MAIN Home Life Holidays Christmas Christmas in Ireland
Nollaig 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...
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.
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'.
Holly plants flourished in Ireland around
Christmas time, and provided the poor with a colorful source of Christmas decorations.
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.
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.
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.
Christmas in Gaelic
The Gaelic greeting for 'Merry Christmas' is: Nollaig Shona
Duit ......which is pronounced as 'null-ig hun-a dit'.
Source: The Information About Ireland Site
More Irish Christmas traditons and fun facts:
Throughout Ireland, Christmas trees are usually decorated and lit on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Ireland's biggest shopping day.
In Gaelic, St. Nick is known as Daidí na Nollag ("Daddy" or Father Christmas), but among English speakers he is simply or "Santy" or Santa.
Like 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.
An 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.
While 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.
To 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!