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Happy ”Irish” Holidays!

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Ireland is originally a Catholic country and although not so many people are religious these days, Christmas is still a huge celebration. We love our traditions in Ireland and here are just a few we practice for Christmas:

1. Christmas Cakes and Puddings:

People complain that Christmas starts too early in the year. Halloween is barely over and the shops have their decorations up, in fact they had a Christmas shop in the Brown Thomas shop in Dublin in August this year. But the tradition for Irish Mammys is to have the Christmas Cakes and Puddings made by October – in order for them to have time enough to mature properly before the big day.

It is also traditional in each family for the children to take turns stirring the mixture. They would stir it 3 times in an counter-clockwise tradition and make a wish at the same time.

2. The 8th December – Culchies day out

The feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day was traditionally the day families came ‘up from the country’ to do their Christmas shopping in one of the larger towns like Dublin, Cork or Galway. Although this doesn’t happen so much now, there is still something magical about strolling down Henry Street or Grafton St in Dublin, Shop Street in Galway or Patrick Street in Cork at Christmas time.

3. Visit to Santa:

If you were lucky enough to live on the East side of Ireland you would have been brought to Dublin on the 8th and along side the shopping there would be a visit to Santa and the amazing window displays at Switzers – now Brown Thomas, mentioned earlier. Santas around the country would have a pink bag full of toys for girls & a blue one for boys. We were delighted to just have a quick chat with the great man and a lucky bag. Now there are a number of Christmas experiences around Ireland – Winter Wonderland in Westport house, Winterval in Waterford or you can even visit him in a cave at the Ailwee Caves!

4. The Christmas tree:

A tradition still in Ireland as it is all around the world. The lights are always in a tangle even though you wrapped them up nice last year and there is the annual argument over who gets to put the angel on the tree – inevitable it is the youngest member of the house hold.

5. Candle in the window:

Although a religious tradition originally, many houses will light a candle in their window on Christmas Eve. This was to signal to Mary & Joseph that they were welcome at the house.

Nowadays, the candle is lit to welcome anyone who may need shelter for the night.

There is a permanent candle in the window of Aras an Uachtarain thanks to President Mary Robinson who famously re-adopted this custom during her term of office, to remember all of the emigrants that had left Ireland and let them know the candle in the window would always be lighting to remember them show them their way home.

6. Midnight Mass:

Being that we are Irish, midnight mass is not at midnight – it used to be but now you are more likely to be at mass at 9pm on Christmas eve. It is normally the night that those who are returning home get to catch up with their family and friends in the pub afterwards. You’ll never see the mothers out, as they are busy starting the Christmas dinner for the next day.

7. Christmas dinner:

We love our food and Christmas dinner is the biggest event of the year. It is a huge family affair and woe betide you if you don’t make it home for dinner on Christmas Day. It is still quite a traditional meal with roast turkey, stuffing, ham, gravy, and vegetables namely the dreaded brussel sprouts. Everyone eats as much as they can before heading to the couch to enjoy a family movie like Indiana Jones, before having a nap. Left over turkey is the meal for the next few days as no one wants to cook!

8. The Panto:

Again more of an East/Dublin tradition, is the pantomime in the Gaiety or Olympia Theatre. Another great day out with the words “ He’s behind you” ringing in your ears on the drive home.

9. New Years Eve:

New Years Eve is always a good night out in the pub or in a neighbours house. In recent years, New Years Eve has turned into a 3 day festival in Dublin with everything from concerts, 3D light display, treasure hunts, comedy and much more! It’s a great couple of days in a stunning city – www.nyefdublin.com

10. 6th January:

The feast of the Epiphany, is the day when Christmas officially ends. Decorations are taken down and put away for yet another year. In the West of Ireland it is called Little Christmas or Nollaig na mBan (women’s Christmas) where the men do all the work and prepare a meal for the ladies of the house.