Irish Christmas Traditions

‘Tis that jolly time of the year once again, and you can bet this Colombian intern in Dublin is looking forward to experiencing Irish Christmas traditions for the first time! I’ve done a little research to find out what Christmas means to the Irish, and this is what I’ve found out so far about holiday traditions in this lovely island:

As you probably know from our post about Christmas traditions around the world, every country has its own unique ways to celebrate the holiday season. In Colombia for example, families and friends get together and dance to the tune of “Christmassy” songs! In case you’re wondering what that looks like:     

Ireland does Christmas a different way though, but holiday traditions here are just as fun as anywhere else! I went around asking my Irish friends what Christmas meant for them, and these are some of the things they came up with:      

Food

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Ham
Delicious, juicy ham. Nom nom!

A traditional Irish Christmas dinner would normally include turkey and ham, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, veggies and lots of alcohol for the grown-ups!              

Christmas pudding/Fruit cake

Christmas pudding/fruit cake is a dessert rich in fruit and winter spices. The fruit is traditionally soaked overnight in whiskey, to add flavor.

Fruit cake

#glutenfree #dairyfree #reciperevamp #howdoesittaste #irishfruitcake Did a revamp on a recipe this morning. Fingers crossed it is yum. A photo posted by Charisse Wright (@baifu1) on 

There are a couple of gifts that scream Christmas in Ireland, among them Tin of Roses (a tin full of yummy individually wrapped chocolates), Jacob’s USA Biscuits (a tin of digestive biscuits) and Tayto Crisps (which are just regular chips. There is a Tayto Crisp Sandwich Shop In Arnotts during Christmas season). You can find these products all year round but they are especially popular around the holidays.

Tin of Roses

Tin Roses

USA Biscuits

Tayto Crisps

#new #crisps #tayto #christmas 😋 A photo posted by Carla Currie (@pink_currie) on

Turkey sandwiches (leftovers)

And of course you have to do something with all those leftovers from Christmas dinner! So what better than some delicious turkey sandwiches?

Hot whiskey/port

Having a warm glass of port or whisky in your hands on a chilly December day is definitely the best way to get into the Christmas spirit! Here are some recipes (hot port and hot whisky) in case you are wondering how to make these cozy drinks at home. 

 

Now it’s Christmas! #christmas #hotport #hotwhiskey #town #christmastime #tasteslikechristmas A photo posted by Emma Moore (@emz_137) on

Christmas Traditions

Christmas Day Swim

To an outsider it might look insane: a bunch of semi-naked people with Santa hats on going for a swim in the icy waters of the Atlantic on Christmas day. Yet the Christmas Day Swim is a long standing tradition in the British Isles and Ireland, and people are really into it! In case you want to give it a try yourself this year, here is a list of places where this year’s swims will take place (PS. the Christmas swim shown in this video took place in a town in England, but you get the idea!).

Pantomime

Pantomime, a type of musical comedy, is commonly performed in Ireland at Christmas and New Year, with audiences consisting mainly of children and parents. Irish pantomime is now a popular form of theatre incorporating song, dance, cross-dressing and audience participation. This video shows this year’s production of Aladdin!

The Late Late Toy Show

The Late Late Toy Show is broadcasted once a year near the end of November or early December. It features the popular toys of the year as demonstrated by children on stage (as the title suggests, it is a show about toys!). Since its first presentation in 1975 it has become a cultural institution in Ireland: it is often the most-watched program of the year on Irish television! Oh and commercial time during the Toy Show is also popular among advertisers; in 2009, a 30-second spot cost €17,000!

12 Pubs

Loved by a few, despised by many, 12 Pubs is a relatively new Christmas tradition which, as the name suggests, involves doing a tour of 12 pubs (sometimes with participants dressed as Santa Claus), and having a pint in each one of them. I’ve heard from good sources that most people don’t manage to go past pub #7, and that’s already saying a lot!

Instead of showing ourselves up in one pub why not do it in 12? 🍻🎄❄ #pharmacycrew #12pubs #garydoesntevengohere

A photo posted by Róisín Mcandrew (@roisinmcandrew) on

           

Other Traditions

Going to the graveyard

More of a religious tradition than an Irish one, going to the graveyard on Christmas morning and paying respects to loved ones who have passed away is a personal practice in some families, but not a widespread one.

  Graveyard

Wreaths  

It is believed that wreaths were hung on doors in Ancient Rome to represent victory. In Christianity, the Christmas wreath was used to symbolize Christ. Wreaths and garlands usually decorate the front doors of houses in Ireland during the holiday season, yet this is no Irish tradition by itselfIt still looks very pretty and festive, though!

Absolutely adoring this wreath by the very talented Derek at @supernatureflowers! 💕💕| #underthefloralspell #wreath A photo posted by #underthefloralspell (@underthefloralspell) on

Christmas jumpers

The Irish really love their Christmas jumpers! You will see tons of people wearing them in the evening in the pubs and in the streets during the holiday season. Some of them even go for that extra touch and add some Christmas lights to them!

Horse racing

Horse races on St. Stephen’s Day (26 December) have become a tradition in Ireland. The races in Leopardstown (south Dublin) attract around 20,000 people every year.

Other (more old school) Traditions

The Wren Boys

A uniquely but slightly outdated Irish tradition, the Wren Boys were basically carollers that went door to door dressed up in straw costumes (see picture below) singing Christmas carols in exchange for small donations. Nowadays they are to be seen more in the countryside than in the larger cities. You can read about the origin of the practice here.

Wren-Boys-Ireland

Candles on the Window Sill

Leaving a candle in the window was a common tradition on Christmas Eve in Ireland and can still be seen being observed in the countryside.The candle is supposed to be a symbol of hospitality.

Candle

There you go folks! If you know any other Irish Christmas traditions we forgot to mention, do let us know in the comments! Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more cool posts!

by Natalie Villalba

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