Christmas in Ireland is an enchanting amalgam of the old and new traditions. Ireland is found at its best during Christmas as it celebrated in a magnificent manner. From the religious aspect to the fun part, everything is just as enjoyable as it can be! Though many recent trends and even some old rituals of Ireland are similar to most of the Western countries, yet the Irish celebrations have their uniqueness. Christmas in Ireland was introduced by the English. History asserts that English King Henry II took Christmas celebrations to Ireland in 1171. The celebrations entailed splendid feasting and conducting dramas, in which many Irish loyalties were invited. Thus, began the contemporary Christmas festivities. Most the country sides and towns are decorated with lights and holy symbols to declare the advent of Christmas. For the people it's a great time for reunions, musical functions and play some traditional games. However, there are certain traditions which have high religious and social values.
Customs, Traditions And Celebrations
Christmas in Ireland begins on December 24 and lasts till the Feast of Epiphany on January 6, which is famous as Little Christmas.
Candle Near The Window
Candles, mostly red in color and decorative in nature, are placed in windows to welcome Mary and Joseph. It is thought that Mary and Joseph might be in search of shelter and a light near the window signifies a place for a stopover. Therefore, almost all the households will infallibly place a candle in front of their windows. Children on the other hand are told that the candle will help find Santa his way to their house.
A Christmas tree is erected on the first day of the holy Advent. Christmas tree is a very important part of the celebrations and therefore family members spend a considerable amount of time decorating it. The tree is beautifully decorated with lights and an angel is placed at the top.
Traditionally, placing Holly wreaths at the doors were the only decorations. The concept of Christmas tree arrived much later. In the pre-Christian times finding Holly bushes with berries was quite easy and was considered fortunate for the families. Moreover, Holly bushes did not cost anything and even the poor could afford to have them in their houses. Thus, it became a tradition to put Holly rings at mantelpieces and doorways. Today, however the decorations have gone beyond Holly wreaths. People embellish their houses with lights and also place Christmas ornaments such as flakes, angels, elves, stars or anything that represents Christmas. These items are placed the fireplaces or around the Christmas tree.
The Midnight Masses
The midnight masses in the churches are a great event in Ireland. Besides singing prayers and carols it is a meeting place with old friends and acquaintances as well. Many people who haven't met their friends in the year get to see each other. Each individual lights a holy candle which blessed by holy priest.
Christmas morning is a great day for the children as they get to see and open all the presents that Santa has got for them. The children will leave a mince piece with a bottle or glass of Guinness for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph. In recent times the Guinness has been replaced with milk and cookies have taken over mince pieces.
The Christmas Dinner
Christmas dinner in Ireland is done with extravagance. Turkey, ham, chicken, stuffing, potatoes, Brussels sprouts and various vegetables make a traditional Irish Christmas dinner. The dessert is mostly a rich Christmas pudding, Yule log or Christmas cakes with equally rich and heavy sauces like brandy butter. After the dinner, children are offered a box of chocolates as a treat. This is called as 'Selection Box'.
St. Stephen's Day
St. Stephen's Day or Boxing Day is a day of merrymaking and relaxing. It also entails a huge and hearty meal with friends and family. The Wren Procession is another important event on this day. Traditionally, small groups of boys used to hunt down a wren until it was caught or killed. The dead wren was then carried on a pole decorated with flowers and wreaths. The reason behind this custom is related to an incident during the Penal Times, when a group of soldiers were to be attacked in their sleep. However, the plan failed as a crowd of wren surrounded the soldiers, whose noise awakened them. Since then, the wren became the "The devil's Bird". Today, the same ritual is carried out with a fake hidden wren, instead of a real one. Boys wear colorful clothing and straw masks and go around singing in a procession with violins, accordions and harmonicas.
Christmas is perhaps the best time in Ireland. It is quite a sight to see people absorbed in the celebrations, especially the dinners. Christmas celebrations in Ireland last for about two weeks, during which they welcome the New Year and also observe the Twelfth Night. Apart from the traditional rituals, events like swimming, horse racing, watching the special programs hosted on televisions are carried out. Basically, Christmas is a fun-packed season for the Irish.
Christmas in Ireland is celebrated with many customs and traditions which are distinctive of the country. Go through the article to how Christmas is celebrations are conducted in Ireland.