Celebrating Christmas in Ireland
Celebrating Christmas in Ireland
Christmas traditions vary in many ways around the globe. Different countries and even different regions have their own ways of celebrating the season, so how do we go about it in Ireland?
Irish people celebrate Christmas Day on the 25th December. We also celebrate St. Stephen’s Day (sometimes called Boxing Day) on the 26th December.
Find out what we get up to here in Ireland over the festive season!
The Christmas – ‘Nollaig’ in Irish – preparations begin right after Halloween! This is when the Christmas tree and decorations start to go up in homes and workplaces around the country, and the Christmas shopping mayhem begins!
The 12 pubs of Christmas
Instead of the 12 days of Christmas, we Irish like to do it all in one day! The idea is to visit 12 different pubs (this in itself can be a challenge in rural Ireland) and have a drink in each one. Sometime there are extra challenges in each pub such as no saying people’s names, or no toilet breaks… if you lose, there’s a forfeit!
The day before Christmas is for last minute preparations or getting a head start on Christmas dinner. Many Irish people are Christian, and they may head to mass for an early Christmas service this evening. Others will head to church in time for midnight mass, to begin their day of celebrations.
There will usually be a choir and Christmas carols, a nativity scene, readings, and a ceremony on the religious origins of Christmas day.
At home, the children leave out milk and cookies for Santa, and carrots for his reindeer, before heading to bed and trying their best to sleep despite their excitement, because Santa is on his way tonight! As all Irish children know, Santa only leaves presents for good children while they are sleeping.
On the 25th, children tend to wake early to open their presents first thing in the morning.
Some people will head off for some voluntary charity work today, dishing up a Christmas day lunch for those in need, or a charity event such as a sea swim (brrrr!).
Irish people will usually spend Christmas day with close family, eating and drinking too much, playing games, and watching Christmas T.V. or movies.
A traditional Christmas lunch will have roast potatoes, turkey, ham, veg and gravy. There might be Christmas pudding or trifle for dessert, followed by turkey sandwiches all evening – and possibly for the next 3 days, depending on the size of the turkey!
Most shops and attractions are closed on Christmas day in Ireland, including pubs and retail outlets, with just the odd convenience store or forecourt remaining open. Most businesses are closed and public transport is almost non-existent.
St Stephens Day
Historically known as Wren’s Day in Ireland, the day after the festivities is now a day for relaxing. Many people will spend some outdoor time with the family, working off the over-indulgences of the previous day. Some will head to the local pub to meet friends and have a day of catching up or watching sport, while others will head to the shops to hunt for bargains in the post-Christmas sale, which traditionally begins today.
A lot of Irish businesses close down for the full week between Christmas and New Year, not returning to normal business hours until the 2nd January. This means a lot of Irish workers will take a full week off during this time.
New Year’s Eve is widely celebrated in Ireland, and people will generally head out with friends or have parties at home to ring in the new year. You’ll find the odd countdown event with fireworks, but these aren’t common as fireworks are limited to licenced, professional use in Ireland.
New Year’s Day (Lá Caille or Lá Bliana Nua) itself is most often a quiet affair, although there is usually a parade in Dublin, the capital, and across Ireland there may be smaller community events held.
The 12th day of Christmas (6th January) is known as Nollaig na mBan or Women’s Christmas. This was traditionally the day for men to take over the chores so women could relax, having worked so hard over Christmas taking care of the family and community. Nowadays, Christmas is much more of a shared family event and so the 6th of January is simply the final day of Christmas, and decorations should be taken down today.
Nollaig Shona agus Athbhliain faoi Mhaise Duit!
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About the author:
Susan McGuire is originally from London, United Kingdom, and has now lived in Galway, Ireland, for 15 years. She has been with Retail Solutions for almost 7 of those, and during that time has enjoyed various roles within the areas of Maintenance, Finance, & Marketing. You can follow her on LinkedIn!