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Irish Christmas Traditions

candleNollaig Shona Duit (Happy Christmas!)

Just up ahead, find out more about how to celebrate a traditional Irish Christmas wth information, Irish Christmas fun facts, and interesting background history about how Christmas was celebrated in Ireland then and now...

Ireland, like most countries, has a number of Christmas traditions that are all of its own. Many of these customs have their root in the time when the Gaelic culture and religion of the country were being supressed and it is perhaps because of that they have survived into modern times.

holly dividerTHE Candle in the Window
The placing of a lighted candle in the window of a house on Christmas eve is still practised today. It has a number of purposes but primarily it was a symbol of welcome to Mary and Joseph as they travelled looking for shelter. The candle also indicated a safe place for priests to perform mass as, during Penal Times this was not allowed. A further element of the tradition is that the candle should be lit by the youngest member of the household and only be extinguished by a girl bearing the name 'Mary'.

christmas holly
Holly plants flourished in Ireland around
Christmas time, and provided the poor with a colorful source of Christmas decorations.

holly dividerThe Laden Table
After evening meal on Christmas eve the kitchen table was again set and on it were placed a loaf of bread filled with caraway seeds and raisins, a pitcher of milk and a large lit candle. The door to the house was left unlatched so that Mary and Joseph, or any wandering traveller, could avail of the welcome.

holly dividerThe Wren Boy Procession
During Penal Times there was once a plot in a village against the local soldiers. They were surrounded and were about to be ambushed when a group of wrens pecked on their drums and awakened the soldiers. The plot failed and the wren became known as 'The Devil's bird'. On St. Stephens Day a procession takes place where a pole with a holly bush is carried from house to house and families dress up in old clothes and with blackened faces. This custom has to a large degree disappeared but the tradition of visiting from house to house on St. Stephens Day has survived and is very much part of Christmas.

holly dividerDecorations
The placing of a ring of Holly on doors originated in Ireland as Holly was one of the main plants that flourished at Christmas time and which gave the poor ample means with which to decorate their dwellings. All decorations are traditionally taken down on Little Christmas (January 6th.) and it is considered to be bad luck to take them down beforehand.

holly dividerMerry Christmas in Gaelic
The Gaelic greeting for 'Merry Christmas' is: Nollaig Shona Duit ......which is pronounced as 'null-ig hun-a dit'.


The Information About Ireland Site

More Irish Christmas traditons and fun facts:

holly dividerThroughout Ireland, Christmas trees are usually decorated and lit on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Ireland's biggest shopping day.

holly dividerIn Gaelic, St. Nick is known as Daidí na Nollag ("Daddy" or Father Christmas), but among English speakers he is simply or "Santy" or Santa.

christmas puddingholly dividerLike many families worldwide, the Irish traditionally leave Santa a treat when he comes to visit -- a slice of fruit cake, a glass of milk, or even a bottle of Guinness to help keep him warm in his winter travels.

holly dividerAn Irish Christmas dinner usually consists of a baked ham, roast turkey or goose and roast potatoes. The traditional dessert is a big holiday pudding (fruit cake) laced with brandy and set alight.

holly dividerWhile the day after Christmas is celebrated with lots of shopping at Boxing Day sales in the UK, in Ireland stores remain closed as families maintain the tradition of visiting house to house on December 26th, St. Stephen's Day.

holly dividerTo round out the season, ring in the New Year in Gaelic by saying Athbhliain faoi mhaise duit pronounced ‘a-vilean fwee mau-sha dit’ for a Prosperous New Year!

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