Who are the Celtic people, anyway? People often confuse the Celts with the Gaels or Irish people in general. First, it’s important to understand the difference. All of the Gaels and many of the Irish people essentially originated from the Celts. Evidence of the Celtic people can be traced back to the fifth century B.C. They were found all over Europe, stretching west to Ireland, east to the Black Sea, south to the Mediterranean and north to Denmark. The Celts were divided into different groups who lived in the European mainland. One group came to Ireland, and another came to Britain. The ones who came to Ireland were called Gaelic, and later conquered Scotland and the Isle of Man. The ones who came to Britain at one point ruled all of England; but this was a couple thousand years ago! They were eventually driven out of Britain with the exception of Wales and Cornwall where Celtic culture and languages persisted after Gaelic and Anglo-Saxon invasions. Today, The descendants of the Celtic peoples (Gaels) are found in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. The descendants of the original “Brythoic” group are found in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany (a small portion of northwest France). These two primary groups of Celts are the only major Celtic peoples left, as the ones who stayed on the mainland of Europe were conquered by the Romans and later invaders.
Despite this long and vast history (very briefly encapsulated above), most of what we know about the Celts comes from northwestern Europe and the British Isles. Celtic people love to have a good time, and their celebrations are marked by many festivals. They have rich traditions of music, art, dance, and poetry. While originally a polytheistic religious people, they quickly adapted to Christianity through the extension of the Roman Empire and starting in the 5th century with the arrival of St. Patrick. One of the great artistic contributions made by a group of Celtic monks was Ireland’s beloved Book of Kells. Celtic traditions are also marked by the harp and the bagpipes, beautifully colorful art forms full of interlacing patterns, lively music, the lucky shamrock, and the legend of King Arthur.
While the Celtic languages have suffered a serious decline since the 1600’s, their many other traditions and customs have persisted, and still not only flourish in Ireland, specifically, but all over the world where you will find people of Irish descent. If there’s one thing that people of ancestral Celtic descent have, it’s pride. It’s no wonder that peoples of America of Irish descent are drawn to Celtic names.
The Celts, like all other groups of people, have a rich naming tradition when choosing a child’s first name. It is a reflection of their values, hopes, and dreams for that child. As is common with many other ethnicities, the Celtic naming customs express their connection with God and religion, with virtues and love, with nature and places, and with strength and warrior combat. As the Celtic people were overrun by stronger neighbors, most notably after the Norman invasion of Briton when English and French names took over, Celtic names became anglicized. However, in today’s modern society, with the advent of the World Wide Web and the globalization of information, there has been a resurgence of interest in the ancient Celtic culture. More and more people are seeking out names associated with their roots, or the roots of cultures they admire and respect. The Celts are one of those cultures people are drawn to, probably because of their steadfast pride and welcoming nature.
Many people are expressing this pride by way of naming their children the traditionally spelled and pronounced names of the Celts. Catherine, for example, is Caitlin and James is Seamus. Every time these Celtic versions of common names are called out, another piece of Celtic pride is born.