Irish Christmas traditions: which would our ancestors identify?

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Irish Christmas traditions, like festive customizeds the world over, are not set in stone. They progress over the generations, and not always over very many generations, either.

Durability certainly wasn’t a requisite feature of custom for my Nana Tierney. Thanks to her, all my youth memories of Christmas– which should be beautiful things– are set to a sound track of ‘Oh come all ye faithful’ joined ‘I believe’ by The Bachelors.

Nana firmly insisted that, as Irish Christmas traditions went, you could not improve than The Bachelors. To this day, a huge sentimental lump gets stuck in my throat when I hear that wretched song (or anything else by the scrubbed up Sibling B) and imagine her, standing in front of the fire, skirt hitched up to warm the back of her thighs, singing along to ‘Whenever I hear a new-born child cry …’

Not as soon as did ANYONE attempt point out that listening to records of The Bachelors might not have accomplished the elevated status of Standard in the early 1960s.

This recollection shows a peculiarity about Irish Christmas traditions (and probably applies for numerous other custom-mades, too): that they can be customs to individual families only, not always whole neighborhoods or countries. Extremely frequently, the word ‘standard’ means nothing more than ‘what we did when we were young’. I expect we hold on just to those household customizeds that bring the hottest memories and despatch the rest.

So it is that December 25th( and, in Ireland, the 26th -St Stephen’s Day) are days when households the world over play out their own variations of what preceded. But there is also a core of seasonal customs that almost all Irish families and their neighborhoods observe to a higher or lesser level.

This page is mainly about the pre-Christmas custom-mades— the traditions that help to set the environment of this magical season. But you can likewise follow these links to find out about traditions of specific days over the Christmas period, and how (get your cravings all set!) to prepare a few of the scrumptious seasonal dishes that accompany them.

Embellishing the home

The big clean-up

for much of our ancestors, Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas) began with a bucket of whitewash in hand. This annual painting of outhouses was one of the most popular of rural Irish Christmas traditions. It was carried out mainly by the guys folk while the women scrubbed the interiors.

It goes back to pre-Christianity and is generally considered as the ancient variation of spring-cleaning, carried out prior to the Winter Solstice when daylight hours shrink to just under seven and a half hours. With the arrival of Christianity the custom was rebranded as a homely preparation for the arrival of Mary, Joseph and the new-born baby, Jesus.

Some say that this whitewashing custom continues in some rural areas. If it does, I do not understand the household! Where it might endure in spirit is in the understandable desire to make the home tidy and comfy for friends and family who will visit throughout the holiday.

Candle light at the window

This is among the most well-observed of Irish Christmas customs and has actually altered little throughout the years other than in its increasing popularity. Just one candle used to be positioned in a window as a sign of welcome for Mary and Joseph on Christmas Eve however it prevails these days to see lit candles, typically electrically or battery powered, in all downstairs street-facing windows throughout the festive season. In some homes they are likewise put in upstairs windows.Holly A holly wreath

remains a popular

front-door adornment and dates back to the days when the majority of our ancestors would have decorated their house with this freely readily available plant. My dear cousin Mary, having endured many austere years, was not one

for over-doing the Christmas decorations. The only hint of the season came in a single holly sprig, glossy and heavy with red berries, tactically put on the mantal above the range in her home near Bantry. Holly A holly wreath remains a popular front-door accessory and dates back to the days when most of our

forefathers would have decorated their home with this easily available plant. My dear cousin Mary, having actually lived through numerous austere years, was not one for over-doing the Christmas decors.

The only tip of the season was available in a single holly sprig, shiny and heavy with red berries, tactically placed on the

mantal above the stove in her house near Bantry. The crib I have never ever known my mother fail to produce a Christmas crib As a child, it was a reward to help her set it up and to choose


where to place the shepherds, the sheep and the donkey (we didn’t quite go to the 3 sensible men). The placing of Mary, Joseph and the child, Jesus, didn’t need much imaginative instructions, nevertheless. They got centre-stage on the straw-strewn miniature stable. Clearly. I sense that the baby crib in the house is among the Irish Christmas customs that might be on the wane. Not due to the fact that the religious element of the festivities has actually been absolutely

lost; Christmas stays essentially a spiritual holiday in Ireland. Possibly the little baby crib is thought about mess in houses that are often chock-a-block with people, provides, designs and food at this time of the year. Whether the crib-at-home is losing favour, there are

frequently larger-scale cribs atmospherically lit up in town centres and there is certainly always one in every Roman Catholic church. There’s even one to welcome guests as they step

out of Dublin Airport’s Arrivals Hall. Midnight mass Attending Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is most likely the most commonly practiced of all Irish Christmas traditions. Generally the church will be packed to the rafters with the largest single churchgoers of the year and it is a particularly get-together, as families

that have come

together for the holiday meet friends and neighbours they may not have actually seen for a year. Although midnight mass is a spiritual occasion, it is one that non-religious folk often attend since they take pleasure in the possibility to sing some carols, often accompanied by live music, to exchange Christmas greetings and to play their part in their regional neighborhood. More about Irish Christmas customs

Christmas Stockings

Christmas Pullovers

Christmas Pullovers

Christmas Dresses

Christmas Dresses

Christmas Jewelry