Christmas in Ireland includes several Christmas traditions that have been adapted around the world. The hanging of holly, candles in the windows, and whitewashing the house are a few Christmas traditions involved in celebrating Christmas in Ireland that go back to the early years of Ireland.
Using holly growing naturally in Ireland during Christmas time. Because of the availability, even the poorest of families could deck their homes to celebrate Christmas in Ireland.
To this day although Christmas trees decorated with tinsel and ornaments are common, the tradition of using holly at Christmas still stands and the Christmas tradition has spread around the world to include many parts of the world having "Hanging of the Greens" festivities prior to Christmas.
A candle in the window is another Christmas in Ireland tradition seen around the world. The single candle placed in the window of homes originated to welcome strangers and the Holy Family to their homes. A home without a candle in the window on Christmas Eve in Ireland was the same as the innkeeper in Bethlehem who said there was no room at the inn and turned Mary and Joseph away. Burning candles have been replaced by electric or battery operated artificial candles for safety reasons, but a single candle in the window is still commonly practiced in Ireland and other countries.
Whitewashing homes has pretty much been forgotten but years back it was a Christmas in Ireland tradition. Houses, farms, and out buildings wee scrubbed and whitewashed before Christmas as a way to purify the places in preparation for the coming of the Christ Child. Today while many rural areas still whitewash out buildings, the major cleaning just before Christmas in Ireland is mainly in readiness for friends and family visiting during the holidays.
Today Christmas in Ireland includes midnight masses attended by many, leaving stockings or sacks out for Santa to leave children gifts, and large meals of ham, turkey or goose with all the fixings. The tradition of women baking seed cakes has almost been forgotten. There would be an individual cake or mince pie for each member of the family, a large cake for the Christmas meal, and a cake or pie for Santa. On Christmas Eve in Ireland it is customary to leave a carrot out for Rudolph also.
Christmas in Ireland traditionally started on December 8th with Christmas decorations being put up and gift shopping. The Christmas season in Ireland continues after Christmas with St. Stephens Day (also known as Boxing Day). This traditions was originally the day when collection boxes were collected and distributed to the needy families in the area. Today this is more a day of football and horse races or resting after family gatherings on Christmas day.
|Inside the Dublin Mall|
Christmas in Ireland celebrations continue until the Epiphany which is January 6th and also known in Ireland as "Little Christmas" in traditional Irish homes. This was the day the men of the house took over the household duties and the women were given a day off-this tradition is not followed much these days, although there are many women around the world who would love to see this tradition brought back.
While it has not been verified, some say the familiar Christmas song "The 12 Days of Christmas" may have originated in Ireland. It was during the time when Catholicism was banned in Ireland as well as England. As a way to continue teaching their faith the song had meaning other than the seemingly silly list of gifts.
- The "twelve drummers drumming"--the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed.
- The "eleven pipers piping"--The eleven faithful apostles.
- The "ten lords a leaping"--the Ten Commandments.
- The "nine ladies dancing"--the eight Beatitueds.
- The "seven swans a swimming"--the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven Sacraments.
- The "six geese a laying"--the six days of creaton.
- The "five golden rings"--the frist five books of the Old Testament, better known in the Catholic Faith as the Pentateuch.
- The "four calling birds"--the four Gospels....Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
- The "three French hens"--Faith, Hope and Charity, the three greatest theological virtues.
- The "two turtle doves"--the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible.
- The "a partridge in a pear tree"--the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
- The "my true love"--symbolizes God.