Why Do Irish Travelers Cover Their Windows?

Why Do Irish Travelers Cover Their Windows

Irish Travelers, also known as Pavees or Mincéirs, are a traditionally nomadic ethnic group that originated in Ireland. They have a distinct culture and speak a language called Shelta. One unique characteristic of Irish Traveler culture is the practice of covering windows in their homes and trailers. There are several reasons why Irish Travelers follow this tradition.

Protecting Privacy

Padlock and chain on a laptop keyboard. Concept of internet security
Padlock and chain on a laptop keyboard. Concept of internet security

One of the main reasons Irish Travelers cover their windows is to protect their privacy. As a closed, insular community, Irish Travelers tend to be wary of outsiders and like to keep their homes hidden from prying eyes. Covering the windows prevents people from looking in and seeing what’s going on inside. This allows them to control who has access to their private family lives.

Irish Travelers also cover their windows for privacy when parked at the side of the road or at camping sites. With covered windows, they don’t have to worry about strangers invading their space or looking through their belongings when they are not home. The covered windows provide a sense of security and seclusion.

Maintaining Modesty

Modesty is an important value in Irish Traveler culture. Their conservative customs encourage modest dress and behavior, particularly among women. Covering windows is a way to uphold modesty by preventing accidental views into their homes from the outside.

With covered windows, Irish Traveler women can go about their domestic duties without worrying about being seen inappropriately dressed by passersby. It allows them to maintain strict standards of modesty even within the home. Likewise, covered windows protect the women from the gaze of strange men, which would be considered disrespectful.

Keeping Out Evil Spirits

Irish Travelers are a superstitious people with a rich belief in folk magic and warding off curses. One folk belief is that evil spirits, curses, or the “evil eye” can enter the home through open windows and cause misfortune. Thus, keeping windows constantly covered is thought to protect the inhabitants from harm.

In particular, Irish Travelers believe new mothers and babies are vulnerable after childbirth. Covering windows is one traditional way they shield the mother and child from malicious spirits or faeries who may intend them to harm during this delicate period. It provides comfort and reassurance.

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Displaying Wealth

Displaying Wealth
Displaying Wealth

Covered windows and trailers also function as a display of wealth and status for some Irish Travelers. The more ornate and elaborate the covering, the more prosperous the family is assumed to be.

Intricately carved wooden shutters and thick embroidered curtains demonstrate that the family can afford such fine decorations. In a culture where displays of wealth are important at events like weddings and funerals, covered windows provide a subtle way to show off their financial standing.

Keeping Warm

Keeping Warm
Keeping Warm

On a more practical level, keeping windows covered helps Irish Travelers conserve heat and energy. Windows are a major source of heat loss from a home. During cold winters or periods when fuel is scarce, blocking drafts from windows can significantly reduce heat loss.

For Irish Travelers living in trailers or caravans, insulation is often poor. Covering windows helps trap warmth inside and protect inhabitants from frosty temperatures outside. Thick curtains also muffle noise from rain, wind, or hail beating against the glass.

Maintaining Cleanliness

Finally, covered windows aid in keeping homes tidy by preventing dust and rain from entering. Irish Traveler women traditionally assume responsibility for housework and ensure high standards of cleanliness in living quarters.

Covering windows protects the interior from dirt, debris, and mud being tracked or blown inside. It also reduces damage to furnishings and decor from sun exposure. Keeping windows concealed allows for better maintenance of a neat, orderly home.

Cultural Tradition

While practical reasons exist, covering windows is also a long-held cultural tradition among Irish Travelers. The practice connects them to their heritage and maintains a unique aspect of their ethnic identity. It is a folk custom passed down through generations along with their language, music, and oral traditions.

The origin of this traditional practice is unknown but likely stems from a combination of cultural values like privacy, modesty, superstition, and feminine virtue. For Irish Travelers, covered windows are a symbolic reminder of their distinct way of life. Though their numbers are dwindling, this custom persists as an important ethnographic marker.

Responses from Mainstream Society

The practice of keeping windows covered remains controversial in mainstream Irish society today. Many outsiders interpret it negatively as sinister, sneaky, or antisocial behavior. During times of discrimination and racism against Irish Travelers, covered windows have stirred suspicion and allegations of criminal conduct.

However, for Travelers, the tradition represents their right to maintain customs integral to their identity and heritage. Covered windows are not meant to isolate them from society, but to uphold important cultural values around modesty, privacy, and spiritual protection. As Irish Travelers fight for greater acceptance, understanding the reasoning behind their traditions like this fosters openness and tolerance on both sides.


In summary, Irish Travelers keep their windows covered for a variety of cultural, spiritual, and practical reasons. The practice offers privacy, upholds modesty, protects from spirits, displays status, conserves heat, and maintains cleanliness. Though misunderstood by outsiders, covered windows remain an enduring and meaningful tradition among the Irish Traveler community today. Their cultural identity and right to preserve customs important to them deserve thoughtful consideration.