The placing of a lighted candle in the window of a house on Christmas Eve is still practiced today. It has a number of purposes but primarily it was a symbol of welcome to Mary and Joseph as they traveled looking for shelter. In times past, the candle also indicated a safe place for priests to perform mass as, during penal times in Ireland, this was not allowed.
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One of the most common Christmas traditions in Ireland is to attend Church either at midnight on Christmas Eve or on Christmas morning. Christmas carols are sung at these ceremonies.
Many homes display a Christmas crib, which contains Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus as well as shepherds and animals.
For over 50 years generations of children and their parents have visited the moving crib in Parnell Square, Dublin. Long before the shop windows began their displays these animated characters from the Holy Scriptures have brought great joy and delight to children.
The traditional Irish Christmas meal consists of roast turkey, baked ham, roast potatoes, brussel sprouts, potato or bread stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce.
Dessert is usually a fruit cake covered in icing, mince pies or apple tart.
Traditional Christmas-time drinks include mulled wine, hot whiskey, hot port, Irish coffee and Bailey’s coffee. If Christmas pudding is served, it is customary to set it on fire before serving it. To eat Christmas pudding in Irish style, simply fill a large soup ladle with rum or brandy and carefully light with a match. Gently ladle the flaming liquid over the pudding and garnish with a sprig of holly.
Mince pies (small fruit cakes) or a slice of Christmas cake and a glass of milk or whiskey are usually left out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve along with some carrots for Rudolph.
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. All decorations are traditionally taken down on Little Christmas (January 6th) and it is considered to be bad luck to take them down beforehand.
On Christmas Eve, children in Ireland leave a sock on the Christmas tree for Santa to fill with small gifts. Children in Ireland are accustomed to finding presents left by Santa in their bedrooms, at the foot of the bed.
It’s considered bad luck to take down holiday decorations before "Little Christmas" on January 6th.
In the Irish language, Gaeilge, when you wish someone a Happy Christmas you say:
Nollaig shona duit pronounced ‘null-ig hun-a dit’
Nollaig faoi shéan is faoi mhaise duit pronounced ‘null-ig fwee shawn iss fwee mau-sha dit’
(A prosperous and pleasant Christmas)
Athbhliain faoi mhaise duit pronounced ‘a-vilean fwee mau-sha dit’
(A prosperous new year)
Information courtesy Ireland Tourism