “ceilidh” come to be between Gaelic and English? Perhaps it’s because there would be musical instruments in many houses and people who could play them. Most people could sing songs and were good at dancing. They would relate stories that would take more than one night to tell, or that wouldn’t last more than half an hour. It’s possible there would be athletics and some form of divination being done, and much more.

With this wealth of pastimes that the Gaels have, when people would come to visit, is it any wonder that a happening such as they call a “ceilidh” in English would arise from a simple visit? If it should last all night? And is it strange that people who don’t speak Gaelic would come to think that every ceilidh is a celebration?

Gaelic

Chluinnear gu tric mu ‘n cuairt an eilein gum bi ceilidh ann an àite seo, no gum bi daoine a’ dol do cheilidh an nochd, agus a bheil ceilidh ann an àite sam bith ceann na seachdainne ‘sa tighinn? Bidh daoine a’ measail ceilidhean mar tachartasan far an cluinnear ceòl ‘s an òlar deoch làidir no leann no fion, far am bi danns’ ‘is gàirdeachas nan ruith cha mhór gu soilleireachadh an latha, agus ‘s dòcha seachad air an uair sin!

Ach dé a th’ ann an ceilidh ann an cànan nam Féinn? Dh’ fhaoidte gum bi a h-uile rud a dh’ ainmich mi ann, ach ‘s dòcha nach bi gin dhiubh ann. Chan eil ann an ceilidh ach tadhal. Ma nì sibh suidhe ‘s ma ghabhas sibh srùbag còmhla ri duine, ‘s e ceilidh a th’ ann. Ma théid sibh gus duine ann an taigh éiridinn fhaicinn, ‘s e sin ceilidh cuideachd. (Na toir deoch ‘is innealan ciùil asteach do thaigh éiridinn – gabhaidh ‘ad an gruaim riut.)

Ciamar a thàinig eadar-dealachadh gu bhith ann an dà chànan Gàidhlig ‘is Beurla, a thaobh ciall an fhacail “ceilidh”? Theagamh gur a h-ann air sgàth ‘s gum biodh innealan ciùil ann an iomadh taigh, agus daoine do ‘m b’ urrainn an cluich. Bhiodh òrain aig a’ mhór-chuid de dhaoine, agus seòl math aca air dannsa. Dh’ aithriseadh iad sgeulachdan a dh’ iarradh a’ bharrachd air aon oidhche gus innse, no nach maireadh ach leth uair a thìde. Dh’ fhaodadh lùth-chleasachd agus seòrsa de dh’ fhàistneachd a bhith ann, agus móran eile.

Leis a’ bheartas a th’ aig na Gàidheal ann am fearas-chuideachd mar sin, ‘nuair a thigeadh daoine air cheilidh, an neònach an rud nan éireadh á ceilidh bheag leithid de shuidheachadh ris an canar “ceilidh” anns a’ Bheurla? Nam maireadh e fad na h-oidhche? Agus an neònach nan tigeadh daoine aig nach eil a’ Ghàidhlig gu smaoinntinn gur a h-e taoim mhór a th’ anns a’ h-uile ceilidh?

Published by CelticHeart.ca – written by Angus MacLeod.

Celtic Heart

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