Christmas Traditions in Ireland
The Gaelic greeting for Merry Christmas is’ Nollaig Shona Duit,. which is pronounced as ‘null-ig hun-a dit’.
THE CANDLE IN THE WINDOW
The lit candle in the window of a house on Christmas eve is a symbol to welcome to Mary and Joseph as they travelled looking for shelter. In the past, the candle also indicated the house was a safe place for priests to perform mass during Penal Times (Irish Catholics were not allowed to hold mass in 17th century). Also, the candle should be lit by the youngest member of the household.
A Christmas Day walk
A great way to work up an appetite or work off the big Christmas dinner.
We decorate our houses and our trees, but, also, we like to decorate ourselves with a festive Christmas jumper. It is quite common to see groups of friends out and dressed in funny Christmas jumpers. They have the colours of Christmas and are decorated with tress, baubles and some even have lights built in.
On Christmas day, hundreds of people across Ireland start their day by having a swim. The biggest event takes place in the Forty Foot at Dun Laoghaire Pier in Dublin, where people arrive in their hundreds to dive into the icy waters.
There is a popular tradition of attending midnight mass on Christmas Eve. However, despite its title, Christmas mass does not take place at midnight but much earlier, maybe 7.30pm or 9pm
We love Christmas Crackers. They are a vital part of Christmas, as each person gets to pull one side of the cracker and when it opens (with a small crack- bang) it reveals its gifts. The gifts are usually small tokens such as a puzzle, a small toy, a paper hat and of course, a corny joke.
The feast of St. Stephen, who was the first Christian martyr, is celebrated on December 26th. The Wren Boys ritual remembers the day when the traitor wren betrayed St. Stephen. On St. Stephen’s Day in many rural towns, the tradition carries on with a group of children dressed up in old clothes, carrying a pole with a holly bush, go from house to house and bang on the doors and sing a song or play a musical instruments. The homeowner should greet them and give them a small treat (a mince pie, a slice of cake or some money).
Nollaig na mBan – Women’s Little Christmas
Women’s Little Christmas (Nollaig na Mban in Gaelic) happens on 6th January and was traditionally the day where the women of the house took a day off from cooking and cleaning and it was the men’s turn to cook. This also tends to be the day the Christmas decorations are taken down. Nowadays, it is a very popular night for women to go out socially and have a meal and/or a few drinks and enjoy an evening of music and dance.