The unique Christmas spirit in Ireland is irresistible. Even the Grinch himself would be charmed by a Christmas in Ireland. To prove it, here are 8 things you’ll need to know about celebrating Christmas on the island of Ireland
Number 1: The early bird…
Christmas will never come soon enough. Come December 8th, Christmas officially begins in Ireland. The landscape begins to twinkle with festivities, Christmas markets are buzzing, and friends and family far afield come home to celebrate the season.
Number 2: Gets the tree…
Did you know: the use of evergreen Christmas trees is a relatively new decoration in Ireland. Historically, holly and ivy were used to brighten up homes during the festive season. Superstitious? Apparently, the more berries on the holly bush, the better luck to come next year.
Number 3: These carols weren’t born yesterday, you know
“Good people all, this Christmas time, Consider well and bear in mind…” What’s Christmas without carols and hymns? One of the longest sung Christmas carols, The Wexford Carol, is believed to have originated in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, hence its name. It dates back to the 12th century and tells the tale of the Nativity.
Number 4: There’s more than one way to say “Happy Christmas”
Fancy wishing someone Happy Christmas in Irish? ‘Nollaig Shona Duit’ (NO-lihg HO-nuh ghwich) translates roughy as ‘Happy Christmas to you’. In Ulster Scots (or Ullans) the words are “Ablythe Yuletide”. Different words, same message – and all on the one island!
Number 5: Mistletoe’s not just for kissing
Before being used to steal kisses, the ancient Celts believed that mistletoe possessed magnificent healing powers. It was even banned for some time as a symbol of paganism. Homes in Ireland now hang mistletoe in doorways to symbolise peace and goodwill (kisses sometimes welcome, of course).
Number 6: Festively freeeeeezing
Head to the Forty Foot, Sandycove, County Dublin, or to Portstewart Strand in County Derry on Christmas morning, and you’ll spot hundreds of brave souls taking to the sea in the spirit of Christmas. The Christmas Day swim takes place all over Ireland’s coastline, with participants taking the chilly plunge, often for charity.
Number 7: One day, two names
In both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, 26 December is a celebrated public holiday. In Northern Ireland, though, the date is known Boxing Day, while in those in Republic of Ireland refer to it as St Stephen’s Day. In the Republic, keep your eyes peeled for ‘Wren Boys’ parading the streets in straw suits (particularly in Dingle, County Kerry) dancing and singing to raise money for charity.
Number 8: Women’s rest
Often referred to as Women’s (or Little) Christmas, January 6 is officially the last day of Christmas. It’s also traditionally the day when women must avoid all housework, and the men of the house stay home, take down decorations (it’s bad luck if you don’t!) and prepare all the meals.