Irish Christmas Traditions
What are Irish Christmas Traditions?
Like most countries, Ireland has many of it’s own Irish Christmas Traditions. Ireland’s Irish Christmas Traditions that have survived to modern times are steeped in Irish culture, religious faith and family tradition. Some Irish Christmas Traditions include:
- The Candle in the Window
- The Laden Table
- The Wren Boy Procession
- Christmas Plum Pudding
- Irish Christmas Decorations
- Women’s Christmas
- Irish Christmas Blessing
- St. Stephen’s Day
WHAT IS THE CANDLE IN THE WINDOW?
The placing of a candle in the window of a house on Christmas eve is still practiced today. It has many purposes but primarily a candle in the window was a symbol of welcome to Mary and Joseph as they looked for shelter. The a candle in the window also indicated a safe place for priests to perform mass as, during Penal Times this was not allowed. A further element of the tradition is that the candle should be lit by the youngest member of the household and only be extinguished by a girl bearing the name ‘Mary’.
WHAT IS THE LADEN TABLE?
After evening meal on Christmas eve the kitchen table was again set and on it were placed a loaf of bread filled with caraway seeds and raisins, a pitcher of milk and a large lit candle. The door to the house was left unlatched so that Mary and Joseph, or any wandering traveler, could avail of the welcome.
WHAT IS WREN DAY IN IRELAND?
The Wren Boy Procession also known as the Day of the Wren is celebrated on December 26th. During Penal Times there was once a plot in a village against the local soldiers. They were surrounded and were about to be ambushed when a group of wrens pecked on their drums and awakened the soldiers. The plot failed and the wren became known as ‘The Devil’s bird’.
WHY IS ST. STEPHENS DAY CELEBRATED IN IRELAND?
St. Stephens Day is celebrated in Ireland on December 26th. St. Stephens Day honors the first Christian martyr after the crucifixion. St. Stephens Day is an National Holiday in Ireland that has survived and is very much part of Christmas.
IS PLUM PUDDING THE SAME AS CHRISTMAS PUDDING?
The traditional Irish Christmas Pudding or Plum pudding are the same. Plum pudding also know as Christmas Pudding was originally a porridge flavored with scraps of meat or fish, thickened with bread crumbs and bound together with eggs, fruit and spices. During the Tudor and Stuart period dried prunes were added to the pudding which became known as plum porridge.
The placing of a ring of Holly on doors originated in Ireland as Holly was one of the main plants that flourished at Christmas time and which gave the poor ample means with which to decorate their dwellings. All decorations are traditionally taken down on Little Christmas (January 6th.) and it is considered to be bad luck to take them down beforehand.
WHAT IS WOMEN”S CHRISTMAS?
Women’s Christmas In Ireland IS on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, it is when traditionally the Irish finish celebrating Christmas. In Gaelic it is Nollaigh na mBean in Irish (Women’s Christmas). Tradition has it that women get the day off and the men do the housework, cooking and take down the Christmas decorations. Women meet up to have a day out and treat themselves.
TRADITIONAL GAELIC CHRISTMAS GREETING
The Gaelic greeting for ‘Merry Christmas’ is: ‘Nollaig Shona Duit’
……which is pronounced as ‘null-ig hun-a dit’ and means HAPPY CHRISTMAS!