Irish Culture in Cape Breton Island, Canada


Cape Breton Island is a North American island which lies on the Atlantic coast. The island got its name from French immigrants who arrived in North America long time ago. The island is part of today’s Nova Scotia, a province in Canada. The island is believed to have been occupied by ancestors of the Mi’kmaq before it was discovered by Europeans. Europeans dominated the island displacing most of its original inhabitants, and this is the reason why most cultures in the island originated from Europe. For instance, most people who live in the island today came from either Ireland or Scotland. This is the reason why Irish and Scottish cultures dominate the island (Twomey 60). France and Britain used to fight for the control of Cape Breton Island as their colony. This influenced foreign settlement hence many settlers are of European origin. In addition, people from European countries intermarried with aboriginal people. This intermarriage led to the birth of Gaelic language and culture.

The Irish and Scottish Gaels settled in different places, in the island, in order to avoid conflicts. These territories were determined by their leaders and colonial treaties were supposed to be respected by all colonialists. This is the reason why Irish Gaels could be found mostly in urban areas while Scottish Gaels were expected to be found in eastern Nova Scotia. This explains why different cultures were dominant in different places, in Cape Breton Island. In fact, the identity of Nova Scotia has a lot of influence from both immigrants from Scotland and Ireland. This means that these settlers came up with their traditions hence influencing social lifestyles in the Island. Although Cape Breton Island is in North America, most of the cultural practices have got their roots in European countries.


There are various aspects of Irish culture in Cape Breton Island, in North America. These cultures are prevalent in urban areas were immigrants from Ireland settled. For instance, Irish culture is common in Sydney and Halifax. These cultures include styles of performing music. Artists in this island entertain their fans by music originating from Ireland. Some of these styles originate from Anglo-Irish folk songs which are common to people in Ireland. In fact, most social events in Ireland must be accompanied by some of these folk songs. This is deep in their culture such that almost everyone in the population understands how to sing and dance to these cultural songs. There is also the fiddle and pipe music played in these urban places. This means that Irish culture is extraordinarily rich and highly embraced by people who live in urban areas in Cape Breton Island.

Dances and storytelling are prevalent among people in Ireland hence dominating cultural practices carried out by settlers of Irish origin. In fact, they embrace these cultures as they pass some knowledge through these songs and stories. In fact, in the Irish culture people gather together to share meals and information (Stefano, Davis and Corsane 83). This is hugely beneficial for strengthening their traditions and culture. For instance, there are kitchen parties, which involve bringing together people from various social backgrounds to share and celebrate their cultures. These practices are common in Sydney where Irish culture is prevalent in the island. People in Sydney try so much to preserve their culture, and they pass the knowledge to upcoming generations.

Irish culture is known for their potatoes, which constitute the main meal for most people in Ireland. Cape Breton Island is not an exception as people of Irish origin live there. In fact, a lot of money is spent in Ireland every year in providing potatoes to its inhabitants. Potatoes are known for their starch contents hence remaining an Irish culture’s favorite. Irish people have developed various ways of preparing potatoes to ensure that they retain their culture (Orkin 104). Irish restaurants serve their customers with meals accompanied by potatoes hence promoting their cultural dishes. In Cape Breton Island, Irish potatoes are common whenever people have events and parties aimed at celebrating their cultural practices. This is crucial as they need to promote their cultural dishes hence teaching new generations how to prepare and consume them.

Cultural events in Irish community are held in five different categories namely participatory events, learning opportunities, outdoor events, community meals and visual arts series. Events in all these categories are arranged in a way such that there will be no confusion hence enhancing achievements of set goals and objectives. For instance, events in the learning opportunities category involve various workshops and presentations aimed at educating people about culture. In fact, people in the island are allowed to interact with the Irish to learn about their culture (Zimmerman 100). During these events, various works of art are displayed for the spectators to learn more about Irish culture.

Participatory events give chances to everyone in Cape Breton Island to show others what they know about Irish culture. In addition, people are given chances to view what others have to present about Irish culture. This involves presentations of works of arts such as traditional dances and songs. These participatory events are held together with outdoor activities such as hiking and bicycle riding. This enables people to mingle and have time to teach each other what they know about Irish culture. Finally, visual arts events enable people to hold exhibitions of their works of art that reflect on Irish culture. These take place where artists come up with a lot of collections and display them during cultural workshops.


Cape Breton Island is dominated by people who have origins in European countries mostly Ireland and Scotland. These people arrived in the North American island during colonial times, and they have vastly influenced development of culture in the island. In fact, Scottish and Irish cultures dominate the island with many activities inclining towards their expectations. There are various aspects of Irish culture among people in the island which include eating habits and songs. People in urban areas such as Sydney embraced most activities in accordance with the Irish culture. For instance, they consume a lot of potatoes which is a main dish in Irish culture. In addition, they hold several cultural events which help in strengthening their culture. In fact, cultural events are aimed at educating younger generations about Irish culture (Idström, Piirainen and Falzett 65). Cultural songs are given priorities in this island hence enabling Irish culture to acquire much popularity North America. Irish culture has influenced lifestyle in most urban areas, in Cape Breton Island, and this can be evident where people embrace Irish folk songs. In fact, many musicians in the island perform their music in Irish styles. Most people are conversant with Irish styles hence enabling them to enjoy dances and songs. Therefore, Irish culture has influenced a lot of activities in this Island hence remaining one of the main cultures in Cape Breton Island.

Works Cited

Idström, Anna, Elisabeth Piirainen, and Tiber Falzett. Endangered Metaphors. London: John Benjamins Publishing, 2012. Print.

Orkin, David. Nova Scotia. Michigan: Bradt Travel Guides, 2010. Print.

Stefano, Michelle L, Peter Davis, and Gerard Corsane. Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage: Touching the Intangible. Sydney: Boydell Press, 2012. Print.

Twomey, Patrick. Working and Living in Canada, 2 ed. Sydney: New Holland Publishers, 2008. Print.

Zimmerman, Karla. Canada. New York: Lonely Planet, 2008. Print.

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